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Pyrenean Mountain Dogs in HOLLAND before and after the 1940-45 war

by F. A. Dekkers, Best, The Netherlands

Best, the village where I was born and that still is the place where I live is situated in the province of North-Brabant in the southern part of Holland. The region has been backward in developement during many centuries. At the time that the people from the north-western part of Holland sailed out and discovered new worlds the people of North-Brabant toiled and moiled as peasants on their poor soil for a scanty living and their descendants did the same for many centuries after.
All changed at the end of the 19th century when roads and railroads were built and bridges crossed the mighty rivers that separate the northern part from the south of Holland. Bit by bit more prosperity reached the southern regions and life got better. Although my village was like many other surrounding villages there was one big difference. In Best there were 5 grown-up Pyrenean Mountain Dogs belonging to 4 different owners. So when I was a child I knew those big white dogs, but did not know which breed it was. I didn't know too that there was only a limited number of these dogs in Holland and my special relation to the breed was hidden in the future.
Two of the owners of Pyrenean Dogs visited regularely dog-shows in Holland and Belgium. One of them was Mr. Harry van Zeeland, who was employed at the railway-station at Best and owned a Pyrenean kennel.

Probably this is the beginning of a marvellous story that is worth telling.


During a journey that Mr. and Mrs. Crane (owners of the famous Basquaerie-kennels) made in the year 1937 through France, Belgium and Holland, they bought from Mr. Harry van Zeeland in Best a young Pyrenean Mountain bitch, born 7-8-1936, and gave her the name "Gerita of Basquaerie".

You can understand that it was a great honour for Mr. van Zeeland to be able to export a puppy to the U.S. and the daughter of Mr. van Zeeland, who is living in the house of her parents, still has photos that were sent in that years to her father by Mrs. Crane.
We can ask ourselves how someone from the United States hit upon the idea to buy a Pyrenean puppy in Holland but it is most probable that the first contacts came at the dog-show in Brussels (Belgium) in 1937. This dog-show was visited by Mr. and Mrs. Crane and Mr. van Zeeland was one of the exhibitors at this show.

In the years before the Second World War (1936, 1937 and 1939) Mr. and Mrs. Crane made some journeys in Europe and bought Pyrenean dogs in France, Belgium and Holland to establish their Basquaerie bloodlines. They had studied the European bloodlines of Pyrenean Mountain Dogs very well and thought this young bitch would be very suitable in their kennel.


In 1940 Mr. and Mrs. Homer-Bigelow from Santa Fe visited the Basquaerie-kennesl of Mrs. Crane and bought there a male puppy, Basquaerie Uranus, born 29-12-1939 (Ch. Urdos de Soum x Ch. Munia du Pic du Jer of Basquaerie). When at home in Santa Fe again their fellow-townsmen the Clauser-family were so impressed by this breed that they decided they also had to have a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. They contacted Mrs. Crane and she decided to send Gerita of BAsquaerie to the Clausers. One of the reasons to do this was that she preferre to bring her dogs away from the east coast of the U.S. to other parts of the country during the war years.

The agreement was made that the Clausers would mate Gerita to the Bigelow's Uranus and give a female puppy out of that combination to Mrs. Crane.

The day after Christmas in the year 1941 Gerita arrived in Santa Fe by train. In June 1942 there was a litter of three puppies (all three males) at the Clauser household and one of the puppies went back to the Basquarie-kennels of Mrs. Crane. Gerita was never bred again. Several descendants of Gerita of Basquaerie became Champions in the U.S. So we can say that this from Holland inported Pyrenean Mountain Dog has contributed to the successs of the breed in the U.S.A.

Mr. van Zeeland's kennel in Holland had an unlucky end. In 1940 the only two Pyrenean he then owned, Laura, dam of Gerita of Basquaerie, and a son of Laura crossed together the railroad and were hit by a train. During the war it was impossible to buy new dogs and this tragic accident was the end of the Van Zeeland Kennel. Mr. van Zeeland himself died by illness on 30-12-1942.


In the summer of 1946, one year after the end of the war in Europe, two puppies from Mrs. Crane's Basquaerie Kennels arrived in Holland on a ship of the Holland-America Line, the "Westerdam". They were Basquaerie Nicki, born 26-3-1946 (Ch. La Chan Marc of Basquaerie x Cote de Neige Mab O' Basquaerie) and Basquaerie Sonja, born 15-2-1946 (Ch. Gui O'Cote de Neige x Ch. Basquaerie Petite Blanche). They were bought by Marquise de Villers de Grignoncourt from Beesel ()Holland) to re-establish the Pyrenean breed in Holland. On the 5th of May 1947 a litter out of this combination was born in Kennel "Sebastopol"of Marquise de Villers (1 male, 2 females). This was the first and last litter from this combination.


© U. Hock-Henschke