The Breed History
Evidence of sheepdogs in the Pyrenean mountains dates back to 6000 BC. Pyrenean Sheepdogs were used solely for herding and companionship, and not for protection; that role was left to the Great Pyrenees. It is believed that when the Virgin Mary appeared to the young shepherdess Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto at Lourdes in 1858, her little Pyrenean Shepherd was by her side. They are often referred to as "the dog that saw God." Pyrenean Shepherds distinguished themselves in the Pyrenees during World War II as couriers, and search and rescue dogs. The smooth-faced variety was used to establish the Australian Shepherd breed. The majority of Pyrenean Shepherd breeding stock was imported to the US in the 1970s and 1980s. AKC recognition occurred in 2009.
Breeding for Function
Pyrenean shepherds are breed to maintain a high degree of herding instinct and soundness. Their small size allows them to be quicker and more sure-footed on windy mountain crags. They should be selected to maintain breed type and working ability.
Height at Withers: Rough-Faced: females 15-18" (38-46 cm), males: 15-1/2-18-1/2" (39-47 cm). Smooth-Faced: females 15-1/2-20-1/2" (39-52 cm), males 151/4-21" (39-53 cm).
Weight: 15-32 lbs (7-15 kg). To be kept lean, muscular, and never fat.
Coat: Rough-Faced: The Rough-Faced dog's coat can be of long or demi-long hair. Demi-long dogs have culottes on the rump, while the long-haired dogs are more heavily furnished with woollier hair that may cord. Smooth-Faced: The muzzle is covered with short, fine hairs. The hair becomes longer on the sides of the head, blending into a modest ruff. The hair on the body is fine and soft, attaining a maximum length of no more than 3 inches for the ruff and culottes, 2 inches along the back. Various shades of fawn from tan to copper, with or without a mixture of black hairs; grey, ranging from charcoal to silver to pearl grey; merles of diverse tones; brindle; black; black with white markings not exceeding 30% of the body surface. A little white is acceptable on the chest, head, and feet.
Longevity: 9-12 years.
Points of Conformation: The dog in good working condition is lightly boned and sinewy. In rough faced dogs the body is clearly long in proportion to the height of the dog, whereas Smooth-Faced dogs appear much more square. The head is triangular in shape, and small in proportion to the size of the dog. The eyes are almond-shaped and dark brown in color, except in merles where blue or partially blue eyes are acceptable. Eye rims must be black. Ears can be cropped and erect, or natural and semi-prick. The head is a triangular wedge shape, with no stop. The nose is black. The back is level. The tail can be docked, natural bob, or long. The feet are oval, with double, single, or no rear dewclaws. The gait is flowing, with the feet barely leaving the ground.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
The Pyrenean Shepdog is a high energy, intelligent, and mischievous dog that is always on alert, suspicious, ready for action. An ardent herder of all kinds of livestock. The Pyr Shep is naturally distrustful of strangers, but when well-socialized from a young age, he or she has a very lively, cheerful disposition. He is very affectionate with the members of his immediate family. He has the tendency to become passionately attached to his owner to the complete exclusion of all others and is astonishingly sensitive to his owner's moods. As a companion, he is very active and enthusiastic and insists upon being involved in the day's activities whatever they may be.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Merle Coat Color: Caused by a dominant mutation in the SILV gene. Breeding two merle dogs together should be avoided, as homozygous dogs can be born with multiple defects, including blindness, deafness, and heart anomalies.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 20.0% affected. Reported at a frequency of 11.8% in France.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Pyrenean Shepherds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported as a breed problem on the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America website. Too few Pyrenean Shepherds have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Reported in 7.14% of Pyrenean Shepherds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Pyrenean Shepherd with a cataract.
Choroidal Hypoplasia: Inadequate development of the choroid present at birth and non-progressive. This condition is more commonly identified in the Collie breed where it is a manifestation of "Collie Eye Anomaly". CERF does not recommend breeding any Pyrenean Shepherd affected with the disorder. No genetic test is available in the breed. Identified in 5.36% of Pyrenean Shepherds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 3.57% of Pyrenean Shepherds CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (Inherited Seizures): Control with anti-seizure medication. Reported as a breed problem on the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America website.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. Too few Pyrenean Shepherds have been test for thyroid autoantibodies at Michigan State University to determine an accurate frequency for the breed. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive degeneration of the retina, eventually causing blindness. Reported as a breed problem on the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America website. No genetic test is available.
Primary Lens Luxation: Partial (subluxation) or complete displacement of the lens from the normal anatomic site behind the pupil. Can progress to secondary glaucoma and blindness. Reported as a breed at risk by CERF; who does not recommend breeding any affected Pyrenean Shepherd.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA): Inherited congenital heart disorder; affected dogs are usually stunted, and have a loud heart murmur. Diagnosis is via Doppler ultrasound. Treatment is surgical. Reported as a breed problem on the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America website.
Isolated Case Studies
Tests of Genotype: None
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and DNA donation to the CHIC DNA repository. Optional testing includes cardiac evaluation. (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend thyroid profile including autoantibodies and elbow radiographs.
- Breed name synonyms: Berger Des Pyrenees, Petit Berger, Labrit
- Registries: AKC, Canadian Kennel Club, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), FCI.
- AKC rank: (None) Became an AKC recognized breed Jan. 2009. Entire studbook registered.
- Internet resources: Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America: www.pyrshep.com
The Pyrenean Sheepdog Club of Great Britain: www.pyreneansheepdog.co.uk/
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