The Bergamasco Shepherd is an Italian breed of dog, which many believed came from the Italian Alps near Bergamo, where it was used as a herding dog. For many centuries, the said breed was also commonly found in many Swiss valleys.
However, it is now generally accepted that the origins of these dogs can be found to have come from Asia.
In search for new pastures, the Bergamasco Shepherds together with the nomadic people and their herds, migrated from the Orient to the Western world: starting from the upper plains of Asia towards the Anatolian mountains, Caucasus and the Alps to the Pyrenees.
They were first used as watchdogs, but due to wide-scale agriculture, they evolved into flock drivers and were brought to far away grazing zones so they can protect the flocks from wild animal attacks.
They became partially extinct after World War II, brought about by abrupt modernization and the profound economic changes in the lifestyle of the people living in the valleys where these dogs are found.
Because of the relentless efforts exerted by some enthusiastic breeders, the population of the Bergamasco was eventually restored. In recent decades, the breed has become very popular among many dog-lovers all over Europe and in North America.
Traits and Behavior
These dogs are very faithful, affectionate and extremely protective to their owners and family members. If they sense the arrival of an opponent, it is their reflex action to fiercely strike out anytime and anywhere without having second thoughts or any hint of fear, just to defend the people, animals, or even things they hold so dearly.
The breed has inherited the abilities of a guard dog which explains why this specific dog is very submissive towards its master, always ready to take orders.
The Bergamasco also has a high level of energy and intellectual capacity that they need a daily dose of exercise and mental stimulation.
Since they require a lot of exercise, a dog owner is advised to provide this dog with long walks and the opportunity to run freely around wide-open spaces.
As often as not, it could function on its own without human guidance, making independent decisions.
This initiative can make your dog so much harder to train and will require a lot of time and patience from its owner to turn it into a decent household pet.
Pet Care and Diseases
The Bergamasco Shepherd is the type of breed that is hardly affected by any genetic health problem. As a puppy, it has a soft, fluffy coat but at 8-9 months, it enters the flocking age up until it turns 2 years old The dog sheds mildly and slight loss of this fur can only be observed. During the transitional period of its coat, The Bergamasco needs the most attention.
The clumps must be carefully opened using bare hands, almost down to the skin, in strands that are approximately 5 to 7 centimeters wide.
Once felting has commenced, it will be extremely hard to separate the clumps by hand. The use of scissors is not advisable because but this might cut the dog’s tender skin if not carefully used.
The top back portion of these dogs only has the rough goat hair coat and does require some brushing.
These dogs are best suited for seasonal to cold climates. Since it has a very thick coat, it is not unusual to find the Bergamasco spending its nights sleeping outside the house.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog won’t do well in an apartment, but rather in a house with a yard that is fully fenced, so it can run and play as a form of exercise. A long daily walk is necessary for a happy Bergamasco Shepherd.
The Bergamasco is a strong medium-sized dog that has a rustic appearance. Mature male Bergamascos ideally stand 23.5 inches at the withers, and females usually are about 22 inches tall. One inch taller or shorter than the ideal is acceptable. Males typically weigh 32-38 kilograms (71-84 lb); females weigh between 26-32 kilograms (57-71 lb).
Its thick “flocked” coat gives the Bergamasco its distinctive appearance. The shabby coat is characterized by three types of hair as the undercoat, goat hair, and the woolly coat (topcoat), which are abundant and form mats or flocks.
They are not referred to as “cords” in this breed, as they are with the Puli and Komondor. The difference is that flocks are larger, flatter and can be irregular in shape due to the abundance of goat hair mixed with the woolly hair.
Bergamascos are born with short, smooth fur, but develop the mat-look as they grow old. The color of the coat is solid grey or ranges from pale grey to black and shades of fawn, brown and coal.
The colors serve as a camouflage when these dogs work in the mountains. The hair on its forehead falls in a curtain over its eyes, which are protected by extremely long upper eyelashes.
The breed is expected to live for 13-15 years. A litter may consist of 4-10 puppies. Bergamese Shepherd, Bergermaschi, and Cane da Pastore Bergamasco are among its few other names.