Herd dogs of the Pyrenees

bwcowsThere are numerous breeds of herd dogs, but the ones most commonly used in the Pyrenees are the Border Collie, the Berger des Pyrénées (Pyreneen sheepdog) and the Great Pyrenees (nicknamed "le Patou").

The Border Collie

Of scottish origin, it is considered by many shepherds to be the best dog for rounding up and driving sheep and cows, as well as goats, pigs and geese. They are very calm, docile and passionate about their work and are very easy to command.

Generally they have a black coat with white paws, chest and end of tail with short, medium or long hair. However, there are three other species of border collie: the blues (grey), tricolours (black, white and brown) and browns (rare).

The border collie's best trait is its ability to rapidly and efficiently redirect the herd, but it has somewhat less stamina than the more robust Berger des Pyrénées.

The Berger des Pyrénées (Pyreneen sheepdog)

The traditional pyreneen herd dog, it is generally white, beige or light brown with long, medium or short, slightly wavy hair and often a rather unkempt aspect.

It is a very brave, robust and intelligent dog that can master a herd of 800 sheep on its own. In contrast to the Border Collie it barks a lot and is very nervous, with abundant energy. Consequently, many shepherds find the Labrit a challenge to train.

The Great Pyrenees (or Pyreneen Mountain Dog)

patouOriginally from Tibet, "le patou" is not a herd dog; its role is to guard flocks of sheep. It's a vigilant and brave guardian both by day and by night. Large and magestic, with a superb white coat, it is highly prized as a companion dog around the world, especially in the United States and in Japan. However, as its popularity as a pet has increased, the traditional role as a working dog has declined in recent years and the patou has been disappearing from its native land. Fortunately, the reintroduction of bears in the Pyrenees has stimulated interest in the breed as a protector of flocks and more are now being trained for this essential task.

Many thanks to these photographers

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From 2000 to the end of 2017 ariege.com was a site devoted to tourism in the department of Ariège. The site is minimally maintained now but you can get a flavour of this beautiful area of the Pyrenees.