Great Pyrenees and 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. I’d love to know if anyone knows where this web site is now, or if the documents previously available on it are still available somewhere.


[This is a repost from Gregladen.com]

The story 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 really working dogs, but 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 (to simply the concept a bit for this brief post) 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 dogs, 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.

Comments

  1. #1 IanR
    November 20, 2007

    This reminds me of a story I heard from some alpaca farmers – that in response to coyotes on the edge of their property, their dogs (one working, one pet) would take the lead in challenging the coyotes, with their horses and “watch llamas” forming a secondary “defensive line” behind the dogs.

  2. #2 Anne-Marie
    November 20, 2007

    An ex-boyfriend of mine grew up on a goat farm and raised Great Pyrenees, their instincts are amazing. He never had to train one, he would just put the pups out with older, experienced dogs and they learned everything the needed to know. They aren’t total defense machines, though, he always had one “pet” that lived in the house instead of tending the goats, and although it would interact with the guard dogs on the property it never tried to take up duties with the livestock.

  3. #3 Chris H.
    December 7, 2007

    I found this page while looking for the original page I had seen years ago. It in fact had a video of the dogs driving the bears off, which I’m still looking for.

    I’ve come fairly close, though. The original page seems to be gone, but I’ve found it archived in The Wayback Machine:

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.adbsys.no/nphk/1994_Pasvik_Forside.asp.

    I’m still searching through to see if I can dig out the video, but there are definitely other pictures, and plenty of text if you can translate Norwegian.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    December 7, 2007

    Interesting, Chris. There was an English version of the page at one point.

  5. #5 Chris H.
    December 7, 2007

    There was definitely an English version of the pages, I remember reading through the story of the problems with the bears (a mother and two young as I recall) and how they brought the dogs in for a few days to get rid of the bears. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get at any of the subpages in English yet; I’m hoping they’re in the Wayback archive, but I’m not too familiar with it.

    I was mightily impressed, particularly in watching the video. While the bear could likely have outmatched the dogs, I suspect there’s something about a few enthusiastic barkers that puts ‘flight’ as a much more attractive option than ‘fight’.

  6. #6 Zach D.
    April 23, 2008

    Some of the more ancient dog breeds seem to have certain traits tatooed on there brain. Most sight hounds will chase anything that move unless there trained not too. Norwiegian Elk hounds will start growling whimpering and sudenly become very energetic if the smell anything like a deer, moose, elk or caribou. Portugese water dogs all love water it’s had to even keep them out of puddles.