"Like my coat?"
Ancestors of these woolly herders emigrated around the mountains of Asia and Europe with their flocks, and they settled in the Italian Alps to evolve into the present-day Bergamasco. They tended to work in small groups with a single shepherd to protect hundreds of sheep. Their distinctive coats developed to protect them from extreme temperatures, as well as bites from predators. When wool production dropped off around WWII, these dogs were in danger of becoming extinct, but Dr. Maria Andreoli, a breeder in Italy, saved the breed.
Thanks to their history of working closely with shepherds, Bergamescos are highly intelligent problem-solvers with a strong desire to please, but they see themselves as equal partners with their favorite human to some degree. They are easygoing, balanced, and observant, and tend to bond strongly with their owners. They are patient and tolerant with children, making them excellent family guardians and companions.
The Bergamasco has a distinctive coat with three kinds of hair that weave together to form flat, felt-like flocks or loose mats. They can be many colors, including black, brown, gray, and silver. The flocks or mats grow continuously and reach the ground around age 5 – the dog pictured above, Chique Adulation, is a young Bergamasco whose flocks are not fully grown. Under that coat, the Bergamasco is a muscular herding dog with heavy bones.
Since they see themselves as partners with their humans, Bergamascos need consistency and prefer mutual respect – they enjoy learning as long as you’re working together. Teach them manners and basic obedience, but these smart dogs will also enjoy the mental stimulation of more advanced activities. Born shepherds, they excel at herding activities and agility, and are excellent candidates for therapy training.
Grooming & Care
While they look high-maintenance, the Bergamasco’s coat is actually surprisingly easy to care for. They are born soft and fuzzy, but once the woolly texture starts, at around age 1, the mats must be separated into individual pieces so that the coat doesn’t form into a single, giant mat. This can take several hours, but it usually only needs to be done once. After that, no brushing is required, and a bath is only needed 1-3 times a year. Take care of their ears, nails, and teeth, and you’re done. They only need a moderate amount of exercise but love spending a lot of time outdoors.
Bergamascos are known as generally healthy dogs with very few inherited conditions to worry about – but being so rare, it is hard to say for certain whether there are any significant concerns. So as with any dog, regular wellness checkups, exercise, and a healthy diet will go a long way to keeping them healthy and happy.
Champion Jupiter Dell Albera Silver Rebel (aka Ugo) pictured above (photo by Juan-Manuel Oliviera-Silvera).
|Challenges||Early socialization is crucial with this born guardian.|
|Height||21 to 24 inches|
|Weight||57 to 84 pounds|
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