The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s characteristic, corded coat (in which sections of hair weave together to form “flocks”), allows them to practically blend in with the sheep they watch over, while also offering weather protection. These livestock guardian dogs are enlisted to watch over flocks and ensure their protection from predators. Though only recently recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2015, the Bergamasco Sheepdog has been around for centuries in its native land — the Italian Alps.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
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Bergamascos are well known for their unusual coat- when their hair grows out, their fur feels and looks like felt!
The Bergamasco is another one of only a few breeds that originate in Italy. Bergamascos come from the area around Bergamo, a city high in the Italian Alps. Bergamascos are most well recognizable for their really unique fur, which, once they reach adulthood, forms long, dreadlock-like rows. But this unusual fur came in handy when they were fulfilling their original purpose of guarding and herding sheep in the Italian Alps- their thick, oily, and corded fur not only kept them warm, but served as a protective barrier against predators.
The origins of the Bergamasco, other than they come from the Bergamo Valley, are sort of hazy. We know they are from Italy, and we know they are practically an ancient breed, as they’ve been used in the Bergamo Valley for hundreds and hundreds of years. Because they are so well suited to their environment and their job as herding dogs, they haven’t changed much since the breed was created. It’s thought that they originated in Iran a couple thousands years ago, and the Iranian nomads who traveled to the Italian Peninsula brought them over to guard their sheep.
Because Bergamascos are herding dogs, and the instinct to herd will not go away even if they are kept as companion animals. They require early socialization and exposure to people, children, and other pets (which will help curb their instincts, at least a little bit!) They definitely required obedience training, as well– puppy classes are a great way to get socialization and training all at once!
Personality-wise, they are intelligent and loyal dogs that are happiest when they have a job to do. If you have a farm and can allow them to fulfill their innate desire to herd, great! If not, though (and face it, most of us don’t have farms and sheep) you’ll have to make sure to provide your future Bergamasco with plenty of tasks to keep them from being bored.
Bergamascos do well with children and other dogs, and while they are not especially large dogs, they do better in the suburbs and the country than in the city. They are not the ideal choice for a novice or first-time dog owner; they are super smart and require a decent amount of training. They might be difficult to find outside of Italy, but if you are able to locate a reputable breeder in the United States, it’s definitely worth it! This unique and intelligent dog makes a loving family pet.
Alla fine ( Italian for “in the end”), Bergamascos are a smart, loyal, and affectionate breed who, with the right owner, do just as well in the fields as on the couch.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Bergamasco Sheepdog ancestry.