Home Dog BreedsGreat Pyrenees Great Pyrenees Colors: A Comprehensive Guide

Great Pyrenees Colors: A Comprehensive Guide

by Joel
great pyrenees colors

Few dogs capture the imagination quite like the Great Pyrenees. Renowned for their formidable size, regal bearing, and majestic aura, they are a sight to behold. One intriguing characteristic that frequently mesmerizes enthusiasts is their stunning color variety. This leads to exploring a lesser-known yet captivating topic: Great Pyrenees colors.

From the classic pure white to more unexpected shades, the Great Pyrenees displays a surprising array of color possibilities. This article will delve into this fascinating color palette, shedding light on genetics’ role and how the breed standard treats different coat colors.

What is a Great Pyrenees?

Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees, also known as the Pyrenean Mountain Dog, is a large, immensely powerful dog breed originally bred to deter predators like wolves on snowy mountaintops. Standing with an aura of majesty, the Great Pyrenees displays a thickly coated exterior, making them well-adapted for colder climates, and their size is undeniably imposing.

Primarily characterized as “strong-willed, independent, and somewhat reserved,” they showcase a level of loyalty and care for their human and animal charges which is almost unparalleled. At the same time, these dogs aren’t just about utility and work. They are known to be calm, composed, and serious, with a regal expression adding to their majestic appeal.

Despite their initial aloofness, Great Pyrenees tend to be attentive, fearless, and extremely loyal to their family. They are excellent guardians, offering protection and companionship in equal measure. They form a strong bond with their primary caretaker and are protective of their family unit.

History of Great Pyrenees color standards

History of Great Pyrenees color standards

The Great Pyrenees, known for their majestic appearance and guardian instincts, have a rich history that spans centuries. While the breed’s origins are somewhat unclear, it is widely believed that they originated in the Pyrenees Mountains, a natural border between France and Spain. These dogs were initially bred by Basque shepherds to protect their flocks from predators in the harsh mountainous terrain.

When it comes to the color standards of Great Pyrenees, the breed has a distinct and recognized coat coloration. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and other kennel clubs have established standards to guide breeders and enthusiasts in maintaining the breed’s characteristics.

The Great Pyrenees’ primary color is white, which is a crucial aspect of their appearance. The white coat served a practical purpose in their historical role as livestock guardians. The color allowed them to blend in with the sheep, making it easier for them to surprise and deter predators.

While white is the dominant color, the AKC standards also allow for markings of various shades. According to the AKC breed standard, the permissible markings include badger, gray, reddish-brown, or tan. These markings often appear on the head, ears, back, and sometimes on the tail.

The breed standard emphasizes that a predominantly white coat is desirable, with markings not exceeding one-third of the body. The eyes and nose should be dark, contributing to the breed’s signature striking appearance. The coat should be thick, weather-resistant, and have a soft undercoat.

Genetics of Great Pyrenees color

Genetics of Great Pyrenees color

The genetics of Great Pyrenees coat color involve multiple factors and genes that determine the pigmentation of their fur. The primary color of the Great Pyrenees is white, and the variations in markings result from a combination of genetic factors.

  1. White Coat Dominance: The gene responsible for the white coat in Great Pyrenees is likely to be dominant. This means that if a dog inherits one copy of the white gene from either parent, it will express the white coat color. Dogs with two copies of the white gene will still display the same white coat.
  2. Markings and Pigmentation: The markings on the Great Pyrenees, such as badger, gray, reddish-brown, or tan, are influenced by other genes that determine pigmentation. These genes control the distribution and intensity of pigments in the coat.
  3. Eumelanin and Phaeomelanin: Eumelanin is responsible for black and brown pigments, while phaeomelanin produces red and yellow pigments. The interaction between these two types of melanin, regulated by different genes, contributes to the development of the markings on the Great Pyrenees.
  4. Agouti Gene: The agouti gene plays a role in determining the distribution of black and yellow pigments in the coat. Different variations of this gene can lead to variations in coat patterns and markings.
  5. Masking Gene: The presence of a mask, which is a darker coloration on the face, is also genetically controlled. A separate gene may influence the development of the mask, contributing to the characteristic appearance of Great Pyrenees.
  6. Polygenic Traits: Coat color in Great Pyrenees is likely influenced by multiple genes working together, making it a polygenic trait. This means that the interplay of several genes determines the final coat color and pattern.
  7. Genetic Variation: The breed’s genetic diversity contributes to the variability in coat colors observed among individual Great Pyrenees. Genetic mutations and variations over generations can lead to different patterns and shades within the acceptable color standards.

What are the different Great Pyrenees colors?

The Great Pyrenees can be a captivating sight with its robust body and soft, beautiful fur. And while the breed is best known for its classic pure white coat that shimmers against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, they exhibit more than just this single hue. The breed boasts a variety of less commonly seen colors and markings.

Pure White

Pure White

The most recognized and conventional color of the Great Pyrenees is pure white. Historically, the white coat was preferred as it allowed these dogs to blend in with the snow, making them an effective deterrent for predators and less noticeable to the sheep they were watching over.

Badger or Wolf Grey (Blanchet)

This color varies from very light grey to dark grey and often gives a bluish cast to the coat. Badger or wolf grey markings commonly appear on the ears, head, back, and tail. These markings often fade as the puppy grows, sometimes disappearing entirely.

Red (Roux)


Red or Roux is considered another rare variant. Like the Badger or Wolf Grey, these markings are often found on the ears, head, and sometimes on the dog’s back or tail. Depending on the individual dog, these markings can become less pronounced as the dog matures.

Tan (Fauve)


The tan color in the Great Pyrenees may range from a light shade of tan to a color that’s reminiscent of dark honey. Again, similar to the other non-white colors, these markings are often found on the ears and head, with a possibility of appearing on the tail or back.

Grooming and care for Great Pyrenees of all colors

Grooming and care for Great Pyrenees of all colors

Grooming and care for Great Pyrenees, regardless of their coat color, is essential to maintain their health, appearance, and overall well-being.


  • Frequency: Great Pyrenees have a thick double coat that sheds heavily, especially during seasonal changes. Regular brushing, at least a few times a week, helps control shedding and prevents matting.
  • Tools: Use a slicker brush and a comb to remove loose fur and prevent tangles.


  • Frequency: Bathe your Great Pyrenees as needed, typically every two to three months. Bathing too frequently can strip their coat of natural oils.
  • Products: Use a gentle dog shampoo, and make sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid skin irritation.

Coat Inspection:

  • Check for Mats: Pay attention to areas where mats can form, such as behind the ears and in the armpits. Untangle mats gently to prevent discomfort.
  • Inspect for Parasites: Regularly check for ticks, fleas, or other parasites. Use preventive measures as recommended by your veterinarian.


  • Cleaning: Clean your Great Pyrenees’ ears regularly to prevent wax buildup and ear infections. Use a damp cloth or ear-cleaning solution recommended by your vet.
  • Check for Redness or Odor: If you notice redness, swelling, or an unpleasant odor, consult your vet.


Nail Care:

  • Trimming: Regularly trim your dog’s nails to maintain healthy feet. Be cautious not to cut too close to the quick.
  • Check Pads: Examine paw pads for any cuts, foreign objects, or signs of irritation.


  • Regular Walks: Great Pyrenees are a large and active breed. Regular exercise is crucial for their physical and mental well-being. Daily walks and playtime are essential.
  • Secure Enclosure: Ensure a secured and fenced area for off-leash play, as their guardian instincts may lead them to roam.

Veterinary Care:

  • Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups to monitor your dog’s health.
  • Vaccinations and Preventatives: Keep vaccinations up-to-date and use preventive measures for heartworms, fleas, and ticks.


  • Balanced Diet: Feed your Great Pyrenees a balanced and nutritious diet suitable for their age, size, and activity level.
  • Fresh Water: Ensure access to fresh water at all times.


  • Early Socialization: Start socializing your Great Pyrenees from an early age to ensure they are well-behaved and comfortable in various settings.

Common health problems associated with different Great Pyrenees colors

While there might be particular health issues associated with some dog breeds and their colors, the Great Pyrenees’ coat color variations do not have direct links to specific health problems. However, as a large breed, Great Pyrenees dogs are prone to certain general health issues, most of which are unrelated to their color. Some of the common health problems found in the breed include:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition common in large dog breeds where the hip joint doesn’t fit perfectly in its socket, leading to discomfort, pain, and limited mobility. Responsible breeders usually screen for hip dysplasia and aim to minimize its occurrence in future generations.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation occurs due to dislocation or slipping of the kneecap, which can cause momentary limping or continuous lameness. Surgery may be required for severe cases, but patellar luxation is often managed with pain relief and weight control measures.

Bloat (Gastric Torsion)

Bloat or gastric torsion is a life-threatening condition when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists. This can cut off blood supply to the organs, resulting in potential tissue death. Affected dogs require immediate medical intervention.

Osteosarcoma (Bone Cancer)

Being a large breed, Great Pyrenees are predisposed to developing bone cancer in their leg or other bones. Aggressive treatment, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, offers the best chance of survival.

Canine Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia

This autoimmune disease is characterized by the destruction of a dog’s blood platelets, which are essential for blood clotting. Symptoms may include excessive bruising or bleeding, prolonged gum bleeding, and swollen joints. Treatment options include steroids, immunosuppressive medication, and blood transfusions in severe cases.

Eye Issues

Some eye conditions like cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and entropion may occur in Great Pyrenees dogs. Regular check-ups and early detection can lead to better outcomes for these issues.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the genetics behind the coat colors reveals the intricate interplay of various genes that contribute to Great Pyrenees colors. The dominance of the white gene, coupled with genes regulating pigmentation and patterns, showcases the complexity of genetic factors that influence coat coloration.

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