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October 19, 2013

Meet the Breed: The Bergamasco

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Overview:

  • Height: 22"- 24”
  • Weight: 57-84 pounds
  • Historical function: Herding
  • Modern function: Herding, companion
  • AKC classification: Miscellaneous (not yet fully recognized by the AKC)

Physical Characteristics:

The Bergamasco is a muscular, heavy-boned dog with a large head and a thick tail. The dog is slightly longer than it is tall. The breed is covered entirely in a thick, matted coat that protects the dog from the elements as well as predators. The coat and sturdy build do not impede the strong, quick movements of this agile breed. Puppies are born with short, smooth coats. Three types of hair combine to form the mats - a fine, dense, oily undercoat, long harsher hairs similar to a goat's, and a top woolly outer-coat.The mats start from the spine and go down the flanks, growing every year to reach the ground at about age 5. Once the mats are set, they remain with the dog throughout its life. The portion of hair that covers the eyes protects the dog from reflective snow in the mountains. The coat is rustic and shabby in appearance. The coat can be gray, silver gray, or coal colored. Brown may also be intermixed in the coat. 

History of the Breed:

The Bergamasco is an ancient breed. Bergamasco's ancestors originated in Persia, in what is now Iran. It worked as a peer with the shepherd, working to please, but making independent decisions.  As shepherds moved in search of new pastures, a number of them settled in the Italian Alps, where the dogs became known as Bergamascos. The breed was in danger of becoming extinct after World War II, when wool was replaced by synthetic materials, and there was less need for shepherding dogs. Dr. Maria Andreoli, an Italian breeder, was instrumental in saving the breed. 

Temperament:

The Bergamasco is strong, brave, intelligent and balanced. The Bergamasco is a peaceful dog and attentive, aware of everything going on around him. They make excellent watchdogs but are not aggressive. They are excellent with children. They have a desire to please but are also independent thinkers. Gets along with other dogs and cats they were raised with. Makes a good therapy dog and excels in obedience and agility trials.   

  • Best suited for: Active farm and ranching life. Needs a house with at least a yard. Good for allergy sufferers. 
  • Preferred living conditions: This dog prefers cooler climates and likes having a job. 

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Once the coat cords are set, grooming is very easy as there is no brushing and very rare bathing (twice a year.) This breed sheds very minimally. Cannot be clipped as the cords act as the means for the skin to breathe and the weatherproof feature will be lost. 
  • Exercise needs: Daily long walk or working on a farm will keep this breed happy.
  • Life expectancy: 13-15 years.
  • Health concerns: No known health problems.

Breed Club Links: Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America

BaxterBoo.com Perfect Pairings: A Sheep dog toy.

Have any stories about a Bergamasco? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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