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According to the latest information available to us in Joseph B. Gentzel's new book, The Great Pyrenees From France With Love, (available only on e-bay) the Great Pyrenees developed into a unique breed in the isolation of the Great Pyrenees Mountains between approximately 3000 B.C. and 1000 B.C. Their ancestors came from the Middle East, through EuroOct_Clark_laying.JPG (22779 bytes)pe and arrived in the Pyrenees with the first flocks of sheep around 3000 B.C. The earliest known ancestor of the Great Pyrenees is the Kurdish Flock Guard Dog which dates back to about 11,000 B.C. Other books tell differing stories of its origins but they all agree the it is an ancient breed. However the Great Pyrenees came to be with us, its modern history starts centuries ago in the Great Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain where they were bred to survive winter storms, rough country and still protect their flocks of sheep from bear and wolf attacks. They are white dogs because they worked with the shepherds to fend off these attacks and the shepherds could tell their white Pyrs from the predators at night. It is also possible that they were bred to be white because the white sheep accepted them more easily.  Great Pyrenees were first brought to the United States in 1824 by General Lafayette but remained an obscure breed in the US until the 20th century. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries in France, Great Pyrenees became popular and flourished but the breed suffered badly during WWI and WWII because of starvation, mayhem and neglect. It was saved and stabilized through great efforts by a combination of dedicated French, British and American breeders after WWII.

pyr+24.JPG (15227 bytes) Although Great Pyrenees do enjoy some popularity today as     pets and show dogs, they are primarily a working dog, most at home in the field and forest with their charges and keeping predators at bay. They are generally gentle dogs and advise predators to keep away by advertising their presence. If, however, a wolf or coyote is foolish enough to disregard that warning, the Great Pyrenees will easily show why they are so highly regarded as herd guardians and the foolish predator, if it’s lucky, will escape with its life. Once the predator has fled the area, Great Pyrenees will return to their herd or flock. They are most effective when working in pairs or more where they use team work to insure one dog stays with the flock and doesn't leave their charges exposed to attack from another direction.

Like all individuals, Great Pyrenees have their quirks. While we have no qualms aboutFrank1.JPG (86952 bytes) leaving our grandchildren in the tender care of our Pyrenees, we take great care that each Pyr is able to eat in privacy without competition from its friends. Apparently, sharing food was never a valued trait in the Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain. Never ask two adult Great Pyrenees to share a helping of food. If you're ever foolish enough to do it once, we guarantee you won’t do it twice.

There are two schools of thought about working Great Pyrenees. One says never touch them more than necessary and they must be with the animals they’re to protect by the time the dog is five weeks old or they’ll never be an LGD. This may have some validity if the dog will be working in isolated areas, miles from anyone. In the U.S., only some areas of Texas and parts2dogs walking.JPG (122890 bytes) of the Southwest have that much room. For those of us on farms in the slightly more crowded part of the world, the other school of thought is that Great Pyrenees are genetically LGDs and nothing, not a late start, not time as a pet, and certainly not friendship with the people whose flocks and herds they guard, will prevent their natural ability from coming to the fore if it's given a chance. We’ve had informal rescue dogs thatoct_Clark_head.JPG (25627 bytes) were well over a year old (some with a known history of only being a pet) and the longest it has taken any of them to adapt is three months. After six months of practice they’re ready to start a new life as a guardian for someone’s livestock. Our dogs are our friends but they live with and protect our goats. Those who believe in the other school of thought undoubtedly also have good herd guardians but they’re missing some delightful experiences.

The Great Pyrenees Livestock Guardian Dogs of Bountiful Farm have worked their way into our hearts, as I’m sure they will for any of you who choose to meet them.

 


Dan & Paula Lane
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