Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
One of the most beautiful dogs in the world is the Pyrcncan sheep-dog, but, alas! the breed is almost extinct. Technically speaking, this animated snowdrift is not a sheep-dog at all. but closely related to the mastiffs. In form of body and texture of coat he greatly resembles the Tibet mastiff, though the latter is not so tall on the legs and is quite different in color, being velvety black, with rich tan markings.
Had the Pyrencan dog been a herder of sheep like the collie, no doubt his tribe would have been as numerous as ever; but the Spanish, and later the French, shepherds used him chiefly to guard their flocks against the ravages of the wolves and bears.
When wolves and bears became scarce in the Pyrenean Mountains, the need of this valiant defender grew less and the breed was neglected, until now but a few specimens remain.
The Pyrenean sheep-dog is one of the finest dogs that has been used in the manufacture of the present-day St. Bernard. It is quite possible that the old hospice-dog (which died out when roads and railways cut hither and thither through the Alps) was more of this type than is generally supposed.
The Pyrenean dog is one of the large dogs, but by no means so immense as the St. Bernard. A good male dog would probably weigh about 100 to Tio pounds, as against 250 pounds for the St. Bernard.
He is usually pure white or cream-colored and bears a coat much like that of a Newfoundland, only with more underfur and of a more woolly texture.
He has seldom been brought to this country or even to England. He is preeminently a guardian dog, used to insure safety to the flock from the attack of wolves, smaller and that his unwieldiness and expensive keep have rendered him rather unpopular, so that now he is indeed rarely seen. nimbler dogs being used for the purpose of driving and herding.
The type is easier to conceive from the picture than by a written description. Like all dogs bred for utility, and not yet taken up by "the fancy," he is bo'und by no standard of perfection and is subject to considerable variation. The best dog is the one that does his work best, which is as it should be.
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