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These dogs take their name from the mountain range in southwestern Europe where they long have been used as guardians of the flocks. In the United States they are called Great Pyrenees. In the United Kingdom and on the continent of Europe, they are known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog. In their native France, they are Le Chien de Montagne des Pyrenees or Le Chien des Pyrenees. Whatever the name, it is a beautiful primarily white dog with a "certain elegance" which for centuries has been the working associate of peasant shepherds high on the mountain slopes.
The breed likely evolved from a group of principally white mountain flock guard dogs that originated ten or eleven thousand years ago in Asia Minor. It is very plausible that these large white dogs arrived in the Pyrenees Mountains with their shepherds and domestic sheep about 3000 BC. There they encountered the indigenous people of the area, one of which were the Basques, descendants of Cro-Magnon Man. In the isolation of the Pyrenees Mountains over these millenniums, the breed developed the characteristics that make it unique to the group of flock guardian dogs in general and the primarily white members of that group.
The Great Pyrenees is a lupomossoloid as opposed to a mossoloid. While there has surely been some cross breeding over the many centuries, the Great Pyrenees is not a mastiff nor are its lupomossoloid ancestors principally from the mastiff family. There are other dogs of the region, such as the Pyrenean Mastiff, and the Spanish Mastiff that fill that description. It is no coincidence that the Great Pyrenees is approximately the same size as the European Grey Wolf.
Thanks to www. http://clubs.akc.org/gpca/gpcabreed.html