History of Great Pyrenees
The Great Pyrenees is most immediately from the Pyrenees Mountains, which span Spain and France. The dog did well in those mountains working primarily as a defender of flocks from predators like wolves and bears. However, people can trace the Great Pyrenees’s lineage farther back than that, all the way to Asia between 10 and 11,000 years ago. They are estimated to have arrived in Europe only 5,000 years ago.
Once in Europe, the Great Pyrenees was considered mainly a peasant’s dog. By virtue of its task guarding flocks, the breed was associated specifically with shepherds. People marveled at the job the Great Pyrenees did in protecting the flock, and the extreme loyalty displayed to the shepherd and his family as well.
Eventually the Pyr did gain some higher status in France as it was adopted as a royal dog into the court of Louis the XIV. Whether regal or commonplace, the Great Pyrenees was always beloved in Europe.
The breed made voyages into Newfoundland in the mid-1600s, where it clearly was able to deal with the harsh winters Canada has to offer. At this point in their history, natural predators became more and more scarce as they were hunted and their habitats were destroyed. This left less work for the Great Pyrenees to do, and as a result their numbers dwindled. They were also bred with other breeds which diluted the pureness of the gene pool.
A long way from their origin, the Great Pyrenees arrives at 1907, where the French created kennel clubs that specifically sought out pure Great Pyrenees to breed the dog and perpetuate its existence. The American counterpart arrived in 1931.
The variety of dog breeds can be quite astounding. Nearly every shape, size, personality, and job that a dog could do is represented by one or more existing breeds. After examining the long and twisty road that is a specific breed’s history, I think this variety is even more breathtaking. To punctuate the point, scientists believe that every modern dog evolved from a common wolf ancestor only 15,000 years ago. Simply moving around the globe, nipping at our heels, wolves have become as funny as Pugs, small as Terriers, or large, white, and lovable as a Great Pyrenees.