Meet the Breed: From the Mountains to the Valleys
One of the smaller herding breeds, the Pyrenean Shepherd is big on speed, agility and endless energy
A fast and active little sheepdog that moves like quicksilver, the Pyrenean Shepherd was developed in the remote valleys and high slopes of the Pyrenean Mountains in southern France, where it lived and worked for thousands of years. The breed changed very little in appearance and temperament over the centuries because of its isolation.
Marie Jose Thuot of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, who competes in agility with her Pyrenean Shepherd and also judges the sport, describes the breed as a “small dog full of nervous energy, attached to its owner and suspicious of strangers. It’s always on the alert, barking to warn you of something unusual, and is foremost a working dog that needs a job.”
Pyrenean Shepherds remained almost unknown outside France for many years. Between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago, the mountainous area where the dogs were developed was gradually transformed from forest to meadows and open woodland by grazing goats and sheep. Shepherds and herdsmen tended the livestock in an agricultural system known as transhumance: the seasonal movement of livestock from the lower valleys, where they spend the winter, to the high pasture land during the summer.
The large, white Great Pyrenees guarded the livestock, and the smaller Pyrenean Shepherd herded. Shepherds often kept many of the small herding dogs to care for large flocks of sheep (small dogs need less food and are more agile on the mountain slopes), and the population of Pyrenean Shepherds has remained fairly high through the years.
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