Thursday, 12 March 2015

Le Patou, the Great Pyrenees Sheepdog

The "patou" is a large white dog used as a guard dog for the flocks of sheep and goats in the Pyrenees. It's role is not to herd the sheep but rather to guard them from predators, such as bears and wolves.

 The word patou derives from pastre, meaning shepherd in old French.

The patou walks at the head of the flock, checking out the land before the flock starts to spread out and graze. Then he establishes his zone of protection and watches out for the approach of any intruder. If any threat [bear, wolf or human stranger] comes close to the flock, the patou will bark to alert the sheep and shepherd. He will not attack unless the sheep are physically threatened.

These dogs have been used in the Pyrenees for many centuries. They are handsome, have a pleasant temperament and are tall and sturdy. In the 17th Century they were in fashion at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.

Photo by Jérome Bon