The Pyrenean Mountain Dog (The Great Pyrenees)



The Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, like other dog breeds, have had to suffer the consequences of the effects of fashion. If on the one hand the big screen, with the film “Belle and Sebastien”, has allowed many to get to know one of the most beautiful breeds of working dogs, it is good to remember that the Pyrenean Mountain Dog also has other coat colors besides to the white one known by all: with yellow/orange spots and with wolf gray spots, better known as “badger color”. The spots are usually found around the eyes and at the base of the tail. Very often puppies are born with well-marked spots which then tend to fade in adulthood.

Badger color is said to be the most sought-after color by Pyrenean shepherds.

It should also not be forgotten that in the old historical photos that portray the Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, much more colorful specimens appear than those we are used to seeing.


Here is an extract from the study “Features of the hemogram in the Pyrenean Mountain Dog” by Dr. Ilaria Annibali, presented as thesis at the Master’s Degree Course in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pisa.

“In the past, this breed, one of the largest and most powerful known, was fed mainly on a vegetarian diet, as this was the usual diet of the shepherds themselves: bread, soup, corn soup and milk. It was not a food paradox, nor were the shepherds unable to feed their animals at the risk of losing them, there was simply nothing else.
In 1868 E. Commettant describes this practice in his “Impressions pyrénéennes”. In 1907 Byasson mentions it, and again in 1943 L. Fourcassié reports it; however, everyone agrees that the Patou, like other dogs, is first of all a carnivore even if not exclusively. In fact, a very nutritious and welcome food was occasionally added to the predominantly milky diet: the placentas of lambs which in the winter period represented a conspicuous protein intake; moreover, the dead animals in the mountains, far more frequent than today, were “removed” by the Patous themselves.
On the other hand, the dog fed with an exclusively meat diet risks developing osteofibrosis due in part to a Ca:P imbalance which manifests itself with joint pain, bone fragility and consequent fractures. Therefore a balanced diet, be it homemade or industrial, as long as it is sufficient to cover the dog’s needs without going beyond it, is of fundamental importance for its health.
The needs are assessed in relation to the phases of maintenance, growth, gestation or lactation, varying significantly according to age, climate, lifestyle, state of health and between one individual and another. The maintenance requirement depends on the “metabolic weight” which decreases proportionally to the increase in the real weight of the subject; moreover, the Montagna, endowed with a calm temperament, has an even lower basal metabolic rate and needs a lower maintenance requirement, in relation to its weight, compared to more nervous breeds. On the other hand, its growth is particularly delicate in the first months after weaning, causing a fragility of long bones and joints. The potential for skeletal development is essential during the growth phase and poor nutritional conditions can cause bone or joint disorders; all food imbalances both for lack and for excess can translate into skeletal pathologies. (Cockenpot B. 1998)”.


To interpret the three feature films of “Belle and Sebastien”, which followed one another between 2013 and 2018, were five different specimens, four males and one female: Fort and Isabeau (French), Bear (US), Fripon (Italian ) and last but not least, Garfield, also French, and main actor in the three movies.

Garfield, born on January 6, 2011, and now dead on September 27, 2019, was 80 cm tall at the withers for 73 kg. He was a specimen of a particular beauty. His eyes, perhaps too round for the standard of the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, as well as the muzzle with less lipoid and more molossoid features, gave him a particularly sweet gaze, so much so that, according to his master, Jean-Marc Charneau, he was nicknamed “the Brad Pitt of dogs”.

Garfield, the Patou protagonist of “Belle and Sebastien”

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