The Aryan people were a confederation of tribes who spoke the same language. They were nomadic cattle herders, as well as warriors, who migrated over time into India and Europe. Traveling with them were large white dogs used to protect their livestock. These dogs were the early ancestor of the Great Pyrenees. Where the Aryan people originated from is controversial, but it’s believed the origin of the dog was in Central Asia or Siberia before finding a home in the remote and rugged mountains between France and Spain. The innate instincts of the Great Pyrenees to protect makes him a capable and determined guardian of sheep and cattle.
The Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyr, descended from huge Molosser dogs that were mastiff-like in size and body type. Molosser dogs marched into battle with soldiers and fought with a fierceness opposing armies feared. These ancient dogs were also used as home protectors, and guardians of flocks. Eventually, migrating people found their way into the mountainous region that forms a natural border between France and Spain, the Pyrenees Mountains, where they settle down to raise their flocks around 3000 B.C. Considered one of the oldest dog breeds, fossil remains found along the coast of the North Sea and Baltic date back 1800 to 1000 B.C. and the Bronze Age. It was in the mountains where a noble, smart, strong, surefooted, devoted, and independent thinking dog breed with a keen sense of smell, acute hearing, and excellent eyesight was developed to work as a flock guardian dog.
For thousands of years, the Great Pyrenees lived and worked with shepherds in the isolated mountains protecting flocks. Their thick double coat helped to protect them from the weather and animal attacks. Shepherds fitted their dogs with spiked iron collars for protection from bites around the throat and neck. In the 1400’s, the breed became popular as an estate guardian dog and the Grand Dauphin (Prince) Louis, oldest son of King Louis XIV, declared the Pyr as the Royal Dog of France during the late 1600’s.
Flock guardian dogs do not herd. The job of this working breed is to guard his flock – at all costs. He is a fierce and able protector with the courage, speed, intelligence, stamina, and power to counter threats from bears, wolves, mountain lions, and any other intruders in his territory. He is very capable of working on his own for weeks at a time and making his own decisions.
A puppy is literally raised by the flock he is expected to defend when he’s mature. When a pup is old enough, he is put with the livestock and left there. This way the pup and sheep form a close bond. In the old days, these dogs were expected to live with their flock and fend for themselves to find their own food and shelter. To the dog, his family became the sheep he was charged with protecting. Although he also bonded with his human family. These dogs were invaluable to shepherds in protecting their sheep or cattle, the shepherd, and his family.
His large size was meant to intimidate predators large and small, including birds of prey and human poachers. His white coat made it easy for him to blend in and mingle with the sheep without scaring them. It also gave the dog the advantage of surprise to any would be intruders that didn’t see him, and made it easy for a shepherd to tell the difference between predators and his dogs. You can still find this breed, along with other flock guardian breeds, protecting livestock in the Pyrenees Mountains, the United States, and other countries.
This is a dog that can think for himself and problem solve. He isn’t a good dog for a first time owner, and if you don’t train and properly socialize him, you will have a large and powerful aggressive dog you can’t control. However, a well trained and socialized Great Pyrenees is a great family pet for the right family and he will protect the ones he loves with his life if necessary, including other dogs and cats he considers part of his family. He has a natural ability to sense danger, is alert, very serious when working, loyal, brave, has an innate desire to protect, makes a good watchdog, is wary of strangers, gets along well with children, doesn’t require a lot of exercise, is mild manner, calm, and affectionate with his family. When a Pyr senses trouble he uses his bark to intimidate and he doesn’t hesitate to speak out. If you’re looking for a quiet dog, this breed may not be for you.
Today the Great Pyrenees not only continues his flock guardian duties, he is also used in therapy work because of his calm nature. This is a courageous and proud breed that was at one time known as the Royal Dog of France. A determined guardian dog that is relentless when doing his job protecting his human or animal family.
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