Saturday, December 17, 2011

The (More Than) Great Pyrenees

Meet Fannie. At approximately 100 pounds and covered head to toe with thick white fur, she is one huge member of our farm family. Without her we'd have far fewer chickens, ducks, goats, peacocks and calves while the coyotes living in the woods nearby, would have fuller stomachs.

We'd also sleep much better at night.

But that is the small price you have to pay for one of the best livestock guard dogs to ever slobber on a farmer. Fannie is a Great Pyrenees who in my book more than lives up to her name. As I write this she is patrolling just outside my office window, returning each coyote yippity-yap with a deeply serious gruff bark of her own. Translated she is saying, "I'm on duty now, this is MY family and MY farm, don't even think about trespassing you lowly excuse for a predator you!" And off she goes around the house slowly and steadily increasing the diameter of her circle as the evening progresses.

By the middle of the night she will have parked herself far out in our pastures, the fuzzy Short Stop of South Pork Ranch. If the night is calm she will rest with the livestock. If the coyotes are wound up she will run back and forth around our property keeping the pesky Wile E. Coyotes at bay.

In the morning she will have returned to our inner circle, accompanying us on morning chores. If our grandchildren are visiting she latches onto them, following them as engage in top secret pine collecting missions, not leaving their sides until they return to the farmhouse.

Eventually, in the mid afternoon she will take a dog nap out in the open or inside a calf hutch often lying next to a newborn bovine to keep them company (and provide warmth); or perhaps she'll get a little snooze next to a farmer and his grandson.

Originating in Central Asia or Siberia ,the Pyrenees is also a relative of the St. Bernard, contributing to their development. It has a long history as a guard dog of sheep. While other early dog breeds made their way to Europe, the Great Pyrenees remained in the high mountain regions until the Middle ages, when the breed gradually gained popularity with the French nobility as a guard dog. By the late 17th century, every French noble wanted to own one. Armed with a spiky collar and thick coat, the Great Pyrenees protected vulnerable flocks from such predators as wolves and bear. The Great Pyrenees has proven to be a very versatile breed working as an avalanche rescue dog, as a cart-puller, sled dog, as a pack dog on ski trips, a flock guardian, dog of war, and as a companion and defender of family and property. The AKC officially recognized the Great Pyrenees in 1933.

We recognized the "greatness" of our Fannie as a puppy. From the first week she came to our farm it became obvious we belonged to her and it was her job to protect us. Greeting us at the door first thing in the morning and then tucking us in at night before she starts her rounds, she is worth every bit of the approximately 80 pounds of dog food (plus table scraps) she consumes each month. She remains outside all winter, tolerating low temperatures well, sometimes sleeping on top of our picnic table in order to keep a more elevated eye on "her" responsibilities. She is as gentle with kittens and chicks and children as she is ferocious towards any livestock predators.

She is the Great Pyrenees and no farm should be without one.


  1. Fannie is gorgeous! Such beauty and intelligence in her eyes <3

  2. What a beautiful girl....I am assuming there will be Christmas treats?

  3. I completely agree with your observations and especially that last comment about "no farm should be without one." I have 3 of them guarding my goats. In fact one just took off with his deep response to the coyote yipping. I feel much better knowing they're out there and on the job!

  4. We've been debating whether or not to get one of these for our small, approximate 10 acre, farm. We do have a rather protective Black-Tri-Australian Shepherd (male) and he is ready to take on anything that bothers his flock, etc. but I don't know how the Texas heat would impact a Great Pyrenees and I don't know how well it would get along with our other family pets --- our daughters also sometimes visit with their dogs...not so sure it'd work out??

    Anyway, we probably really do need to get one for our place that we are moving to very soon in the country because it is extremely rural, we have no neighbors at all.


  5. Gorgeous beast. Our neighbours had one many years ago, He was beautiful, docile, and stupid. Whatever gene makes them protect and defend, must have been extracted at birth. But he was wonderful.

  6. Topcat, I passed on your compliments to Fannie. She blushed all over.

    MBJ, of course. Although she has been chewing on the skull of a raccoon she found recently, she may not need the tiny little dog food bones I bought her.

    Brenda, we are thinking about getting another soon ourselves. Do your three patrol together or do they have separate areas of the property they are each responsible for?

    Lana, the key is to get one that is very young. 6-10 weeks so it grows up with all your other animals and the family. Also we have lots of customers who come on our property and bring their dogs, Fannie is always friendly with them both, but once a small dog visitor got too close to one of our grandchildren and the growl that came from her mouth gave me Stephen King chills up my spine!

    I do know about the heat issue. They tolerate cold so well. Maybe shaving them in the hottest months? Nothing like a big UGLY dog to keep intruders away.

    Oh Cro, as you know, every village has their eejit. Ours happens to be sitting in the White House

  7. We are in love with our now 4 month old 3/4 GP and 1/4 Anatolian girl. She is HUGE, and takes her job very seriously! Her barking is getting worse lately, and while it isn't a problem here, it concerns me for our next move, as our farm there has neighbors it might bother. I'm not sure how to handle that, other than hope lots of fresh meat, milk, garden produce, and eggs will keep the neighbors tolerant ;-)

  8. Red gate, yes bribery is good! We have only one neighbor who fortunately has a large dog who also barks. Its like my mother always pat my back and I'll promise not to kick you in the ass the next time you make a mistake.

  9. Well, since meeting Fannie, I want one. Awesome dog!

    How does she stay though? Electric fence? My Collie is absolutely the worst farm dog ever. She is more interested in the neighbors (a half mile away) then staying in her yard. We have since built a fence. Our road is too busy to chance it. She is great with horses though. Herding instincts are intact!

    Our Catahoula puppy hasn't met any livestock yet. He is better at following us, but has his spaz SQUIRREL moments. I gotta get him out to my friends stables for his first meet and greet. I'm slightly worried about him and smaller animals though. He keeps decapitating birds and mice and leaving them as presents at the back door. Guess when I finally get my chickens I'll have to worry about him as a predator too!

  10. Wonderful Dog! There's a great tempered one guarding the Butcher shop and environs. We have put our name in for a puppy!

  11. Abuz, Since we got her as a puppy whne we had other older dogs she learned to stay from theem. Thye have since died of very old age and she stays home because it is her instinct to protect us...never tries to follow us when we leave though. All our pastures are electric and she just ducks under them her thick coat insulating her from shocks, 99% of the time

    Art, we too have folks in line waiting for a Fannie puppy. But first we need a daddy. I can see how in your cold area they would be so perfect!

  12. Love the Great Pyrenees! Huge, gentle, protective. Perfect! My friends raised them and their dogs used to play with our Old English Sheepdogs. Great, great dogs!

  13. What breeder did you get her from. She seems to come from good genes for sure. Love her. Abiga/Karen