JUDGING THE PYR SHEP
Princehouse Excerpted from Kennel Review, October
Judges are beginning to encounter
more and more Pyrenean Shepherd at shows, and fortunately the quality of these
dogs is generally excellent. However, the future of the breed in North America
depends on well-informed breeders and judges breeders who continue to
produce top-quality dogs, and judges who recognize and reward outstanding Pyr
Sheps when they see them.
In his 1927 work "Les Chiens Pyreneens"
(bible to Pyrenean Shepherd breeders), Bernard Senac- Lagrange indicates that
the breed has existed in the Pyrenees mountains of Southern France since the
Bronze Age. A hardworking peasants dog, this little herding breed did not
appeal to the aristocracy as did his large, livestock-guarding counterpart, the
Great Pyrenees. Thus it was not until the early part of the 20th century that
the breed attracted the attention of cynophiles and a standard was
painstakingly drawn up written primarily by native Pyreneans who had the breed
in their family for generations. The Pyrenean Shepherd was officially
recognized in France in 1923. Today the breed is highly competitive at French
shows and is the 16th most popular breed in France (based on registrations with
the French Kennel Club).
The Pyrenean Shepherd is unique. It cannot be
readily compared to any other breed. There are two varieties of Pyrenean
Shepherd: rough-faced (museau normal in French) and smooth-faced
(face-rase in French). The rough-faced is by far the more popular
of the two both in his native land and in North America. The varieties are
freely interbred, smooth faced dogs frequently showing up in litters from
rough- faced parents. Show classes are separated by variety. A representative
of each variety competes in the herding group as with Collies.
Rough-faced dogs are most commonly fawn. Smooth-faced dogs are frequently blue
merle. However, in both varieties a wide range of colors is acceptable
including fawn with or without black mast, grey ranging from charcoal-black to
silver, brindle, black, blue merle, and fawn merle. A black dog may have white
markings over as much as one-third his body. Other colors may be self-marked
but excessive white is to be penalized. More than one their white disqualifies
as do tan points. Thus there are no tricolored dogs and the blue merles must
not have copper points.
The Pyr Shep is the smallest of the French
herding breeds. Rough-faced bitches range 15 18, males 15
½ 19. The smooth-faced variety can stand slightly
taller. However, in both varieties a minimum height and weight is preferred.
Although coat has a great deal to do with the first impression a dog
gives, it is not one of the most important aspects of the breed. Body coat
length is of negligible import. Rough-faced dogs can have semi- long body coat
with minimal fringing, or they may carry long coat with extensive fringing
which may form cadenettes (thin cords) on the legs. Some
individuals carry coarser goat hair: (poil de chevre) cots which do not
cord and are almost always semi-long. Both semi-long and long-haired coats are
equally desirable. Again, it cannot be stressed firmly enough that coat does
not make the dog. Expression, conformation and movements determine the quality
of a Pyrenean Shepherd.
The Pyr Shep should present a
rustic appearance He should never appear overly coiffed, and ribbons must be
withheld at the first sign of scissoring especially on the head. It is
extremely important that the facial hair not hide the eyes. An overabundance of
facial hair obscures the eyes and ruins the expression. Correct facial hair is
somewhat like that of the Cairn, never like a Briard or Bearded Collie.
Ch. Urrugne de lEstaube is an outstanding rough-faced bitch
displaying a classic head and expression and conformation. She is small and
lightboned with excellent length of neck, body and thigh, excellent tuck up,
and short, well0turned hocks. Her head is superb small, almond0shaped
eyes, ears set right on top of the head, triangular muzzle, excellent muzzle to
skull proportion, and just the right amount of facial hair giving the face a
The rough-face dog must be rectangular longer
than he is tall. He should always be active and alert and light on his feet. A
minimum of bone is desirable. A heavily-boned, wide bodied, cobby dog is to be
severely penalized. Similarly, the Pyr Shep does not move wide either front or
rear. Going away, hocks should move parallel but feet should toe out slightly.
This toeing out at the foot is considered highly desirable in the working dog
as it is believed to give better leverage on steep mountain slopes. A slight
toe out in front is also considered perfectly acceptable. Thus four-square
terrier movement is not desirable in the Pyrenean Shepherd and is not to be
From the side, the correct Pyr Shep exhibits excellent but
unexaggerated reach and drive. Length of stride is highly desirable. The dog
should shave the earth with the feet never far from the ground. An
attractive little dog while standing, the Pyr Shep really comes into his own at
the trot. At moderate speed the head is carried high, giving a picture of great
harmony, showing off the length of neck blending smoothly into the shoulders,
topline level over the back then rising into the loin and rounding the rump
into the slope of coup. It should be noted that while most Pyr Sheps have
natural bobs or docked tails, a long tail is perfectly acceptable so long as it
is correctly set and carried. The correct natural tail is set on low, following
the slope of croup, and is carried low, never raising above the level of the
back. The tail should have a crook at the end. In the case of a smooth-faced
dog, a natural tail should be well plumed.
The smooth-faced Pyr Shep
appears more square, higher on hock and more level in topline than the
Pyr Sheps usually have ears cropped straight across with
a single cut. The fringing gives the ears their rounded appearance. This
utilitarian ear crop (unlike the Briard, Beauceron, Bouvier, or any other cut)
has been used by working shepherds in the Pyrenees mountains since time
immemorial and the vast majority of both show and working dogs have cropped
ears. Natural ears re perfectly acceptable so long as they are correctly set
and carried. Correct natural ears re rather small and are set high on top of
the skull with the top one third to one half of the ear tipping forward or
slightly to the side.
A word on temperament: The Pyr Shep is very much a
working sheepdog. He is nervous, intelligent and quick to action. A laid-back,
mild-mannered temperament is not typical of the breed. Extremely devoted to his
owner, it comes as no surprise when the Pyr Shep prefers not to allow a
stranger to touch him. So, a certain amount of shyness in the showring is to be
expected. However as a good working herder the Pyr Shep is highly trainable.
Thus an unruly dog should not be heavily penalized but his owner should be
encouraged to finish the dogs show training before presenting him again.