All that hair and the similar size and shape may make you think the Newfoundland and Great Pyrenees are as alike as black and white bookends. Legend says they might share a common ancestor, but a closer look reveals that more than fur color separates these giants.
The Great Pyrenees, nicknamed Pyrs by his fans, likely started out in Central Asia or Siberia before making his way to the Great Pyrenees mountain range and earning his living protecting his shepherd's flocks from human and animal predators. Some historians believe a Great Pyrenees imported to Newfoundland by fishermen helped produce today's Newfoundland, or Newfie. Both breeds enjoy a long history of establishing strong, loving bonds with their humans, reach 100 to 150 pounds as adults and produce enough extra fur over a lifetime to stuff a couch should the need arise.
A Natural Born Hero
The Newfie made his mark early with fishermen as a strong swimmer with the instincts of a lifeguard, known for pulling floundering humans out of icy waters or towing small boats to safety on shore. On land, he spent his workdays doing heavy labor for his people, often hauling carts filled with wood or boulders and sometimes giving his family's kids a cart ride to the village. The Newfie comes in black, brown, gray or black and white. He's a docile, people-loving fuzz ball who can make do with a small backyard if you exercise him daily with brisk walks or trips to the park. For extracurricular fun, he enjoys swimming or pulling contests and excels at obedience training.
Going His Own Way
The Pyrs was bred to guard sheep and eventually developed the uncanny ability to get his work down without human commands. He was often left alone for long stretches to tend the flock, and that independent nature sometimes gives today's Pyrs a mind of his own. He's typically an affectionate dog who, despite his history, needs lots of love and attention from his family, but those guarding instincts make him a bit standoffish with strangers. His double coat comes in solid white or white with markings of tan or reddish brown. He'll need a large yard to roam and a sturdy fence to keep him from taking over neighboring lawns that he might see as prime pasture for your nonexistent sheep.
Picking Your Favorite Giant
Both breeds have the intelligence and people skills to make wonderful additions to any family. Their size makes one-room studio living nearly impossible, but Newfies and Pyrs make great house dogs if you're willing to put in some time for daily exercise and can handle the weekly brushing and early obedience training they need. If you're looking for a four-legged friend who expects you to take the lead in making decisions and leaves a little drool on your leg most days, a Newfie is probably calling your name. If you prefer a friend who sometimes needs proof that you know best, the regal Great Pyrenees has likely earned a spot in your heart.