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10 Greatest Great Pyrenees Facts You Never Knew

The majestic Great Pyrenees is a dog that always catches the eye. They’re big fluffy dogs, though they are a lot more calm than they seem. And while they’re known for being top guard dogs, there’s a lot you probably don’t know about the Pyrenees.

Have you ever wondered why your Great Pyrenees is such a night owl? And did you know that this breed served in both World Wars? Interested in learning about how one Great Pyrenees survived one of California’s deadliest wildfires?

If questions like these intrigue you, we’re counting down the 10 most interesting Great Pyrenees facts you never heard of. And that all starts right now on The Smart Canine – the only show that explores the most interesting facts and stories behind dogs.

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10. One Great Pyrenees survived being “eaten” by a mechanical street sweeper.

Typically, the story is a case of what the dog ate. But with a Great Pyrenees name “Zoe,” it’s a case of what ate the dog. Invented in the late 1800s, mechanical street sweepers were essentially giant roombas that swept through the streets during off hours.

They usually consist of rollers, brooms, sprays, filters and vacuums that gather trash from public spaces. Once litter gets sucked into the vacuumised chambers, it goes through a filtering process to separate debris particles. 

However, when Zoe ran away from her owner one day, she went straight into an operating street sweeper. Within seconds, the dog was swallowed up by the large machinery.

It would have been over for the dog had the operator of the machinery not noticed. He immediately shut the sweeper off when he realized what had happened. When they looked in the collection unit, Zoe was still alive – both safe and sound, though trapped in a small space.

It took three maintenance vehicles and  six workers to free Zoe from the unit, though they eventually managed to do so. To our knowledge, Zoe is the only dog that’s been eaten by a street sweeper and lived to tell the tale. 

9. They’re naturally nocturnal dogs because of their previous jobs.

Have you ever noticed that your Pyrenees is often more active and alive during night time? Well, that’s probably because the Great Pyrenees is by nature a night owl. But there’s a reason for this.

These dogs were originally bred to protect flocks of sheep while on the graveyard shift. After all, wolves and other dangerous predators tend to attack flocks at night, when visibility is low and humans are asleep.

That’s not to say all Great Pyrenees will be nocturnal, especially if they’ve been trained to sleep at normal hours. However, it does explain why some owners report Pyrenees puppies having a hard time sleeping during night time.

8. The Great Pyrenees was a war dog that served in both World Wars. 

As a large and powerful dog, the Great Pyrenees was unsurprisingly a war dog that had roles in both World Wars. Dogs were used by the French primarily as messengers, ambulance facilitators and artillery transporters.

By 1918, it’s estimated that roughly 20,000 military dogs were employed by France, Belgian and Britain. Most of which consisted of large breeds such as the Newfoundland and of course, the Great Pyrenees. 

It’s also believed that the Great Pyrenees sometimes doubled as night watch dogs, thanks to their past jobs as guardians. Soldiers depended on these dogs to keep watch as they slept – and they were perfect for the job. 

So is there a military dog as amazing as the Great Pyrenees?

7. A Great Pyrenees mix saved an austistic boy from raging flood waters.

The Great Pyrenees is a fearless dog that’s not afraid to risk it all to save a life, whether it be a sheep or human. In the case of Cooper the Great Pyrenees mix, the hero dog did not hesitate when he saw an autistic boy in need.

During the flood season of August 2021, Tennessee saw a massive storm that received 17 inches of rain. It was one of the deadliest storms in the state’s history, taking the lives of 22 people. Like many other pets, Cooper got swept into the floodwaters.

But instead of trying to swim back to his home, a boy clinging onto a nearby wall catches his eye first. Cooper immediately swims towards the boy and aids him by providing some support as they both cling on for dear life. 

Eventually, both the boy and dog were rescued after Cooper had stayed with the boy for what must have felt like an eternity. Since then, Cooper has become a star in his hometown – and rightfully so.

6. This breed saved Saint Bernard from extinction.

Did you know that the Saint Bernard was, for a long time, on the brink of extinction? These dogs were originally bred for rescue work in the mountainous region between Italy and Switzerland. 

Not only were Saint Bernards being wiped out by avalanches while on duty, but there was also a deadly outbreak of distemper that seriously depleted the breed population. By 1870, the population was becoming dangerously low and something needed to be done. 

Breeders made a huge effort to save the breed with the help of other large mountain dogs, such as the Bernese Mountain dog and the Newfoundland. However, the greatest influence arguably came from the Great Pyrenees.

And because the Saint Bernard is now one of the 50 most popular dogs in the world, I think it’s safe to say that it worked. I guess the Saint Bernard breed has a lot to thank the Great Pyrenees for.

5. King Louis XIV’s royal court once made the Great Pyrenees the Royal Dog of France.

From the Chinese Shih Tzu to Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis, dogs are no stranger to royalty. And of course, the Great Pyrenees is also part of this exclusive group of royal canines.

In fact, during Louis the 14th’s reign, the Great Pyrenees was literally named the “Royal Dog of France.” It doesn’t get more explicit than that. The Great Pyrenees stood out among the French nobility for a few reasons.

Not only were they gorgeous dogs with a stunning coat, but they were natural guard dogs that were crucial in protecting the elite’s large estates. So it makes a lot of sense why they’re such dignified dogs.

The Molossus dog is an ancient dog breed from Greece, and they’ve been a huge influence to the many modern dog breeds we have. Today, Molosser dogs refer to a group of mastiff-type dogs that share similar physical and temperamental traits. 

Because the Pyrenees share many similar characteristics with several mastiffs, they often get mistaken for a molosser. However, this isn’t exactly true. Molossers tend to have heavier bones with pendant ears and a relatively short muzzle. 

So what is the Great Pyrenees? They’re luppo-molossoid dogs. In other words, the Pyrenees and the mastiffs descended from different animals or species.

According to historians, they’re likely to have descended from the Asian white wolf, and not of the distinct path that the mastiffs followed.

3. There’s a reason why most Great Pyrenees dogs were bred with their signature white coats.

It’s worth noting that there are other colors of the Great Pyrenees. However, according to the American Kennel Club, the base color of these dogs are always white. It’s why nearly every single Pyrenees you see will be white with various colors of markings.

But given all the wonderful colors of dogs, have you ever wondered why this is?

Just check out this picture.

Or, this picture.

Did you notice that there was a Great Pyrenees blended into the flock of sheep? Well, that’s exactly the point. These dogs are relatively the same color and size as sheep, so that means they’re able to hide within a sea of sheep.

This likely deter predators, such as wolves, from attempting to attack the sheep, as they’re uncertain when or where a giant dog will pop out. 

2. An amazing Great Pyrenees survived one of California’s deadliest wildfires because he wouldn’t abandon his goats. 

The Great Pyrenees is a natural-born guardian, and at times they protect their pack to the end. At least, this was the mindset of a stubborn yet loyal Pyrenees named Odin.

During the raging Napa wildfires of California in 2017, fire was quickly approaching Odin’s farm. Leaving immediately was a matter of life or death for the owners.

According to the owner, Odin never leaves his goats during night time. It’s his job and no matter what they say or do, he won’t leave. So after crucial minutes of trying to get Odin in the car, the owner finally made the difficult decision to leave.

“I said, okay Odin, take care of the goats. You’ll be fine. It was very hard for me to leave, leave my boy.”

– Roland (Odin’s owner)

However, when the fire passed, the owner returned to their home. Although the home was completely destroyed by the fire, the owner witnessed a miracle. 

She said, “In the distance, I saw Odin’s Tail. I saw the wagging of Odin’s tail. And sure enough there was Odin coming at the head of all his goats.”

Not only did Odin survive, but he managed to save his goats by leading them away from the dangerous fires. Odin’s heroic acts perfectly describe the Pyrenees breed: they’re loyal, stubborn and fearless.

1. The Great Pyrenees is so ancient that archeologists have found fossils of the breed.

Ever wonder how old the Great Pyrenees is? Well according to archeologists, these dogs are over 3,000 years old. It’s possible that the Great Pyrenees arrived in the Pyrenean Mountains around 3,000 BC – or over 5,000 years ago.

But fossil deposits of these dogs have been found in those mountains that can be dated back to 1800 BC. That’s the bronze age, if you were wondering. 

And if that’s not shocking enough, historians believe that the ancestors of the Great Pyrenees likely came from a white mountain dog around 11,000 years ago. This makes the Great Pyrenees one of the most ancient dogs that we still have with us today.

So what was your favorite fact? Were there any facts about the Great Dane that deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Monday 28th of February 2022

Thanks for this post. It’s so amazing

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