Black Great Pyrenees- Fact Or Fiction?

Photo by Aiko, Thomas et al on Flickr

Known as Great Pyrenees in the US and Canada, in Europe (including the UK) these dogs are known as Pyrenees Mountain Dogs.

To their loving owners and legions of fans, the breed is known affectionately as “Pyrs”. 

But regardless of what they are called in which part of the world, the burning question that you want answered is, can I get a black great Pyrenees?

And this is a question that opens up a can of worms…Most people would state that strictly speaking there is no such thing as a black great Pyr.

Others would say, hang on a minute, of course black great Pyrs exist.

But which of these two camps are right?

Just before I charge into such a heated debate, I want to give you some basic stats and qualities of this wonderful breed.

This is information that we can all agree on and will help those of you who are less familiar with these dogs to create a detailed image of a pyr in your mind- which will help you later on as we start sailing in some choppy waters.

Great Pyrenees undisputed stats

In this first section I want to quickly highlight some basic traits. 

The height of a fully grown male will be somewhere between 27 to 32 inches- which is about 68 cm to 80 cm in height and they will weigh not less than 100 lbs or 45 kilos. 

For a female- height wise they are about 25 to 29 inches (62cm to 72 cm) and they shouldn’t weigh less than 85 lbs or 38.5 kilos. 

As far as their personalities go, most pyrs should be very relaxed, calm and affectionate. But they are quick to protect their territory and their flock or human family. 

Moving on to the texture and substance of their coat (I will be dealing with the colour soon enough) it should have a thick double coat which is fitting for a dog that is most at home on top of mountains. 

Another important quality of the coat is that it is thick around the neck and shoulders rather like a mane. 

Why would they have a mane?

Well scientists are really sure. 

It might be to provide better protection for their neck in the event of an attack by a wolf or bear…

Have you got a clearer image of a great pyr in your mind now?

If so, we can discuss the colour of their coat.

I want to start by looking at what the American Kennel Club has to say about it. 

What is the standard colour of Great Pyrenees?

Many people mistakenly think that a great Pyrenees, in order to be purebred, needs to be solid white without a hint of any other colour.

These are the people who nonsense any suggestion that there are any such things as black Pyrs. 

But this view is totally wrong.

The breed standard or a set of desirable qualities that a dog breed must have,  allows up to one third of a great Pyrenees coat to be a color other than white.

Breed standards are created by the American Kennel Club. 

So what different colours are permissible?

Well, there is quite a range from grey, “badger”, reddish brown or shades of tan. 

Badger isn’t black- it refers to different shades of grey stripes that appear around a pyrs head.

So there is absolutely no mention of black. 

Taking a slightly different tack with their colors, the Kennel Club – the UK’s equivalent of the AKC, explicitly states that any patches of black on great pyrs are highly undesirable

So that seems to be pretty clear doesn’t it- there is no such thing as a black great Pyrenees. 

That all depends on how much respect you have for the AKC and its breed standard.

And in the next section, I want to take a look at some of these limitations… 

Are black great Pyrenees allowed?

The breed standard is a set of characteristics that a dog must have in order to be registered with the AKC- the American Kennel Club.

In order to register with the AKC and to be able to enter dogs into AKC sponsored shows (which in the US are the most prestigious dog shows) your dog must conform to the breed standard.

And for great Pyrenees this means that they cannot be a solid black colour or anything close to that.

So if you want a great Pyrenee to show or you want a pyr to register with the AKC and to breed from then your desire and search for a black great Pyrenee needs to end here. 

Which begs the question, do black pyrs exist at all?

The next section will provide us with some clues. 

Do black great Pyrenees exist?

Yes black great Pyrenees do exist.

I mean a quick Google Image search will produce dozens of beautiful photos of black Pyrenees dogs. 

And clearly these dogs are for real- they aren’t Newfoundlands or even Jack Rusells in some sort of fancy dress!

Now this begs the question: what is the difference between black Pyrs and white pyrs?

And without going into a long and boring discussion looking at genetics there can only be two basic differences between them. 

Firstly black pyrs can’t be registered with the AKC and secondly they can’t be shown at AKC sponsored shows. 

But that doesn’t mean that beautiful examples of solid black great pyrs don’t exist or have never existed. 

Great Pyrenees were first brought over to the US in the early nineteenth century and they were only recognised by the AKC in 1933. 

But the breed as we know it has a much longer history in France.

Indeed, as we will find out later, pyrs were an incredibly popular breed in France in the late seventeenth century.

Which is two hundred years earlier than the American branch of the family was established

And, as we know, a lot can happen in two hundred years.

Which is central to the argument put forward by people who believe that black great pyrs do exist…

Because they did exist before the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club have chosen to restrict the allowable colours to exclude black pyrs- or indeed any level of colouring that comes close…

One such person puts forward this argument very strongly, and calls great pyrs with black on them the French breed standard.

Another person also makes the point that black great Pyrs that were imported into Canada might have been involved in the creation of Landseers or black and white and white Newfoundlands.

And in the next section I want to backtrack a little bit and explore some of the history of this wonderful breed.

History of Great Pyrenees

As their name suggests, these dogs were bred to work in the (Pyrenees) mountains which divide France from Spain.

On these mountains these dogs were there to protect sheep from wolves, bears or even livestock rustlers. 

Which accounts for some of their key qualities which we will discuss in more detail later- their size, athleticism, patience and their thick white coat!

Like many breeds, pyrs have roots which can be traced back many thousands of years to an area of the world which we now know as Turkey. 

Any animal that is large can very often be labelled as “majestic”, which is a common description used for pyrs. 

But in their case, they are majestic in the truest sense of the world because at one time they were given the honour of being described as the royal dog of France. 

That was in the late seventeenth century by Loius XIV. 

In the next section I want to look at alternatives to black great Pyrs. 

I mean getting your hands on a puppy of this breed could be a real challenge.

And for many of you it will be important to be able to register a dog with the AKC.

If you want a great big black dog, what are your options?

Black Livestock Guarding Dogs

Oh that it was as simple as finding a big black dog which is recognised by the AKC but it isn’t.

Pyrs are bred for a very specific role as livestock guarding dog.

And if you want a dog to play that role on your farm or ranch then it leaves you with just one choice- the Tibetian Mastiff. 

The only large black livestock guarding dog which is recognised by the AKC.

But how do they compare? Let’s take a look.

Great PyreneesTibetan Mastiff
Height (Adult Male) 27- 32 inches26 – 29 inches
Weight (Male)At least 100 lbsAt least 100 lbs
PersonalityCalm, protectiveCalm, protective
ExerciseHighModerate
Potential to barkHighModerate
SheddingHighModerate

In creating the table above I suddenly realised how difficult it is to compare these two breeds- or any breeds for that matter.

But hopefully I have provided you with some “headlines” that you can use as a starting point.

What we can see is that a Pyr is physically taller than a Tibetan Mastiff but because they are about the same weight, the Mastiff is “chunkier”.

In terms of personality and temperament, both breeds can be described as calm and protective and both make for great livestock guardians.

But Tibetans need less exercise than Pyrs and they are less likely to bark- and I for one love quiet dogs.

Added to that, the coat on Tibetans requires less work as they are far less likely to shed than a Pyr.

Which means, at the end of the day, if you want a dog that will be more of a family dog than a working dog, then your best option might be a Tibetan rather than a black Pyr!