AKC Dog Breeds: Bergamasco

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Foundation Stock Service® Breed
Height: 21-24 inches   Weight: 70-85 pounds  Color: black, grey

The Bergamasco is a breed of dog with its origins in the Italian Alps, where it was originally used as a herding dog. Originating in Persia, the Bergamasco is an ancient shepherding breed. They were developed to be independent and intelligent. The Bergamasco breed nearly became extinct after World War II but was revived by Dr. Maria Andreoli, an Italian scientist and breeder. Bergamasco's remain relatively rare both in Italy and in North America.

General Appearance
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is an ancient breed which is at least 2000 years old.  The ancestors of the Bergamasco spread out along the Alpine chain.  Ancient dog lovers speak of a dog of the Alps and some describe a sheepdog in the Vallese region.  The only common element in these vague sources is that the coat is described as long, thick and shabby.  Strong, sound and brave, this dog is also very intelligence and has a good equilibrium.  The Bergamasco is a medium size dog, well proportioned and harmonious having a rustic appearance.  He is a solidly compact dog with a strong, powerful build that gives him great resistance without taking away any of his agility and speed of movement.  His imposing aspect is increased by the thick coat which is one of his typical characteristics and makes him different from any other dog.  The Bergamascos coat is characterized by three types of hair which is abundant and forms  mats or flocks which is the distinguishing characteristic of this breed.  The mats start from the spine and go down the flanks, growing every year to reach the ground.  The thick curtain of hair that covers the eyes has a functional purpose as well.  It serves as a visor so as not to be dazzled by the sun reflecting off the snow in the mountains.  The color of the coat can be anything from gray or silver gray to anthracite (coal color).  This color served as a camouflage when working in the mountains.  The entire hereditary pattern is deeply ingrained in the breed.  Even in our modern times, the Bergamasco remains the same.

Strong, sound and brave, the Bergamasco is above all very intelligent and balanced.  The intelligence of the dog has been refined for natural selection.  Being alone with hundreds of sheep to look after and having to sort out different and unexpected problems, caused the Bergamasco's intelligence to develop steadily. Bergamasco is a peaceful dog.  Puppies play together nicely.  Attentive and reserved, it participates constantly in everything which goes on around it and, even when it appears to be asleep, it's eyes will be following you, because it always wants to know where you are and what you are up to.  Although not instinctively aggressive, the Bergamasco is an excellent watch dog because it doesn't likes strangers invading its world.  Its relationship with children is something special.  Their presence awakens its most profound and primitive instincts, first as a wolf and then as a sheepdog.  Patient, tolerant, attentive and protective, it seeks their company encouraging their games establishing true friendship with them.  The Bergamasco is both a watch dog and guard and will alert when people come to the home, however, the Bergamasco is not aggressive as long as there is no serious threat to the family.  The Bergamasco is great with all children and have been used as therapy dogs for handicapped children.  Bergamascos are usually okay with other dogs as long as they don't challenge them or appear as a threat.  They will usually do okay with cats, but it is best if they were brought up together while the dog is still a puppy.  The Bergamasco sees each individual that comes to the house as a separate person.  As to whether to Bergamasco is friendly with strangers; all depends on the feel of that person and what the dog senses.  The Bergamasco is not a dog for everyone, but with the right owner , are a true pleasure to own. Bergamasco need an owner who displays an air of authority over the dog. Not harsh, but calm and firm, setting rules the dog must follow and being consistent about them. This is not a dog for the meek or passive owner.

The Bergamasco breed requires occasional brushing. The "cords" of the coat must be separated by hand and lightly brushed individually. Bathing should only be done when absolutely necessary as the Bergamasco takes an extremely long time to dry. The Bergamasco coat is considered hair not fur and is considered non-allergic, however, there are extreme cases that a person could still be allergic to the hair, depending on the type of allergy.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy
Health information for this breed is sparse. They are usually a healthy breed and Bergamasco's have a life expectancy of 12- 13 years.

Activity Level

The Bergamasco is best suited for cold climates. They are not recommended for apartment or city dwelling. They do best in a rural setting with room to roam, being given a job to do, and playtime with their family. The Bergamasco enjoys the outdoors and will exercise on their own accord if they live and work on a large farm.  A long daily walk, herding the sheep or a romp with the kids is ample exercise that is necessary for a happy Bergamasco.


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