10 Dogs Similar to Great Pyrenees: Big, Not Always White, Majestic

What if someone asked you to name three breeds that are similar to the Great Pyrenees? How many could you come up with? What does the Great Pyrenees even look like? You know you have a white dog, but what details make it look like or dissimilar from other breeds?

White livestock guardian dogs or LGDs such as the Kuvasz, Italian Sheepdog, and Polish Tatra, are similar to Great Pyrenees. Many centuries ago, people in different parts of Europe developed large white dogs to guard their flocks in the mountains.

It resulted in multiple breeds that look like. They share their large size, dark eyes, dense coat, and handing ears. A few dog breeds that are not colored like Great Pyrenees still resemble them in size and general appearance.

Most people familiar with dogs know what the Great Pyrenees is. However, knowing the details that set it apart from other breeds is necessary to recognize a list of similar dogs.

What Are Characteristics of Livestock Guardian Dogs

If you wanted to brag about a dog able to take on a wolf singlehandedly, a livestock guardian dog is certainly the place to start. However, that was never generally the dog’s job.

LGDs serve mostly a role of intimidation, avoiding physical confrontations whenever they can. They guard a variety of types of livestock from cattle, sheep, and goats to geese ducks, and even penguins.

The predators also vary, largely dependent on the locale. In Europe or North America, LGDs guard against mostly wolves and coyotes but also snow leopards, bears, and cougars.

In Africa, livestock guardians protect their charges against Cheetahs, hyenas, and lions. They have been indispensable in protecting livestock but also in preserving endangered species.

They share many qualities with a prominent member of their class, the Great Pyrenees.

  • Large and strong
  • Nocturnal
  • Very vocal barkers, especially at night
  • Reserved with and suspicious of strangers
  • Good with children and young animals
  • Become accepted by the herd unlike herding dogs
  • Health issues – Entropion, hip dysplasia, bloat, luxating patellas, heart disease, progressive retinal atrophy (leads to blindness)
  • Independent – Challenging to train
  • Dense double coat – Limited cooling properties although many lose a considerable amount of their coat in the hotter months
  • Exercise – Require 60 to 90 minutes a day
  • Grooming – Need brushing once to three times weekly depending on fur length
  • Feeding – Generally require less food relative to their size (perhaps only 20 to 22 calories per pound); some dogs bred to subsist on little food; average propensity to become overweight
  • Black-rimmed dark eyes, black nose, black lips, often black mucus membranes; many have black or blue-gray skin

Detailed Description of Great Pyrenees

The Great Pyrenees originated in the Pyrenees Mountains bordering Spain and France around 3,000 BC. as livestock guardian dogs.

DNA analysis points to Tibetan Mastiff ancestry, but there may have also been some influence from white mountain dogs that came from the area around Turkey. They became guard dogs for members of French royalty around the 1400s.

The Great Pyrenees are large to giant dogs. Males stand 27 to 32 inches tall at the shoulders and weigh 100 to 160 pounds. Females are only 25 to 29 inches tall and significantly lighter at 80 to 120 pounds.

Despite its size, the Great Pyrenees is not a massive dog, built more like a herder than a Mastiff. The breed should have a medium frame that appears balanced. Similar to other working dogs, the Pyrenees is slightly longer than tall.

The Great Pyrenees is not alone in that a correct head is important and distinctive. Surprisingly, these dogs have a wedge-shaped head that appears larger than it is because of the rounded crown.

The eyes are almond-shaped and dark, and the ears are small or medium and triangular with rounded edges. You should see a line from the outer corner of each eye to the ear.

This is not a mark but almost a cowlick from the upper half of the head’s fur butting against that of the lower portion.

The skull and muzzle are about equal in length and there is no stop. A Great Pyrenees’ head is about as wide as it is long.

Like the head, nothing is extreme or exaggerated in the Great Pyrenees. The neck and back should appear medium in length with a level topline. There can be a slight dewlap.

The chest is moderately broad and deep and the shoulder and hindquarters well-muscled without appearing bulky.

The Great Pyrenees carries her tail over her back or low, one of the few breeds where both attitudes are correct during movement.

The Great Pyrenees has played an essential role in the lines of several breeds. It was used to bring St Bernard from the brink of extinction.

It also was instrumental in the introduction of the Landseer or black and white variant to Newfoundland.

  • Country of origin: Pyrenees Mountains of Spain and France from 3,000 BC to 1,800 BC
  • AKC entry: 1933
  • Size: 25 to 32 inches tall, 85 to 160 pounds
  • Coat: Dense medium-long dual coat, may have slight waves but usually straight; luxurious but flat, not stand-out like a Spitz; feathering on legs, plumed tail, and ruff on neck
  • Colors: White – Can be solid or have markings of tan, badger, gray, or reddish-brown; dogs must be at least 66% white
  • Tail: Hock length; can hold straight down or in a wheel over the back
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years

Not all large white dogs are the Great Pyrenees

A few large white breeds would be easy to confuse with the Great Pyrenees if you did not look closely enough.

Kuvasz

The Kuvasz is another livestock guardian breed

The Kuvasz is perhaps the most similar breed to a Great Pyrenees. Much like the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz impresses you with its large presence, beauty, and majesty. Also, like the Pyrenees, it is an all-white livestock guardian dog.

Again, this is a balanced dog with medium substance and strong muscling. Here the differences emerge.

The most significant differences are evident in the head. The Kuvasz has a pronounced stop (the dip from forehead to muzzle).

Keep in mind that dogs have varying degrees of perfection in their heads, and the stop can be one of the most elusive features.

Some Great Pyrenees have an obvious stop when the skull should blend into the nasal bone with a continuous slope.

However, you can always tell a Kuvasz head from a Great Pyrenees head by relative proportions. A Kuvasz’s head is elongated and narrow compared to the Great Pyrenees.

It is also flat on top and is a more pronounced triangle when you look at the Kuvasz’s face head-on or from above. The skull is only half as wide as it is long.

A Kuvasz has medium V-shaped thick hanging ears that stand out ever so slightly from the head. Her eyes are almond-shaped like the Great Pyrenees but also have a slight slant.

A Kuvasz has a proportionately deeper chest and more of an abdominal tuck from the back of the ribs to the hips.

  • Country of origin: Ancestors from Southeast Asia, developed in Hungary perhaps around 1,000 BC
  • AKC entry: Studbook in 1931; full recognition 1974
  • Size: 26 to 30 inches tall, 80 to 137 pounds
  • Coat: Medium-long double coat is not as heavy as Great Pyrenees; fringes on backs of hind limbs; mane around the neck extends to chest; coat usually wavy, can be straight; some dogs look to have loose curls
  • Colors: White with no markings
  • Tail: Hock length and curved at the tip; carried no higher than the mid pelvis
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

The Kuvasz is generally smaller than the Great Pyrenees with a wavier and flatter coat.

Of course, as you can see, there will be some overlap in size between individuals of the two breeds. Moreover, the Great Pyrenees sometimes has waves and Kuvasz straight hair.

However, the Great Pyrenees almost always has denser fur without so many variations in length through feathering and the ruff that the Kuvasz has.

Finally, when you look at the face, the Kuvasz’s ears lay on a curve oriented in line with the jawline. The great Pyrenees’ ears lay further back and are smaller to the head.

maremma sheepdog

Maremma Sheepdog

If you are having trouble distinguishing the Great Pyrenees and the Kuvasz, the Maremma does not help matters.

The Maremma Sheepdogs is yet another white livestock guardian. Ranging from 24 to 29 inches tall, Maremmas are from 65 to 100 pounds.

They are slightly smaller than Kuvasz__ with females considerably lighter in weight. Maremmas are unique among the breeds mentioned so far in that they appear heavy for their size.

The breed standard describes the Maremma’s head as resembling a Polar bear, according to UKCdogs.com.

It should be relatively large and flat on top. Unlike the Great Pyrenees or the Kuvasz, a Maremma’s nose tapers to a point, although the muzzle is a little shorter than the back skull.

Like the others, Maremmas have medium-sized almond-shaped dark eyes. Their ears are among their most distinguishing features, set high and exceedingly small. Working dogs may have cropped ears.

Italian Sheepdogs have high withers, a level topline, and a croup that slopes more than the Kuvasz or Pyrenees. They have low-set tails and visible musculature in their hind legs.

Both sets of limbs are sturdy, and these dogs have deep but rounded chests. There is very little abdominal tuck-up, which is another way you can differentiate it from the other livestock guardians.

  • Country of origin: Ancestors from Tibetan Mastiffs; developed in Italy as two lines that merged by the 1860s
  • AKC entry: Not recognized by AKC, joined UKC in 2006
  • Size: 24.5 to 28.5 inches tall, 66 to 100 pounds
  • Coat: Harsh medium-long double coat is not as heavy as Great Pyrenees; fringes on backs of hind limbs; collar around the neck; coat usually straight, can have a slight wave
  • Colors: White or ivory with or without mild orange, cream, or lemon tinting
  • Tail: Hock length and curved at the tip; carried no higher than the mid pelvis
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

If you see a large white dog that looks like a Great Pyrenees, it is unlikely to be a Maremma. As of 2021, Maremma Sheepdogs are still rare in the US.

Akbash

Akbash

Another white livestock guardian dog, the Akbash does not look as much like the Great Pyrenees as a Kuvasz or even a Maremma.

Its unique appearance stems from the fact that the Akbash, like the Great Dane, shares characteristics with the Mastiff and sighthounds.

Although it is large, the Akbash’s head is triangular rather than square. The muzzle is about the same size as the skull with a gradual tapering from the head to the tip of the nose. The ears and eyes are wide-set and show off the dome-shaped top of the skull.

An Akbash’s ears are also high-set pendants with rounded tips that lie flat against the head. Her eyes are almond-shaped and can be golden brown or darker.

Of the dogs mentioned thus far, the Akbash has the longest neck which is muscular and arched. The Akbash also has a broad deep chest, a topline that slopes slightly down to the pelvis, and a well-defined tuck-up like a Greyhound.

An Akbash can have a medium or a long coat. The medium type is characterized by short to medium-length outer fur with light feathering on the tail and the backs of the hindlegs and forelimbs. Medium-coated dogs have a slight ruff around the neck.

The long-coated variant has a thicker ruff and more elaborate feathering with a denser undercoat the dog may completely lose in the summer.

  • Country of origin: Turkey between 700 BC and 300 BC
  • AKC entry: Not recognized by AKC, joined UKC in 1998; used by US Department of Agriculture in the 1980s for predatory control in the interest of conservation; member of American Rare Breed Association
  • Size: 28 to 34 inches tall, 75 to 140 pounds
  • Coat: Two types, both are dual coats
  • Colors: White with gray or tan shading possible in areas of the undercoat
  • Tail: Long and carried over the back in a curl when excited or working
  • Lifespan: 10 to 11 years

The Akbash looks taller, leaner, and more muscular than the Great Pyrenees. He is also faster and more athletic.

Polish Tatra

Polish Tatra

Also known as simply the Polish Tatra, this is a white livestock guardian dog that at first glance might remember a Great Pyrenees. It has a dense white dual coat with pluming on the tail and heavy hair on the neck and shoulders.

Unlike the Pyrenees and Kuvasz, the Tatra is a dog with a massive bone structure. Of the long-haired guardian types, the Tatra is best adapted for dual climate conditions.

The eyes are slightly rounder than the other dogs in this group, giving the Tatra a markedly different expression. A Tatra’s stop should be well-defined without any significant furrowing in the forehead.

His ears are thick and triangular like the Kuvasz but set at the level of the outer corner of the eyes and coming away from the head at the back edge.

Polish Tatras have a deep chest and a level back with a rather low-set tail. They carry their tails low or above the back when excited.

There should only be a slight curve in the tail at any time. The tail is long and luxurious compared to the Great Pyrenees.

  • Country of origin: Likely a Mastiff ancestor; developed in Poland in Tatras Mountains by the 1300s
  • AKC entry: Not AKC recognized; recognized by UKC in 1995
  • Size: 24 to 28 inches tall, 80 to 130 pounds
  • Coat: Double coat dense and of medium length; fur can be straight or slightly wavy; feathers on forelegs, pantaloons on back; thick ruff from neck to shoulders; Short dense hair on the face, fronts of forelegs, and below the hocks
  • Colors: White, small cream patches are a fault, other colors a disqualification
  • Tail: Hock length and curved at the tip; carried above back level but not over the back when excited; note, this is according to the Polish standard, but plenty of photographs show Tatras with prominently curled tails
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

Polish Tatra Sheepdogs are a rare livestock guardian dog in that they can also herd. In recent years they have found use as guard dogs and pets.

They are unusually nonconfrontational, known for their tendency to huddle livestock in a tight group and stand guard against predators rather than leave the herd vulnerable while they chase a would-be attacker. They similarly guard their families and are not prone to attack unless it is unavoidable.

Dogs of alternative colors that are similar to Great Pyrenees

A few dogs have a similar build or function as the Great Pyrenees, but their color patterns are vastly different.

Pyrenean Mastiff

Pyrenean Mastiff

The Pyrenean Mastiff is closest in color to the Great Pyrenees. Pyrenean Mastiffs are also closely related to the Pyrenees, having originally been a cross of the white mountain dog and the Spanish Mastiff.

The Pyrenean Mastiff should have a massive and broad skull that makes an approximate square.

However, the muzzle is slightly tapering without being pointy. This breed’s eyes should be relatively small and his ears triangular and high-set.

Pyrenean Mastiffs are large and powerful but retain agility that is not common to the Mastiff group.

Their tails should have a medium setting, and they carry it upwards and hooked but not over the back.

  • Country of origin: 1200s in Pyrenees Mountains in Spain
  • AKC entry: 1933
  • Size: 24 to 31 inches tall, 130 to 200 pounds
  • Coat: Dense medium-long bristly
  • Colors: White with the clearly defined mask with or without body patches of the same color; colors of patches can be silver, gray, light beige, black, yellow, or marbled
  • Tail: Medium set, curl at the lower end, carry like the saber in motion
  • Lifespan: 8 to 12 years

St Bernard

St Bernard

According to the AKC, one dog the Great Pyrenees should not resemble too much in form is St Bernard.

St Bernards are massive dogs with large head that reveals their strong Mastiff ancestry. Differences in the head include high cheekbones, a shortened muzzle that is deeper than it is long, an abrupt stop, and deep-set eyes.

  • Country of origin: Western Alps of Italy and Switzerland in the mid-1600s
  • AKC entry: 1885
  • Size: 26 to 30 inches tall, 120 to 180 pounds
  • Coat: Two types, short and long-haired; dense fur not too rough in either type and long-haired is slightly way; coat lies fairly flat
  • Colors: White with red or red with white; white with brindle markings; black facial markings desirable
  • Tail: Hock length, bushy, and curved at the tip; carried above back level and sometimes curled but not completely over the back when excited or working
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years

Newfoundland

Newfoundland

Despite its appearance, Newfoundland is not a black variety of the Great Pyrenees. They are not that closely related, with the Newfoundland hailing from off the coast of Canada and sharing an ancestor with the Labrador Retriever.

The heads of the Pyrenees and Newfoundland are quite different. A Newfoundland has a massive and broad head with well-developed cheekbones more reminiscent of a Mastiff than a mountain LGD.

You can tell a huge difference in the profiles because of Newfoundland’s prominent brow. This would become more important if the two breeds were similar in color.

The Newfoundland’s eyes are spaced wide apart and rather small. However, his ears are similar to the Great Pyrenees. They are relatively small and rounded at the tips.

The chest is broad and deep. Newfoundlands are balanced and strong with a back that is level during movement but that otherwise slopes gradually from the withers to the croup.

Set in line with the croup is the tail which reaches the hock and may curl slightly. When in motion, a Newfoundland carries its tail outward, not in a wheel or curled over the back.

  • Country of origin: Newfoundland in 1000 AD or later (a few theories on exact history), developed further in England in the 1800s
  • AKC entry: 1886
  • Size: 25 to 29 inches tall, 100 to 150 pounds
  • Coat: coarse medium-long flat water-repellant dual coat; feathering on backs of legs down, and the tail is full
  • Colors: Brown, gray, or black with white markings permissible in stereotypical areas; Landseer – White with black marking
  • Tail: Medium set, carried straight out when moving
  • Lifespan: 8 to 10 years

Dogs that have alternative colors than the Great Pyrenees and resemble the breed only vaguely are as follow:

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff

Not really a Mastiff, the Tibetan Mastiff is thought to have contributed to many lines of livestock guardian dogs because of the nomadic nature of their owners. It is also a likely forefather of the Molossus dogs and true Mastiffs.

Tibetan Mastiffs were prominent through much of the Himalayan range during their early years. They are a landrace and primitive mountain dog used as an LGD as early as 5,000 BC. Tibetan monasteries used them as guard dogs.

The Tibetan Mastiff has been linked through DNA to the Rottweiler, Great Pyrenees, St Bernard, and other breeds, confirming a role in their origins.

Dogs sport a heavy mane and a luxuriously plumed tail they carry over their hips. The head is wide and the muzzle broad and square.

A Tibetan Mastiff has almond-shaped deep-set eyes and medium V-shaped ears that hang forward. Dogs are large without being particularly massive, a trait they pass down to at least the Great Pyrenees.

  • Country of origin: Tibet around 5,000 BC; named by Europeans traveling from the west in the 1800s
  • AKC entry: 2006
  • Size: 24 to 26 inches tall, 90 to 150 pounds
  • Coat: Rough medium-long double coat; glorious mane
  • Colors: Black, blue, or brown all with tan points in all or only a few areas you would expect to see them; also, can be golden with white markings
  • Tail: Looped to one side of the loin
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years

Anatolian Shepherd

Anatolian Shepherd

  • Country of origin: Anatolian region of Turkey around 2,000 BC
  • AKC entry: 1996
  • Size: 27 to 29 inches tall, 80 to 150 pounds
  • Coat: Short medium-length double coat; slight mane; feathering on backs of legs and tail are possible
  • Colors: Any, commonly various shades of fawn, sable, or brindle
  • Tail: Often curls into the wheel when alert; high-set
  • Lifespan: 10 to 13 years

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Country of origin: Ancestors brought by Roman legions to Switzerland around 25 AD
  • AKC entry: 1937
  • Size: 23 to 28 inches tall, 80 to 110 pounds
  • Coat: Medium-long, wavy double coat
  • Colors: Tricolor is standard with black, brown (tan or rust), and white; can be bicolor black and tan or black and white
  • Tail: Bushy, carried upward and with slight curl when moving but not over the back
  • Lifespan: 6 to 8 years

Summary

This video illustrates the defining characteristic of an LGD. Notice how the Great Pyrenees is completely accepted by the Pygmy goats. The mother is comfortable with this dog amidst her kids.

The dog shows no interest in herding or controlling them. He simply sits guard. Notice the small ears, heavy coat, and ruff across the neck and chest.

You can see the Pyrenees puppy approach the goats as if it is one of them. White livestock guardian dogs are not albinos – they all have dark eyes with black rims, a black nose, and black lips.

A very similar breed is the Maremma or Italian Sheepdog. This dog also does not herd but just protects and lives among the livestock. Also a prime example of varied farm animals and predators, this scenario involves dogs guarding chickens against foxes.

These dogs look similar to the Great Pyrenees but are smaller, and you can readily see the head is completely different.

There is also a reddish or yellowish tint through the coat of one of the dogs that you should never see in a Great Pyrenees.

What is interesting is how the chickens respond to the threat bark and how one dog goes out while the others stay guard.

Here is a Kuvasz, and the distinctions from the Pyrenees that do not always seem obvious are as follow:

  • Ears larger relative to the head
  • Ears curve inward along the line of the cheek
  • Head is narrow in comparison to Great Pyrenees
  • Coat in these individuals is wavier
  • Kuvasz has a leaner more long-legged appearance