As part of our summer series on local Occitania breeds, zoom in on the Pyrenean mountain dog. Traditionally used as a swarm guard against predators, it is also kept by many individuals. Nadine Laffitte, a passionate breeder of 40 years near Tarbes, tells us.
“Come on, darlings!” The ranch’s revolving door opened and three Pyrenean mountain dogs rushed into the yard. Three long-haired white-haired rockets arrive to sniff out a journalist… This stranger, visiting the livestock farm Néouvielle, in Moumoulous, a small village near Tarbes. In a voice that was a mixture of tenderness and firmness, Nadine Laffitte slowly directed them toward the nearby meadow. Béarnaise lives in Hautes-Pyrénées, the 62-year-old farmer has always grown up with dogs. They had once protected his grandparents’ sheep in the summer pasture against the bear, the archenemy.
“I was 22 years old when my grandfather gave me my first mountain in the Pyrenees,” she laughs. The beginning of a passion that she has kept all her life. For 40 years she has raised several hundred of these lovely local dogs, which have existed since time immemorial in the Pyrenees. The noble animal was mentioned by Count Foix Gaston Phoebus in the 14th centurye century and very popular at the court of Louis XIV.
“Currently, I only have one male, three old female dogs and three young female dogs, about 13-14 months old, the owner confided, I have very few children because I have to reduce the herd a lot, since I was born. 2017 accident in which I lost an eye. “It must be said that raising the Pyrenean mountain dog, a strong and independent breed, weighing between 50 and 64 kg, with a very strong character and very protective, is a demanding activity. “They need a solid, fair education,” noted the breeder.
650 puppies born in 2021
“During the first few weeks, you also have to be very vigilant because if you don’t want to, mothers can crush their dogs,” explains Nadine Laffitte. But these little hairs quickly become self-sufficient, from three weeks. Most leave spawn after nine weeks. Sold in France or abroad, a dog brings in between €1,400 and €1,600 respectively. According to the Société Centrale Canine (SCC) historically, breeding has moved to other regions, but there are still about 15 breeders in the Pyrenees, producing at least two litters per year.
“For 20 to 30 years, the annual breeding numbers have been relatively stable and growing from 450 to 650,” said Jean-Bernard Moings, vice president of the SCC and chair of the shepherd and guard dog committee. . the number of puppies born and subsequently registered in the French Book of Origin (LOF), with a confirmed pedigree and thus fit for breeding. ” However, this number represents only 30 to 40 percent of the number of puppies that are very similar to the Pyrenees, which are said to be “racial in appearance,” but “officially undocumented.” This is often the case. out with dogs adopted by shepherds.
10 times more dogs work in 10 years
However, the breed standards, defined in 1923, are extremely precise. The mucous membranes should be perfectly black: the nose, lips and inside of the mouth. Head shape and size, and body proportions are also important. Just like the eyes should be almond shaped, soft and dreamy. The dog must also have extra toes on top of the hind legs, called “toenails”. After being bred, some dogs will go to private homes. Indeed, there is demand from families looking for a solid and loyal guardian in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
The popularity is tied to the success of the book and series “Belle et Sébastien” (1965) and more recent films, released between 2013 and 2017. “But it hurts race. , disappointing Nadine Laffite. Given her personality, this dog cannot be given to everyone and the breed must be kept secret.” Exhibitions and contests are also regularly held to showcase pedigree and luxury of this breed.Ouness, who grew up in Néouvielle, also won the European Championship in 2022.
Tension between patrons and hikers
In recent decades, the patou has increasingly discovered that its original mission was to protect the herd against bears and, to a lesser extent, wolves and foxes. Jean-Bernard Moings, vice president of the Société Centrale Canine, analyzes: “There are 10 times more guard dogs than there were 20 years ago. In fact, the presence of a dog in the mountain meadow is one conditions for compensation in the event of an attack.
Depending on the fate that awaits him, the guardian of the family or the herder, the upbringing of the dog will be different. If the first one is socialized rapidly with humans, such as in the market, the “patou” is raised only with sheep, in a flock of sheep, to become impregnated for them and accepted by the herd. “So they are a bit distracting, that’s why there are so many problems with walkers …”, the breeder notes. Incidents between aggressive dogs and frightened visitors have indeed recurred in the area over the summer. Public authorities, the rural world and the tourism industry are doing all they can to intensify awareness campaigns to improve this still fraught cohabitation situation.