Maremma Sheepdog vs Great Pyrenees: 10 Differences

Can you spot the difference between Maremma Sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees? It's not that easy, since they're both large, white and fluffy, but there are several differences between the two.

Maremma Sheepdog vs Great Pyrenees: 10 Differences
Maremma Sheepdog versus Great Pyrenees, can you spot the differences?

Krinaphoto and slowmotiongli via Getty Images; Image created via Canva

Maremma Sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees are Often Confused

Differentiating a Maremma Sheepdog from a Great Pyrenees can be a difficult task as both dog breeds have many similarities.

Indeed, both dog breeds are large, white and boast fluffy coats that make it particularly challenging to discern them, especially from afar.

Yet, there are some key differences between the two breeds, especially when we compare them side-by-side and pay attention to several details.

On top of several physical differences that set these two breeds apart, there are also differences in these two dogs' magnificent histories.

Being aware of these differences is important, especially if you are in love with both breeds and debating over which one to adopt.

When it comes to dogs, no light decisions should ever be made. Researching breeds in depth is paramount, considering the number of dogs surrendered in shelters each year.

Both the Maremma Sheepdog and the Great Pyrenees are livestock guardian dogs. They are definitely not apartment dogs and do their best when living on farms with experienced owners. Here are some tips for living with and training livestock guardians: 11 tips to train a livestock guardian.

Maremma Sheepdog and Great Pyrenees


Maremma Sheepdogs Versus Great Pyrenees: History

While both dog breeds were selectively bred as livestock guardians, their histories are different, and they come from different countries.

Maremma Sheepdog History

The Maremma Sheepdog originates from ancient shepherd dogs with a history of being used in Italy's Maremma and Abruzzi regions.

These dogs were used for many centuries as flock guardians for the purpose of protecting vulnerable flocks of sheep and goats from predators. Maremmas were also used as estate guardians, especially in Tuscany.

Maremma Sheepdogs were recognized by the United Kennel Club on July 1, 2006.

Great Pyrenees History

The Great Pyrenees originated from the Pyrenees Mountains, which are located between France and Spain.

These dogs were used to protect flocks of sheep from predators such as wolves and bears and other livestock rustlers. They were also used to guard the chateaux of French nobles and for pulling milk carts.

The Great Pyrenees was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1933. They are much more popular than Maremmas and probably the most popular of the livestock protection breeds in North America.

Ken Griffits, Adi Perets

Maremma Sheepdogs Versus Great Pyrenees: Size

While Maremma Sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees are both large dogs, there are some differences when it comes to their sizes.

Maremma Sheepdog Size

Males are expected to measure 25.5 to 28.75 inches at the withers. Females should be anywhere between 23.5 to 26.5 inches.

Regarding weight, males can weigh anywhere between 77 to 100 pounds, while females may weigh 66 to 88 pounds.

Great Pyrenees Size

Great Pyrenees are expected to be a little more on the larger and heavier side than the Maremma.

Males can measure from 27 to 32 inches at withers, while females measure 25 to 29 inches.

In general, a male measuring 27 inches at the withers may weigh about 100 pounds, while a female measuring 25 at the withers may weigh about 85 pounds.

Maremma Sheepdogs Versus Great Pyrenees: Temperament

Both dog breeds show several similarities temperament-wise, although it's also true that there may be some variance on an individual level.

The Maremma Sheepdog Temperament

The United Kennel Club describes Maremmas as dogs devoted to their owners.

As livestock guardians, they are perceptive dogs, meaning they are highly attuned to their surroundings and capable of noticing any subtle changes in their environment.

They are also described as being assertive, meaning they are not easily intimidated by any potential threats to their flocks and families and can readily take action if necessary, often without direction from their owners.

The Maremma Sheepdog Club of America doesn't recommend this breed as a pet, although in the right home with knowledgeable owners and with enough socialization, a Maremma Sheepdog may fulfill that purpose.

The Great Pyrenees Temperament

The American Kennel Club describes Prys as being confident, gentle and affectionate dogs. Despite their predisposition to being territorial and protective of their flocks or families, they are generally patient and tolerant, with quiet composure.

As livestock guardians with a history of working on their own, they are independent, strong-willed and fearless. They are loyal to their families and flocks.

While they can be somewhat aloof and reserved with strangers, they shouldn't appear shy, nervous or aggressive to humans. In the show ring, any of these signs are considered extremely serious faults.

Maremma Sheepdogs Versus Great Pyrenees: Coats

While at a distance, the coats of Maremma Sheepdogs and Great Pyrenees appear similar, there are some slight key differences.

The Maremma Sheepdog's Coat

The Maremma's coat is long, straight and harsh. There may be a slight wave, but a curly coat is often the reason for disqualification in the show ring.

Around the neck, longer hair creates a "collar," and some limited fringes may be seen on the thighs. The tail should have long hair that extends all the way to the tip and not just along the underside.

The coat color is solid white, but some shades of pale ivory, orange or lemon are tolerated as long as they are not to the extent as to deviate significantly from the desired white coat color.

Solid Isabella color, Isabella patches or black shading is not accepted. This is to preserve this breed's distinctive white coat color, which plays an essential role in this dog breed's work as livestock guardians.

Indeed, the white color is purposely selected to allow these dogs to blend in with the flock and deter predators.

Maremmas, just like Great Pyrenees, are equipped with a wooly and dense undercoat that sheds out twice a year in the spring and the fall.

The Great Pyrenees' Coat

The top coat is long, thick and coarse, and some slight waving is acceptable, but a curly coat is considered a fault. The hairs should lie flat and close to the body. The undercoat is wooly.

On the neck and shoulders, the coat forms a ruff that is more distinguished in males.

Feathering may be noticed along the back of the front legs and the back of the thighs. This feathering helps protect this breed's legs and feet from cold, wet, or rough terrain.

The longer hairs on the tail form a plume, which is formed by longer hairs flowing on the underside of the tail, giving the tail a slightly tapered appearance.

When it comes to coat colors, white is acceptable, along with white markings that are gray, badger, reddish brown, or varying shades of tan and may appear on the ears, head (full face mask is OK), tail, and a few spots on the body.

Markings that cover more than one-third of the body are considered a fault.

Maremma Sheepdogs Versus Great Pyrenees: Physical Traits

Ready to get into some nitty-gritty details that will further help you tell the two dog breeds apart? Here are some characteristics according to the standards of both breeds.

Maremma Sheepdog Physical Traits

General appearance: a strongly built, majestic dog with a rather rustic appearance. Heavily built and with a body that is slightly longer than tall.

Head: flat, conical and similar to a Polar Bear.

Muzzle: non-pendulous lips

Teeth: meeting in a scissor bite (with the inner faces of the upper incisors closing on the outer faces of the lower incisors). An undershot bite is means for disqualification.

Nose: black, large and with nostrils that are well-opened.

Eyes: almond-shaped, not large. Chestnut brown or ochre in color. The eye rims are black. A complete lack of pigment is a disqualifying trait. The overall expression is lively and attentive.

Ears: triangular, small compared to the dog's size, and set high. Despite being pendulous, they are very mobile. Ears may be cropped in working dogs.

Feet: large. The front feet are roundish in shape, while the rear feet are more oval. Paw pads are black.

Tail: hanging when at rest, carried over the back when in action, with a hook at the end. A tail curled over the back is considered a serious fault.

Lifespan: ten to 14 years

Great Pyrenees Physical Traits

General appearance: an elegant and majestic dog giving an impression of unsurpassed beauty.

Head: wedge-shaped with an elegant, intelligent and contemplative expression. Should not be heavy as seen in the Saint Bernard or Newfoundland

Muzzle: the upper lip covers the lower lip very slightly. The lips are black.

Teeth: a scissor bite is preferred, but a level bite is still acceptable.

Nose: black

Eyes: almond-shaped with a slightly oblique set, medium in size, rich dark brown in color. Eyelids have a black rim. There is a line of hair from the outer corner of the eye to the base of the ear.

Ears: V-shaped, small to medium with a rounded tip, carried low, flat and close to the head.

Feet: front feet are rounded and well padded with arched toes. Back feet are rounded and well padded with arched toes that toe out slightly.

Double dewclaws are found on each rear leg, and a lack of them is reason for disqualification.

Tail: has a nice plume and is carried low at rest and over the back (making the so-called wheel) when aroused. A shepherd's crook may be present and adds emphasis to the plume. When trotting, the tail can be carried low or over the back.

Lifespan: ten to 12 years

How to Tell the Difference Between a Great Pyrenees and a Maremma? 10 Key Differences


  • Maremma Sheepdog Club of America: Official American Breed Standard
  • United Kennel Club: Maremma Sheepdog
  • American Kennel Club: Great Pyrenees Breed Standard
  • Wisdom Panel: Great Pyrenees
  • Wisdom Panel: Maremma Sheepdog

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA, Dip.CBST

(Excluding for the Headline, this article ("story") has not been edited by MiBiz News and is published from a web feed or sourced from the Internet.)