Also known as: Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, Bergamese Shepherd
Breed origin: Italian Alps
Original purpose: Guarding and herding sheep.
AKC recognized: No
AKC group: Foundation Stock Service
Weight: males 70 to 84 lbs;
females 57 to 71 lbs
Size: Height: males 22½ to 24½ inches;
females 21 to 23 inches
Color: Solid gray or gradations of gray (including shadings of isabella and fawn), up to and including solid black, with or without small amounts of white markings.
Life span: 13 to 15 years.
General characteristics/temperament: Underneath that unusual and abundant coat is a trim, muscular, and athletic dog with no tendency to overeat. Bergamascos have a curtain of hair that falls from their forehead to protect their eyes from snowblindness, and extremely long upper eyelashes to keep the hair out of their eyes. They have extremely acute hearing and an almost psychic awareness of its environment. They can be very reliable predictors of approaching visitors or violent behavior, and have even been known to warn unsuspecting people that another dog was preparing to attack. The Bergamasco is a very sociable breed and will typically develop independent relationships with each person in the household, relating to them in an individualized way. The Bergamasco was develped to work closely with its shepherd to protect the flock in an environmnet that required it to problem-solve on its own. While they will take their lead from the shepherd, the manner in which they accomplished what the shepherd wanted was left up to them. As a result, Bergamascos developed into a highly intelligent breed that combines a deep desire to please and help its master with an ability to think for itself and to figure out its own ways to accomplish the mutual goals. This makes the Bergamasco an excellent choice for a person who appreciates intelligence and self-sufficiency in a companion. They have a strong protective instinct and make a vigilant guard. They are naturally stubborn and will persevere with a task until done. They are courageous but not aggressive without cause. The Bergamasco's patient, quiet, and eager-to-please nature makes him an excellent companion, but he requires a lot of space.
Good watchdog? Yes
Grooming requirement: The Bergamasco's striking and unusual coat is made of three kinds of hair ("dog hair", "goat hair", and "wool") combined to form dense, flat, felt-like mats that continue to grow over the course of the dog's life, reaching the ground at approximately 5 to 6 years. It provides very efficient protection from cold and wet weather conditions, insect bites, and even bites or attacks from wolves or other dogs. This coat is actually fairly easy to maintain once it matures, as it does not require brushing. However, some specific steps must be taken while the coat transitions from a soft puppy coat into the unique adult coat. When a puppy nears its first birthday, coarse "goat" hair and fuzzy "wool" begin to appear in the coat, and the owner must "rip" the coat into the mats. This process takes from a few hours up to a few evenings, but once it's done, it's done for life. During the next six months, a weekly check will be required to make sure the mats have not grown back together. Once the mats have set, they stay separate and become dense enough that very few things will get caught in them. A mature Bergamasco coat is amazingly easy to care for, does not require brushing, and does not shed much. A bath one to three times a year is all that is needed. Some describe the coat as smelling like a sweater when wet.
Recommended books for further reading:
Other websites for additional information:
American Kennel Club breed page
Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America
Wikipedia breed information page
Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America Rescue
Page Last Updated: February 1, 2018