Temperament: Independent, Sociable, Intelligent
- Height: 23.5 inches (male), 22 inches (female)
- Weight: 70-84 pounds (male), 57-71 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
- Group: Herding Group
Generally happy with kids and other animals, the low-maintenance and robustly healthy Bergamasco is much more than a show-stopping hairdo. Eager to please, smart, and stubbornly devoted to work, Bergamascos are patient but protective.
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is a muscular, heavy-boned herding dog with a large head and a thick tail that hangs down to the hock and curves slightly upward at the end. The entire dog is covered with an abundant coat that forms mats. The Bergamasco is compact in profile but is just slightly longer than tall.
The Bergamasco’s characteristic feature is its unique coat, made up of three types of hair. The coat forms flocks (strands of hair weaved together creating flat layers of felted hair) or loose mats, which cover the dog’s body and legs, and protect the dog from weather and predators. The hair on the head is typically long and hangs over the eyes.
About the Bergamasco Sheepdog
Beneath the one-of-a-kind coat is a large, muscular shepherd dog of ancient pedigree. But, since the coat is the breed’s hallmark, let’s take a close look. The Bergamasco Sheepdog has hair of three different textures that form naturally occurring loose mats, or “flocks” (strands of hair woven together, creating flat layers of felted hair), covering the body and legs. The flocks provide protection from the fierce cold and wild predators of the Italian Alps, the breed’s ancestral homeland.
Bergamascos are bright, loyal, loving, and trainable—with a dash of mountain-dog independence. They take to watching over loved ones with a serene vigilance. Wary of strangers until properly introduced, Bergamascos are aggressive only as a last resort.
NUTRITION The Bergamasco Sheepdog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
GROOMING The coat of an adult Bergamasco is basically maintenance free. It’s made up of three types of hair, called “dog,” “goat,” and “wool.” Goat and wool hairs don’t start to appear until the dog is a year old. When they do, the coat must be ripped into mats—a process that can take a few hours or a few evenings. But once it’s done, it’s done. The felt-like mats grow over the course of the dog’s life, reaching the ground at approximately 6 years of age.
A Bergamasco doesn’t shed, doesn’t need to be brushed, and doesn’t need to be bathed more than two or three times a year. The coat can actually smell like a sweater when it is wet. Most people with allergies to dogs are not allergic to the Bergamasco coat; however, those with allergies to wool or lanolin have been known to react. Because the coat aids in thermoregulation, a Bergamasco should never be shaved down. As with all breeds, the Bergamasco’s nails should be trimmed regularly.
EXERCISE The Bergamasco Sheepdog requires only a moderate amount of exercise every day. Because they bond closely with their owners, this exercise should come in the form of some sort of mutual activity rather than the dog being left alone in the backyard. And while they are generally calm, Bergamascos have a good deal of energy and are happy to join their owners in almost any sort of activity, whether that entails retrieving a ball, going on a brisk walk or hike, or romping together in an open field.
TRAINING As with all breeds, early socialisation and puppy training classes are recommended. Gently exposing the puppy to a wide variety of people, places, and situations will help him develop into a well-adjusted, well-mannered adult. The Bergamasco is a sociable, highly intelligent breed who possesses a deep desire to please his master. The breed thinks independently, however, and often sees itself more as an equal partner than as a subordinate to the members of his family. A Bergamasco who can be made to understand what is wanted of him, and why he should do it, will happily comply, if in his own way.
HEALTH Bergamascos are generally a healthy breed. Like all breeds there may be some health issues. Some dogs may be faced with these health challenges in their lives, but the majority of Bergamascos are healthy dogs.
Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Elbow Evaluation