Pyrenean Shepherds are fairly small, light-boned, sinewy dogs with uniquely triangular heads and endearing, windswept faces. Their ground-covering gait appears effortless and is described as “shaving the earth.” Both the Rough-Faced and Smooth-Faced varieties have somewhat long, weather-resistant double coats. No matter what color or coat type, the Pyrenean Shepherd’s eyes are rimmed in black. Its ears may or may not be cropped (surgically shortened). Double dewclaws, single dewclaws or no dewclaws on the rear legs are all acceptable. Dewclaws are always present on the front legs. Because rear dewclaws are an ancient characteristic of this breed, if all else is equal the dog with dewclaws will be preferred in the show ring. This breed’s tail can be naturally bobbed, naturally long or surgically docked shortly after birth.
Size and Weight
Pyrenean Shepherds range from 15½ to 21 inches in height, measured at the top of their shoulders. The Smooth-Faced variety tends to be a bit taller than the Rough-Faced. This is a lean breed, and it should be kept in lean condition. The breed standard specifies that the Pyrenean Shepherd’s ribs should be easy to feel under their thick double coats, and that they should have “just enough flesh to cover their bones.” This light-weight breed usually weighs between 15 and 32 pounds, with males being heavier than females.
Coat and Color
Pyrenean Shepherds come in two coat types – the Rough-Faced and the Smooth-Faced. The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) classifies these as two different breeds. However, the American Kennel Club, and many other purebred dog registries, recognize them as separate varieties of the same breed. Both coat types were developed to enable the Pyrenean Shepherd to withstand the harsh climatic conditions and temperature extremes of its native, mountainous French homeland.
Coat quality is more important than coat abundance in this breed. The Rough-Faced Pyrenean Shepherd’s coat can be long or what is called demi-long, ranging from almost flat to slightly wavy. Demi-long dogs have culottes (longer puffs of hair) on their rumps, while the long-haired dogs are usually more heavily furnished with woolly hair that can mat and cord if not brushed out every few weeks, especially on their elbows, croup and thighs. The coat of the Rough Faced variety is harsh, halfway between the course hair of a goat and the thick wool of a sheep. Their undercoat is minimal. The hair on the end of the Rough-Faced’s muzzle and chin is naturally short and becomes longer as the muzzle widens toward the skull. The longer hair on the sides of the muzzle and cheeks is swept back, giving a wispy, windblown look. The eyes of the Rough-Faced Pyrenean Shepherd must be easy to see and not covered by hair.
The Smooth-Faced Pyrenean Shepherd has a fine, soft coat that reaches a maximum of 3 inches in length. Their muzzle is covered with short, fine hair that becomes somewhat longer on the sides of the head, blending into a modest ruff around the neck. The fronts of their legs are also covered with short, soft hair, and they have some feathering on their elbows and thighs.
Pyrenean Shepherds come in a variety of colors, including shades of fawn, tan, copper, grey, charcoal, silver, pearl, merles of diverse tones, brindle, black and black with white markings. A small bit of white is acceptable on their chest, head and feet. White markings should not exceed 30% of the dog’s total body surface.
Pyrenean Shepherds are low-maintenance dogs. The Rough-Faced variety needs a bit more grooming than does the Smooth-Faced, but even they only require a good brushing every few weeks to prevent them from developing mats. If the Rough-Faced Pyrenean Shepherd is not brushed or combed, its coat will naturally form cords, similar to those of the Hungarian Komondor and Puli. This is not a breed that sheds heavily, in either coat type.