Known in its borne country as the Perro Mastin del Pireneo, the Pyrenean Mastiff, the Mastin de los Pireneos or the Mastin d’Aragon, this massive dog has for centuries played an important role as the protector of the huge flocks of Spanish sheep during their annual migrations. It has also been recorded as the Navarro Mastiff.
During the first millennium BC, Phoenecian traders brought large dogs from the Middle East to the Iberian peninsula, where they became important working animals assisting in the movement and control of the enormous flocks of sheep that existed there. The biggest of these ancient dogs was a mastiff breed that was given the task of defending
the flocks against attacks from wolves and bears. To assist the dogs in this task they were equipped with heavy, spiked collars.
The flocks had to be moved north every summer and south every winter, to find pasture and avoid the extremes of temperature, and the mastiffs went with them. There were only five mastiffs and one shepherd to a flock of 1,000 sheep, so their task was not easy.
As the years passed, each district developed its own local variant of mastiff and there were many regional ‘breeds’ that differed in little more than name. Then, in 1946, an attempt was made to bring some order to this situation and all these flock guards were reduced to two distinct types. The longer-coated, bicoloured dogs that came from the northern districts were given the name of Pyrenean Mastiff, while the smooth-coated, solid-coloured dogs from other regions were given the general name of Spanish Mastiff (see separate entry). The basic colour for the Pyrenean Mastiff is white, on which there are patches of black, brindle, grey, red or fawn. Its head is characteristically deep.
As often happens with very big dogs, the Pyrenean Mastiff is gentle and calm when not threatened, and only shows its strength and aggressive power when an emergency occurs. Although it is rare today, this imposing dog is well protected by a group of devoted enthusiasts who are determined to see their ancient, native breeds flourish.