The Bergamasco Shepherd is an ancient, medium size shepherding breed with a rustic appearance, that is believed to be originated in Persia (today that area is Iran). They are also believed to have been brought to the mountains near Milan (Italy) by Phoenician traders before the rise of the Roman Empire. Their main function was to guard the sheep herds.
FUN FACT: The Bergamasco Shepherd breed is at least 2000 years old.
22-23,5 in (56-60 cm)
57-84 lb (26-38 kg)
As we already mentioned, this is an ancient dog breed dating back thousands of years. They were kept in ancient times by the nomadic tribes and had to work in close relations with their owners. Their main occupation was herding and shepherding flocks of sheep and goats across the Persian empire. Some of these nomadic tribes migrated to the Italian Alps and eventually settled there. With them, they brought these dogs that were later given the name Cane de Pastore Bergamasco in their native Italian language. That of course, translates to the Bergamasco Shepherd dog.
Origin of the name
The origin of the name is not complicated at all. These dogs were named after the region it was “discovered” and where it made a home in the Italian Alps near the city of Bergamo.
These dogs loved working in the high mountain ranges and valleys. They thrived and did not need much. The living conditions aren’t the easiest at such high altitudes, so usually there were more dogs taking care of the flock than humans. These dogs had to evolve and develop problem-solving skills. They had to take care of and defend large flocks of sheep, so they had to work as independently as possible. They obeyed the shepherd’s orders but fulfilled them in their way.
Because of their unusual way of work, these dogs developed into a very intelligent dog breed that has a strong desire to please its owner but can think independently. That makes them a great fit for a household that appreciates independent dogs.
Bergamascos were in danger of becoming extinct after World War II when wool production fell off and there was less need for shepherding dogs. Dr. Maria Andreoli, an Italian breeder, and a trained scientist was instrumental in saving the breed before it became extinct. She studied and observed the genetic traits of the breed. Due to Mrs. Andreoli and her Dell' Albera kennel, good and reliable bloodlines were established, and it is through her generous help and sharing of her knowledge and expertise that the Bergamasco standard has been upheld by several enthusiasts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, United States, Canada, and other countries.
The first Bergamascos came to the United States of America in the 1990s. And only through Dr, Andreoli’s hard work and perseverance did this breed started to recover.
Since then, this dog breed is on the rise and its numbers have grown significantly. Their popularity was spread around all continents and its standard is being upheld and protected by many breeding clubs, dog enthusiasts, admirers, and lovers. However, their total number is still pretty low and to this day, this breed remains rare.
Dog Breed Characteristics
They are muscular, heavy-boned dogs that are entirely covered with an ample coat that forms mats and protect them from weather and predators (the result of adapting these dogs to their work and the climate and geographical locations of the environment in which this was done).
Since this is an old breed it has been registered around the world in all major cynology associations and kennel clubs. The main two associations that we are focusing on are the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and the American Kennel Club (AKC). FCI is an association that has 98 members. It is the governing cynology body and has records and standards of pureblooded dogs in all 98 member states.
The AKC is the governing cynology body for the United States of America and they are in charge of all dog-related activities such as shows and sports and are in charge of promoting, organizing, and sanctioning of those activities. They also keep the records of all pureblooded dogs from the USA.
Both of these major organizations have standards for the Bergamasco Shepherd and here is what they say about this dog breed.
They describe this dog breed as being a medium-sized dog that has a very rustic impression. These dogs have an abundant coat and have a powerful construction yet are very well proportioned. They are a part of Group 1 (Sheepdogs and cattle dogs, except for Swiss cattle dogs)- Section 1 (Sheepdogs). This standard says that the ideal size for the male dogs is 60 cm (23,6 in) with a tolerance of 2 cm (0,8 in) and they should weigh between 32 and 36 kg (70-80 lb). The females of this breed should be 56 cm (22 in) tall at the withers with the same tolerance as males and should weigh between 26 and 32 kg (57-70 lb). These dogs do not have a working trial.
The Bergamasco Shepherd was registered by the FCI on a definitive basis on the 23rd of February 1956.
The American Kennel Club standard is fairly similar to the FCI standard for this breed and they say that this dog is very muscular and has heavy bones. It is a herding dog with a large head and a thick tail. The AKC standard says that the ideal height for male Bergamascos is 60 cm (23,5 in) and the females should be 56cm (22 in). Their weight should be proportioned to their height and should ideally be between 32-38 kg (70-84 lb) for the males and 26-32 kg (57-71 lb) for the females.
The Bergamasco has been registered by the AKC in 2015.
FUN FACT: The Bergamasco Shepherd is the only dog whose coat is made of three types of hair.
The Bergamascos’ coat is the breeds’ most distinctive feature. The coat consists of three types of hair: a dense, oily undercoat, long harsher hair, and a top woolly topcoat. These three types of hair gather together and form flat mats or flocks.
The color of the coat is usually solid gray, there can be some gradations of gray, or the coat can be solid black. The Bergamascos’ coat does not shed, and it is not difficult to maintain. Brushing is not required. For the first year, the Bergamasco puppy has a very soft puppy coat and then, after that first year, the dogs’ hair gets fuzzier and the real Bergamasco dog look starts to kick in. At that time, those three types of hair start to weave together and make flocks. Once this flocking starts, the owner needs to help his Bergamasco by pulling apart the strands. The coat must be "ripped" by the owner into the mats which is a process that can take a few hours to be done, but once it is done, it's done for life.
The Bergamasco Shepherds’ coat is amazing. That coat protects the dog from overheating, and it also keeps the dog cool during the heat. It is also great for protecting the dog from other dog bites and insects.
This is a shepherd breed and as such it inevitably had to encounter some predators. Their evolutionary development is ingenious. They developed a coat that is so thick that predators could not bite through it. The main predator they mostly had to deal with is the wolf and even though wolves have a strong bite, it cannot do anything to pierce the Bergamascos coat. Its coat can also be used for camouflage. They blended perfectly with the herd and that made it difficult for predators to spot them.
FUN FACT: Many people, who are allergic to other dogs, often are not bothered at all by the Bergamascos’ coat.
The Bergamasco Shepherd - temperament
The Bergamasco Shepherd is a wonderful dog with a great temperament. They are intelligent, loyal, loving, and patient; they have a gentle personality that is not aggressive in any way. The Bergamasco establishes a close bond with his owner. They are suitable for families and they go along great with children. Their strong herding instinct will guide the Bergamasco to protect each family member. They are alert and excellent watchdogs but be careful when you have visitors coming to your home – the Bergamasco, although is rarely aggressive without a cause, might not be too kind to “intruders” on its premises.
Once the dog is introduced to strangers, it will accept them. If raised together, this dog gets along well with other pets. The Bergamasco loves open spaces; loves to run; loves to work. This dog is the happiest when it is working and will be frustrated with a routine lifestyle. The Bergamasco is not suitable for apartment or condo living.
Training and socialization
The Bergamasco is trainable but is not a dog for everyone. This dog needs an owner who can display authority over it. Training should not be harsh but should be firm and consistent. They are a herding breed so they can think independently and can be a bit stubborn when training. You need to be consistent and keep the training sessions short-to-medium length and interesting.
Every dog breed in the world can develop behavior problems if they are not properly socialized. Socialization plays a big part in every dog’s life and this breed is no exception. Expose your puppy to different situations, sights, sounds, dogs, and people. That way they will learn to adapt and react properly when they are puppies and will not have behavioral problems in their future. Unsocialized dogs can be shy, aggressive, and they can become destructive. Just remember to get your dog to the Vet first and make sure they get all the necessary shots before introducing them to other puppies and dogs.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog faces no serious health complaints and has a reputation for being healthy. Because they are so rare, popularity and overbreeding have yet to take a toll on their health. But, like most breeds, this breed can suffer from hip dysplasia, allergies, arthritis, etc.
If you are considering getting a Bergamasco Shepherd puppy, make sure that this is a breed that fits your lifestyle and habits. These dogs can have a lot of energy and were bred primarily as working dogs so they should be treated as such. Do your research, find out as much as you can about this breed and make sure you can provide the necessary living conditions so you and your new puppy can fully enjoy each other’s company. After that, make sure that you find a reputable and responsible Bergamasco Shepherd breeders that are taking proper care of the dogs they are breeding. Always ask the breeder to present you with the documents and licenses they should have. A responsible breeder will never have a problem with that. Make sure you ask them a lot of questions about your new puppy and describe to them what kind of household your new puppy is coming to. The breeder can recommend the puppy that will suit you the best. They have spent a lot of time with them and know which puppy has which character. At World Dog Finder we work exclusively with registered breeders so we recommend using this website to find the breeder you need.
World Dog Finder team