Getting To Know You – Bergamasco

According to the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America (BSCA), “the Bergamasco Sheepdog is an ancient shepherding breed which traces its origins [date] back thousands of years. Believed to have originated in Persia (in the area that is now Iran), hardy, vigorous shepherding dogs worked with their nomadic masters, tending and herding flocks of sheep in the harsh mountain climates from Persia west to Europe. Certain of these nomads ultimately settled in the Italian Alps and remained there; their dogs became what is now known as the Bergamasco.”  Sometimes described as “the shaggiest dog in the world”, the Bergamasco is covered in dreadlocks.  It has a coat that consists of three different types of hair: the undercoat (short, dense hair), goat hair (long, straight, rough) and outer coat (woolly and finer in texture).  Each layer ranges in length from 1.5 inches to 3 inches. The coat must never be combed out as the purpose of it is to develop into dreadlocks as the dog matures.  Bred to move and guard sheep on the rocky slopes of the Alps, this rugged breed is powerful and resilient.  It is a large breed, with males measuring 23.5 inches and females 22 inches at the withers.  Males weigh 70-84 pounds, while females weigh 57-71 pounds.  This sturdy dog is heavy-boned with a lot of substance and is very muscular. 

The Bergamasco is a herding breed.  Herding breeds are somewhat independent thinkers and the Bergamasco is no exception.  As a matter of fact, they may be more so than other herding breeds.  As explained on the  BSCA website, when detailing its history, “Bergamascos worked closely with their shepherds in a one-to-one relationship, the goal of which was to protect the flock. Unlike some other shepherding breeds, which are taught to execute exact commands from their masters, the Bergamasco enjoyed a unique partnership with its shepherd in the isolated high mountain valleys: with just one human, a small number of dogs, and hundreds of sheep to tend, the shepherd needed his helpers to be as independent as possible, and so the Bergamasco was developed to problem-solve on its own.  Thus, while it learned to take its lead from its shepherd, the manner in which it accomplished what the shepherd wanted was left up to it. And so, it learned to identify problems and to think its way through them, and to accomplish the goal in whichever way seemed best, given the always-changing circumstances in the mountain valleys.  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.”  While this breed does have a desire to please, its independence may not result in the type of obedience some potential homes desire.

Bergamascos can be found in all sorts of dog sports, from agility to obedience.  They consider their family as members of their flock so will, therefore, be protective of them.  They respond to each person’s personality and will treat them all differently.  They are extremely tolerant and patient with children.  For more information on this unique breed or to find a breeder, go to the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America.