Let's talk Bergamasco Shepherds

A pleasant disposition is just the starting point for the Bergamasco Shepherd, a venerable breed hailing from the alpine region of Bergamo, Italy. A delighted face peering out from beneath their signature flocked coat, they are a majestic wonder of breeding. A huge plus as well:  the Bergamasco Shepherd is blessed with vigorous health and a robust constitution. The breed forms a very close bond with their owners and are enormously tied to the family unit, especially little ones, once they’re trained to be around them.

Official name: Bergamasco Shepherd

Other names: Bergamasco Sheepdog, Bergamasco Shepherd Dog, Bergamasco

Origins: Italy

Black and white portrait of a black Bergamasco Shepherd with flocks
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level Low
Suited to apartment living?  Medium
 Energy level * High Family pet? *
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets High
Can stay alone?* Medium

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
Inline Image 15
Illustration of a Bergamasco Shepherd
Male
56 - 61 cm Height
32 - 38 kg Weight
Female
53 - 56 cm Height
26 - 32 kg Weight

 

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age  15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 to 8 years
 Senior age  From 8 years

Brown Bergamasco Shepherd with flocks stood on grass

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Get to know the Bergamasco Shepherd

All you need to know about the breed

The loyal and warmhearted Bergamasco Shepherd holds a special place among breeds. With a can’t-miss coat and a determined and steadfast nature, this is a dog that will continue to surprise novice and seasoned owners alike.

First, that striking outer layer. Their coat is called “flocked” and is composed of three types of hair that intertwine to form loose mats that fall by the dog’s side. At first glance, one might think it a huge amount of work but the coat is surprisingly low-maintenance (yes, you read that right). Once their hair has grown in by age one, it’s practically wash-and-wear, but more on that later.

The protective but accommodating nature of the Bergamasco Shepherd has made them an excellent therapy dog, and they excel at search and rescue because of their bright outlook and powerful physicality. The latter trait has given the Bergamasco Shepherd the gift of hugely robust health. This is one strapping canine who should lead a very healthy life.

The breed also epitomises faithfulness and determination. The Bergamasco Shepherd was raised in the Italian Alps to be a guardian, particularly of sheep, so their protective instincts are well-embedded. They’ll gladly play that out where family is concerned, and are most content when by someone’s side - they in fact almost need to be so. And guarding children, once they are familiar with these mini-humans in their midst, is the Bergamasco Shepherd’s top priority.

Black Bergamasco Shepherd running over grass

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2 facts about Bergamasco Shepherds

1. A mind of their own

As one who was bred to look after hundreds of sheep on a daily basis, the Bergamasco Shepherd is a dog who truly is raised to take care of matters on their own, to think for themselves and find solutions. Independence is a strong trait for dogs like this who were bred in the mountains, often because they are alone with the flock for long stretches of time.

2. Lash out

The Bergamasco Shepherd has multiple interesting traits and one of them is their long lashes. The breed has remarkably lengthy upper eyelashes, a natural occurrence to keep the hair covering their forehead from falling into their eyes. That hair, in turn, grows to protect the Bergamasco Shepherd from snow blindness, certainly a natural occurrence in lofty mountainous terrain. Will wonders of nature ever cease?

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History of the breed

A full 7,000 years. That’s the historical track record of the Bergamasco Shepherd, said to have been brought by the Phoenicians from the Middle East into Europe. It’s hard to believe any breed could stand that test of time but it’s proof positive that the Bergamaschi (the breed name in plural) is one hardy dog.

The Italian Alps became their stomping ground, the city of Bergamo specifically, in the northeast Lombardy region, from which the breed takes their name. Associated with the area for many centuries, their distinctive flat matted coat developed to protect them from the extreme winds characterizing the area. The Bergamasco Shepherd is little known outside of the region and despite their dwindling numbers post-World War II, fans of the breed championed their cause, keeping them with us to this day.

The Bergamasco Shepherd was registered by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 1956 and welcomed into the American Kennel Club for registration in 2015.

Black and white portrait of a sitting black Bergamasco Shepherd

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Bergamasco Shepherds

1. Ears

Triangular ears set low hanging flat on cheek, rounded and furry tips.

2. Coat

Signature curly coat composed of hard and soft hair, “crispy” but not wiry.

3. Body

Graceful, well-defined body with arched back.

Bergamasco Shepherd with flocks stood on a rock

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Bergamasco Shepherd
A black and a white Bergamasco Shepherd sat next to each other on grass

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Caring for your Bergamasco Shepherd

Grooming, training and exercise tips

One look at the Bergamasco Shepherd’s hefty flocked coat and potential owners may think of expensive grooming bills. Not the case: Once the coat grows in, it’s set, doesn’t need brushing, and baths can happen every third month or so. The Bergamasco Shepherd has three types of hair: ‘dog’, ‘goat’, and ‘wool’. The ‘dog’ is the soft fur they have as puppies and the latter two are fully grown in by the end of their first year, when they intertwine to form their signature flocks. The coat should never be shorn as it acts as a thermoregulator, protecting the dog from the cold and heat. As with all breeds, take care to regularly trim their nails and brush their teeth daily. Exercise for the Bergamasco Shepherd breed is almost fun as they are a very cooperative sort but are not considered a high energy breed. Two daily walks and a good dose of playtime will suffice. A dog as docile as the Bergamasco Shepherd is a joy to train as well. They are very singular-minded (read: independent) so take care to give them instruction that is thorough and repetitious.

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All about Bergamasco Shepherds

Only you can decide which breed is right for you but here is some more info. Certain dogs have a mind of their own and the Bergamasco Shepherd is one. They’re companions for sure and hugely faithful to their owners. Raised as protectors and guardians of sheep, the breed is used to having lots of space to run so having a large yard or even acreage will equal contentment. The Bergamasco Shepherd is super intelligent - enough to problem-solve on their own - and are excellent with children, once trained. The Bergamasco Shepherd is often also used as a therapy dog as a result of their placid manner.

Raised to watch over sheep on the vast mountain ranges of the rugged Italian Alps, the Bergamasco Shepherd is ingrained with guardian instincts. Although their charge has always been animals, today’s companion Bergamasco Shepherd is just as vigilant watching over family, especially children once they are trained. Trust them to be at the ready; they seem to take an innate pride in doing so.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/