Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
Other names: Bergamasco, Cane da pastore Bergamasco, Knut
The forerunner of the Bergamasco breed originated in Persia (yesteryear Iran) and was brought westwards by migrating farmers and societal drift. Since its conception in the mid-1800s the breed has been used for herding and roving. The dog is extremely rare in the UK: ten years ago it was estimated that only 30 such dogs were native to the British Isles.
Key facts about the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
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Origins and history
The ancestor of the Bergamasco came from Persia. According to students of canine heritage such a dog may have existed more than seven millennia ago. It migrated westwards amid centuries of societal shifting to find its more recent home (1850s) in the Italian Alps near the town of Bergamo. Genetic ‘paw-printing’ shows that it was around this time that the first Bergamasco was born.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
Female : Between 21 and 23 in
Male : Between 23 and 24 in
Female : Between 57 and 71 lb
Male : Between 71 and 84 lb
The Bergamasco is only found of black or grey colours. The black coat tends to bronze in the sun.
Type of coat
The double coat is long and actually consists of three types of fur: the undercoat, the top coat and the goat hair.
Dark brown or chestnut.
A medium-sized dog with an abundant matted coat. The dog is stocky and sturdy; its body is almost square in appearance. The muzzle is rather flat and broad leading to a gradually sloping stop and upwards to a medium-sized and reasonably flat skull. The ears are set high and drop but are not flat against the cheek.
Good to know
The coat of the Bergamasco is self-cleaning. As a result of this, the dog should only be bathed once or twice a year. The exception to this rule would be if the dog needed to be cleaned for some reason. Cutting or over-grooming this dog’s coat can cause the dog to develop skin infections and irritations.
The Bergamasco is a well-tempered dog and forms a very close bond with its owner. The dog will consider itself the guardian of the family.
Some Bergamascos are playful but others can be a little standoffish.
The Bergamasco is not a nervous dog and does not easily scare. It is always alert and is therefore not prone to fright or nervousness.
The Bergamasco’s exceptional intelligence lends itself to excellent obedience but also gives rise to traits of manipulation and stubbornness.
Bergamascos are herding dogs. They do not have an instinct to track prey but they will enjoy herding other animals and people (sometimes with the odd nip).
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Bergamasco is wary of strangers; the dog’s want to protect the family comes to the fore when meeting unfamiliar humans. An owner’s gentle encouragement and patience is required in order to allay the dog’s fears.
This dog is in all respects independent, so much so that it is likely to try to take control of the home if it sees a chance to do so.
Behaviour of the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
The Bergamasco will tolerate solitude but only in small doses. If left alone for an unduly long time the Bergamasco becomes agitated and upset.
Easy to train / obedience
A strong-willed animal is the Bergamasco and one that is not easy to train. Being independent the Bergamasco will learn when it wants to learn and when. The Bergamasco requires a stronger-willed leader who is confident and consistent.
This dog is not known for its excessive barking.
Tendency to run away
Reinforcing the ‘recall’ command is always worthwhile with this dog. The Bergamasco is exceptionally independent and is reluctant to be controlled ‘in the field’.
The Bergamasco can be destructive if it is stressed or lonely.
Greedy / Gluttony
There are too few of these dogs in the UK to draw sensible conclusions about this dog’s eating habits. However, it can be said with a degree of confidence that most dogs lean towards obesity if not exercised enough and fed the wrong kind of food.
The alertness of the Bergamasco makes this breed a worthwhile watchdog.
A Bergamasco needs to be challenged both physically and mentally in order to stay out of trouble. It is an active, resilient, confident and manipulative dog that requires an owner’s steady hand and confident approach. This is not the ideal first dog.
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Bergamasco Shepherd Dog in a flat
The happiest Bergamascos are those that live in the countryside and are able to roam freely. This dog will not do well if confined to a flat that is empty for the greater part of the day.
Need for exercise / Sporty
The Bergamasco is an active dog that is accustomed to endless solo explorations. Failure to exercise these dogs enough will result in their behaving antisocially.
Travelling / easy to transport
Once trained, Bergamascos are exceptionally obedient and comfortable with travelling.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog and cats
The Bergamasco will tolerate a household cat but only if it is taught (and reminded about) how to behave.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog and dogs
Bergamascos interact well with other dogs.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog and children
This dog can be boisterous at times, and due to its size it is liable to knock over small children. The Bergamasco will also try to herd children and may nip at them to try to bring them into line.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog and the elderly
Because it is a dog that requires lots of grooming and exercise the Bergamasco may not be the perfect choice of dog for some of senior years.
The price of purchase for a Bergamasco Shepherd puppy is between £700 and £1,000. It will cost approximately £80 to £120 per month to keep this dog.
The Bergamasco’s coat changes in texture and quality throughout the dog’s early years; it is worthwhile to read a more comprehensive account of how to treat the dog’s coat. By the time the coat is fully-formed (when the dog reaches 3 years old) it should be left ungroomed.
The Bergamasco coat is considered to be non-shedding and ‘hypoallergenic’.
Nutrition of the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
It is always worthwhile to feed a Bergamasco a high-quality and specially formulated dog food rather than human food.
Health of the Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
Having been successfully bred for centuries the Bergamasco is generally healthy and robust. Its life expectancy is 13 to 15 years.
Strong / robust
This particular breed of sheepdog is one of the hardiest.
Due to the insulating quality of the coat, the Bergamasco will tolerate hot weather but still needs an abundant supply of fresh water during the summer months.
The double coat of the Bergamasco keeps the dog warm even when walking in the rain and snow.
Tendency to put on weight
Weight gain can be a feature of the Bergamasco. If your Bergamasco is not exercised as regularly as it should be and is fed too much human or substandard food it will become obese.