BERGERS DE PYRENEES
As happened in so many European countries, the ancient occupation of raising sheep created a triad of shepherd, flock-guarding dog and sheep-herding dog in the Pyrenees mountains of France.Thus, the history of the little Bergers De Pyrenees traces back many years. It seems he was always there, and his characteristics have been set through necessity and use. He was quick and agile for pursuing sheep, and well covered with hair as protection from the elements. Highly resistant to both weather extremes and illness, the Bergers De Pyrenees breed could go long periods without food. Although brave and ready to defend master and property, he did not need to be large—should an adversary appear to be too much for him to handle, the omnipresent Great Pyrenees was ready to close the gap.
Due to the isolation created by the rugged mountains which form a natural border between France and Spain, each valley individualized the sheep dogs, with small variations in coat length and texture, color and so on. Despite the variety of types, people referred to all of them with the patois name of Labrit, which is still often referred to as a “breed.”
Today the breed is often called simply the Petit Berger, little shepherd. The French canine body recognized the Pyrenean Shepherd in 1926, and an eminent judge well known in the Great Pyrenees, B. Senac-Lagrange, drew up a standard which remains nearly intact today. At that time, the aforementioned types and valley names were consolidated into two breed classifications.
The Pyrenees sheep dog is slightly longer than tall, with a deep chest, keeping the center of gravity low to the ground. To facilitate all the steep climbing through the mountains, their hocks are a bit close. The thin-soled feet grip quately socialized and trained can become quite unruly—even terrors—breeders warn, although when handled properly they are loyal guardians and a joy to their families. This guardianship is evidenced by a mountain climber’s tale. A hiker became ill and had to stop at a Pyrenean shepherd’s hut. When the shepherd and flock arrived with nine Pyr Shepherds, the climber was warned of a bear in the area. The shepherds were going down to the village that night for supplies, but planned to leave three dogs to watch the sheep. Three more were assigned to stay with the climber in the hut. Later, he related the dogs willingly came inside and calmly arranged themselves to watch both him and the outside. Although they did not growl or panic when he approached them, they would not let the stranger touch them. They would move silently away and rearrange themselves to continue their watch.
The Bergers De Pyrenees sheep dogs prefer to be with their people so they can be ideal companions for retired persons, the house-bound or those who enjoy taking a dog with them. The Bergers De Pyrenees accepts the family’s children, but have a low tolerance for abuse, intentional or not. Socialization and training are recommended. Their energetic nature calls for long walks or frequent runs. These dogs thrive on having a job to accomplish, whether it be obedience, herding, avalanche and rescue work, or keeping an eye on the family. One Bergers De Pyrenees gave the owner no peace until she entered an excavation she was passing and found an unconscious child. The same dog rejoices in finding lost items: watches, keys, etc. The Petit Berger is described in The Pyrenean Shepherd Dog as “a ball of fire … so vivacious and quick-witted that …. he can . . . perform any task.”
Dogs of this breed still work in the Pyrenees, and a number of loyal fanciers promote the breed throughout Europe, as well as a handful doing so in the United States.