A relatively unknown breed until the early 20th century, the Pyrenean Sheepdog, or Shepherd as it is otherwise known, falls within the 'pastoral' breed group, traditionally used for herding cattle, reindeer and other cloven footed animals. The breed originates from the rural Berger des Pyrenees region of France, where it was utilised as an independent, headstrong herding dog, thought to have descended from early 19th century Pyrenean Sheepdogs, taken to America by shepherds who kept flocks in the American West.
The smallest of the French herding breeds, the Pyrenean Sheepdog is classified in two coat varieties, including the Long-Haired and the Smooth-Faced. Besides distinctions of coat, both variations share similar characteristics, including a broad skull, short, high-set ears, proportionate head, body and legs. The dense weather-proof coat, mid-way between wool and goat hair, is common in colour variations of grey, fawn, brindle and black, usually with white markings. Relied upon to protect flocks and livestock from wolves, the unique colouring of the coat may have helped disguise the dog against the mountain terrain.
Unprovoked, the Pyrenean is a docile, mannered and sweet-natured dog, compatible with children and other house pets. When provoked, the breed exercises determined and imposing behaviours, strongly territorial and protective of its family when potential threat is perceived. In order to manage these traits, firm leadership and consistent training is required from puppyhood. The average Pyrenean Sheepdog will weigh 38-45 kg with discrepancies across gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when shown appropriate care.
Bred for its inherent resilience, the Pyrenean Sheepdog is typically healthy and long-lived. No serious known genetic conditions are identified with the breed, although there are documented cases of bone disorder, including luxating patellas, and cardiac disease. Additionally, the breed may be prone to optical complaints such as progressive retinal atrophy and juvenile cataracts. Epilepsy has also been recorded in the breed.