Great Pyrenees and the Norwegian Brown Bear

This is a photograph of three Great Pyrenees dogs harassing a brown bear in Northern Norway. This photograph was downloaded by me some time ago from a web site that seems to no longer exist.

The story from that site goes like this: Apparently, in this region of northern Norway, brown bears that normally reside in a reserve or park had started to wander into cattle farmland. This would be alarming because a) cattle farmers do not want their calves eaten by brown bears and b) friends of the brown bears may not want cattle ranchers to feel obliged to start shooting the bears. (I quickly add, I have no idea if Norwegian cattle ranchers are as trigger happy about wild carnivores and our American cattle ranchers appear to be…)

Apparently, some Great Pyrenees owners living in more populated areas of Norway, who had pet Pyrs (i.e., not raised as working dogs, but rather citified pets), who may have been affiliated with the Great Pyrenees Society of Norway, assembled their dogs and went up to this region to take care of business.

The reason I am interested in the story is that I’m interested in the evolution of behavior, and in this particular case, the co-evolution of human and dog behavior. The key fact in this story is that these untrained dogs acted almost entirely as though they were trained protector dogs in how they protected the cattle, harassed the bears, coordinated their efforts with each other and with the humans, etc.

This is not to say, of course, that I would expect any sort of working dog raised, untrained in their normal “work” as pets, to do this. I would expect the opposite for most breeds. But this aparently (from this story and other evidence) is not the case with the Great Pyrenees. This breed appears to come more or less ready out of the box, as it were, to carry out the work the adults normally do in their native setting of alpine cattle lands of the Spanish and French Pyrenees.

I used to live with a Pyr (who’s name was “bear” in Spanish) and for that entire time we were left entirely unharassed by bears.

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2 Responses to Great Pyrenees and the Norwegian Brown Bear

  1. When I was a kid we had a Standard Poodle (also named “bear” in Spanish) and we were also left alone by bears.

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