Alpine tourists attacked by Pyrenean dogs brought in to save the sheep

Alpine tourists attacked by Pyrenean dogs brought in to save the sheep [from wolves]. The Times on-line.

You always have to be careful around sheep guard dogs. They are not bred to be friendly to anything among the sheep.





  1. Jon Way Avatar

    “In an attempt to pacify the shepherds the EU embarked on a €5 million (£4 million) programme four years ago to subsidise fencing and guard dogs. ”
    There is 1 country being proactive with their management practices, then there is the US which still funds Wildlife Slaughters (Services) and kills 1000’s of coyotes a year that the dogs could probably mostly protect against – on our public lands.
    Also, why don’t hikers carry mace/bear spray to protect from the dogs, just like we do against grizzlies?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    They need to be educated; so do US hikers, walkers, campers.

    I never approach a sheep on the open range without pepper spray, and usually not then. Spraying it is no fun as we all know.

  3. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Yes, I’m aware of folks who have had problem encounters in the backcountry with sheep guard dogs in the US. Last summer, I talked to a horsewoman who said sheep dogs (Great Pyrenees) had chased her party while they were riding their horses on public lands, causing the horses to buck.

    Fortunately, she said, no one was hurt. I asked if she had reported the incident to the local forest service office as a conflict with her recreational use, she said “no, I don’t want to make waves.” Sigh. However are we ever going to get changes in public land management if we can’t get people to report problems like this?

  4. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    It´s very unusual for hikers all over Europe to carry bear spray or a similar device, even in the few bear areas we still have. With no bears around over most of Europe and wolves not playing a significant role in people´s awareness anyway, the most “dangerous” anmimals we´ve got are ill-tempered wild boar, rabied foxes or an ungulate in rut. Nobody is aware that one of these sheep herding dogs could consider you an attacker and these article is the first one that I have seen, describing what looks like a serious problem there in France! Somehow I smell the dogs being only the minor part of problem!

  5. Tim Z. Avatar
    Tim Z.

    A couple summers ago I was camping at Beaver Creek near Stanley and there was a large herd of sheep nearby. We were sitting around one day and my dog started going crazy, I guessed something was nearby, maybe the bear I had seen the day before. I saw something large and white in the brush and immediatly thought wolf, when out popped one of the Pyreneans dogs that were guarding the sheep. My dog and it kind of hit it off and the two of them played for a few minutes until the herder came and got him. Perhaps they got along because I have a border collie and the sheep herder had four of them as well as a couple of the Pyrenean dogs.

  6. TC Avatar

    Interesting story – I never stopped to think someone would get close enough to flock guarding dogs to get bitten (I guess I forget, most urban/suburban folks don’t know much of anything about animals and their intents, domestic or wild, and wouldn’t know these dogs are not socialized with humans and regard strangers – and some herders! – as threats to their woolly brethren). Pyrs are good dogs to help keep coyotes and feral dogs away, but I cannot see how they’d be any match for most wolves, unless French wolves are…no…better not go there…

  7. Barb Avatar

    Canadians don’t seem to have a problem like Americans with wolves. They just live and let live!!

  8. John S. Avatar
    John S.

    Actually Barb, Canada does not live and let live. Look up some stats sometime of the amounts of wolves killed every year. Many more percentage wise than in the US.

  9. Howard Avatar

    Hi TC:

    I’ve actually wondered the same thing about the ability of guard dogs, even large breeds like the Great Pyrenees, to actually fend off a wolf. I’m guessing that several very large dogs together may turn an easy meal into an actual fight…something all wild animals want to avoid, and this may be a good incentive for a wolf to look elsewhere. I do know that the Komodor, a herding breed from Hungary, has an outer coat of extremely thick, coarse hair that hangs in knots to both protect from the cold, and supposedly, to buffer predator teeth. Anatolian shepherds (and probably other breeds as well) are being used with good success in Turkey and northern Israel to protect livestock from wolves; of course, wolves in Israel and parts of Turkey are the smaller “Indian wolf” Canis lupus pallipes, so it’s not surprising that large to giant guard dogs can scare off a 50 lb. wolf in the Middle East.

  10. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    I´m not sure what subspecies of wolf Israel got but I doubt they have many Canis l. pallipes in Turkey, if any at all. You should find C.l.pallipes from farther east towards India. I think the vast majority is C.l. lupus (a medium sized wolf). And they got Leopards, Hyaena, Lynx and Caracal there. Means a lot of work for guard dogs. But you are right insofar that the North American Grey wolves are really mighty animals and especially the large packs provide a formidable opponent for a single Anatolian shepherd (or similar breeds). Could well be the tactics so successfully applied here in Europe won´t work with your wolves.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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