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Bergamasco Sheepdog: The healthiest breed ever?

Bergamasco Sheepdog: The healthiest breed ever?

The Bergamasco Sheepdog is a very interesting-looking dog. One glance at them and you would think that their owner is neglecting them, when in fact they just have a very texturized coat. But, of course, while that is the first characteristic of them you will notice, these dogs deliver so much more.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog is also known as the Bergamese Shepherd, Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, and the Bergamo Shepherd Dog. Bergamasco Sheepdogs are purebred dogs that are accepted by the American Kennel Club, but you can still find many of them at shelters and rescues. This breed also has its national breed club in the United States, the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America, which is an official club of the AKC.

This is a very energetic and outgoing breed that enjoys bonding with humans, and not only their owners but strangers as well! This makes them an excellent choice for families with a large number of members. What is also great about them is that they can thrive in any environment, if you as an owner consider their daily needs. But, while they might need a lot of attention when it comes to their exercise and daily activity level, you will love to hear that their coat is quite easy to take care of! 

While they were primarily used as sheepdogs in the past, the Bergamasco is nowadays primarily a family companion or show dog, but many owners claim that their Bergamasco still has a strong herding instinct.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog needs a very active and attentive owner and family. In this article, we will go more into detail about their characteristics, appearance, health issues, and needs.

History of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

For the history of the Bergamasco Sheepdog we will use the information from the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America, here is what they have to say about this amazing dog. The Bergamasco Sheepdog it’s a very old, shepherding breed. This ancient breed has been around for thousands of years. Though they were 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.

According to many documents these herding dogs are from the Middle East, Persia specifically the area that is now known as Iran. Even back then they were known as is working dogs who made the lives of their nomadic masters easier by herding flocks of sheep. Because their owners were nomads and moved from place to place at some point they came to came to the Italian Alps and brought their dogs with them. That’s when this breed became known as the Bergamasco.

Herding instincts

What makes this bread unique is it unlike some other shepherding breeds which are thought to execute exact commands, these dogs learn to think for themselves, they developed herding instincts. The Bergamasco was created to problem solve on its own. Of course, they did listen to the commands of their owners, but at the same time, they learned to identify problems and find a solution. Because of this the Bergamasco sheepdog became known for its high intelligence.

According to the BSCA, the Bergamascos began to mongrelize and were on the verge of extinction after World War II, when wool output declined and there was less demand for shepherding dogs. Dr. Maria Andreoli, an Italian breeder, was vital in bringing the species back from the brink of extinction. She was able to study and monitor the genetic features of the breed as a professional scientist, and she has generated several lines of champion dogs via 40 years of careful breeding. Mrs. Andreoli and her Dell’ Alberta kennel were significantly responsible for the development of good, established dependable bloodlines, and it is thanks to her kind assistance and sharing of her knowledge and skills that the Bergamasco has been so successfully introduced and developed in the US.

All characteristics of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

Now that we’ve talked about the history of this breed we will start talking about all of their characteristics, their appearance, personality, care and grooming, health concerns, and so much more. As with any breed, it’s important to talk about all of their traits to better understand their needs and care requirements.

Before you get a dog you should do a lot of research on the breed you’re thinking of getting to be sure that the breed is for you. Sometimes you may think a dog or a certain breed would be a good choice for you but in the end, it turns out not to be the case. This happens when people get a dog without doing research and without knowing anything about that breed. Sadly this can lead to the dog being abandoned and left at a shelter. 

Appearance

Bergamasco, male Sheepdogs stand 22 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder, whereas female Bergamaschi stand 20 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder. 

Male dogs normally weigh between 70 and 85 pounds, while females range between 57 and 70 pounds. As you can see, females are smaller and lighter than males.  

The Bergamasco is a medium-sized dog with a rustic appearance that is well-proportioned and harmonious. He is a firmly compact dog. This strong breed has a powerful physique that provides him with excellent resistance without sacrificing agility or rapidity of movement. His powerful appearance is accentuated by his thick coat, which is one of the defining qualities that set him apart from other dogs.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Bergamasco is a muscular dog, a heavy-boned dog, with a large head and a thick tail that hangs down to the hawk and curves slightly upward at the end. The Bergamasco is a bit longer than he is tall. He’s had this long and proportionate to the size of his body. His skin is tight and has no wrinkles while Bergamasco’s eyes are large and oval-shaped. with long upper eyelashes which keep hair out of their eyes. 

They have strands of hair covering their eyes, but that has a specific purpose as well. The curtain of hair is to protect the Bergamascos eyes from snowblindness. The most common eye color of the dogs is brown with the darkness varying with the color of their coat. Generally speaking, they can also have blue eyes, or one brown and one blue eye, but that is not accepted by the American Kennel Club. Their muzzle is blunt and parallel to the skull while their nose is large the black.

The Bergamasco’s coat is the breed’s hallmark

We’ve already said what distinguishes this dog from other breeds is its dense coat. But, their coat is not unique looking, it is also a very efficient protection system for the dog. It keeps them warm in cold climates and helps them not to overheat in hot weather, but we will explain how in a little bit. 

Let us take a close look at the coat of Bergmasco Sheepdogs.

The Bergamasco’s coat is made up of three types of hair:

  • undercoat
  • goat hair
  • outer coat

These three types of hair mix to form flat, felt-like, loose mats that continue to develop throughout the dog’s life, eventually reaching the ground at around 5 years. The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s fur can be black, silver, fawn, merle, cream, white, and gray, and is often a mix of colors. So there is much variation when it comes to coat color.

The mats protect the dog from cold and moisture, so he can survive freezing temperatures without becoming uncomfortable. The mats also act as a thermoregulator, keeping the dogs cool in the summer heat and protecting them from sunburn. Furthermore, the coat protected them from wolf attacks and, in modern times, can protect them from bites from other dogs. It also protects them from insect bites and acts as a barrier for tics to enter the skin. 

Usually, the matting is a very big problem in dogs, it’s uncomfortable for the dog and can even be painful. But that’s not the case with this breed. Because the matting does not extend down to the skin, it does not pull at the dog’s skin. In addition, air can circulate down to the skin between the mats, allowing the skin to breathe.

Grooming

Contrary to what many people believe, the coat of the Bergamasco Sheepdog is not difficult to care for at all and requires little maintenance. It requires less maintenance than dogs that need to be brushed every day. For the first year, there is a puppy coat that is silky and resembles an English Sheepdog. As the dog approaches its first birthday, coarser “goat” hair and fuzzy “wool” emerge. That’s when the owner needs to “rip” the coat into mats.

This process can take a few hours, or at most a few evenings, but once completed, it is permanent. A weekly checkup to ensure that the mats have not grown back together is all that is required for the following six months. After then, the mats divide and create flat layers. Those mats and layers grow dense enough that very few things become entangled in them. Even after rolling in leaves and pine needles, a mature Bergamasco may simply shake its coat and nothing remains trapped in its coat. 

Bathing is only necessary a couple times each year. It takes longer for the coat to dry as it grows longer, but a crate surrounded by fans is a great option to dry them! A plus point is that this dog loves wind, so they will enjoy the process of drying.

We know that it sounds scary to let your dog‘s coat mat up. But, the matted coat is an essential component and unique characteristic of the Bergamasco. The formation of the mats takes years. It also takes patience from the owner’s side, but most people find the coats to be incredibly easy to care for after the mats have formed. There is no need to brush them and the Bergamasco also does not shed either. They have a one-of-a-kind coat!

Personality

Many people appreciate the Bergamasco Sheepdog, not just for their trademark matted coats, but also for their quiet, patient, and often intuitive personalities. Bergamaschi were valuable companions in the Alps since they obeyed their people but yet knew when to act independently. 

The Bergamasco is an intelligent dog the intelligence of the dog has been refined for natural selection. With this breed, you are getting a watchful guard with a powerful protective instinct. It is inherently stubborn and will stick with a task until it is completed. The Bergamasco is a fairly intelligent animal, brave but not unjustifiably hostile. Bergamasco’s calm, quiet, and eager-to-please personality makes him a terrific companion, but he needs a lot of space.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog flourishes as a herding dog in a setting with plenty of space to run around. That is why they will fit in best in a home with a yard. But, because they don’t have as much energy as other herding dogs, they’ll do well in an apartment too. Of course, with the right amount of exercise and stimulation. Bergamaschi Sheepdogs now lead more civilized lives. Their intelligence, along with their herding instincts, make them excellent friends for children. The personality of the Bergamasco Sheepdog makes it a great therapy dog for both children and adults. 

Even though the Bergamasco Sheepdog is anxious to please its owner, they have a bit of a rebellious bent. They prefer to do things their way. Unwanted behaviors can be reduced through consistent and firm teaching. Despite their extroverted personalities, Bergamaschi can be wary of new people or strangers. They aren’t aggressive, but it’s important to socialize your Bergamascho Sheepdog early on to avoid undesired guarding or territorial instincts.

Socialization and price

Because of their independence, training the Bergamasco might be a bit difficult. They will desire to please you but also regards themselves as equal rather than subordinate. This means that patience and reward-based training are the best options. The Bergamasco will respond more positively if you make them realize what is expected of them, let them figure it out.

When it comes to training because this is a very intelligent breed you shouldn’t have any problems. They might even figure out things on their own, but you need to know how to train them. As with any other breed, early socialization is a must. Let your dog meet as many people and dogs as possible for them to grow into a well-balanced, well-behaved dog. To socialize them you can take them on walks in the dog park and on strolls around the neighborhood. You can also enroll your dog in puppy kindergarten or hire a professional to train and socialize them.

Lastly, you should know that there are just a few Bergamasco breeders in the United States. So, getting a puppy may be difficult and quite expensive. An estimated amount you will have to pay for a puppy may range from $2000 to $3500. That is if you are buying from a reputable breeder.

Health and life expectancy

The robustly healthy Bergamasco doesn‘t have many health problems. The breed is generally very healthy and you shouldn’t have any problems with keeping up with their health. There isn’t much data showing that they suffer from many illnesses.

Many people believe that the reason why the Bergamasco Sheepdog is still a robust and healthy breed is that they haven’t been overbred. Which does make sense.

Nonetheless, Bergamaschi may be predisposed to several health issues such as: 

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Bloat (quite rare, but possible)

The frequency and amount of food you feed your Bergamasco will vary depending on the age, activity level, and size. Find high-quality dry dog food and follow the recommendations on the back of the food bag to determine the amount of food they require. You should also visit your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or health. 

The Bergamasco is a generally lively dog who requires moderate activity. A house with a yard for your dog to run around in would be ideal, but an apartment should suffice as long as you provide your dog with adequate exercise and playing. 

Their life expectancy is between 13 and 15 years, which is quite long given that this is a larger breed.

Final thoughts

The Bergamasco sheepdog is an amazing dog for everyone. Especially a great choice for active families and families who will have enough time on their hands for their dog. While these dogs don’t require much grooming they still require quite a lot of exercise. They are used to running after sheep so they have a fair amount of energy.

If you don’t want your dog to get bored you will need to find a way to get rid of the excess energy. We always like to say that a happy dog is a tired dog. If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise every day it will turn into destructive behavior and might destroy things in your home. For example, you might find your shoes chewed up or even your furniture.

As you could have read desperate doesn’t have many common health problems, but you still need to make sure that your dog is as healthy as possible. This means feeding them a well-balanced diet, enough exercise, and regular checkups at the vet.

Little known facts about the Bergamasco Sheepdog

Hypoallergenic dogs that won’t cause allergic reactions in most people. 

The Bergamasco’s hair resembles wool more than typical dog hair. As a result, the Bergamasco is ideal for persons who are sensitive to dog dander and fur. But, a little heads-up, they are not a good choice for those who are allergic to wool and lanolin. 

They can live in both cold and hot temperatures. 

The Bergamasco’s distinctive coat can keep them warm in cold weather and aid to regulate their body temperature in hot times. That is if you don’t shave their fur, in that case, they won’t have any protection.

The Bergamasco is an excellent watchdog. 

Generally speaking, the Bergamasco is a calm dog, but they do make good watchdogs. They will alert you about any intruder and will become hostile if they have no other choice. Bergamascos are committed to their families and keep a close eye on everyone.