One of the best shepherd dogs is the Bergamasco Shepherd. This dog is not fussy, not too energetic, but at the same time he is able to skillfully manage a large flock of sheep, the number of which exceeds a hundred.
A distinctive feature of the breed is their unique wool, consisting of tightly woven cords resembling dreadlocks.
Bergamasco is not only a born shepherd, but also a faithful companion, protector of the owner. This dog is often used as a guard for private property and public facilities. The desire to serve man is inherent in the Bergamo shepherd dogs at the genetic level.
The distant ancestors of the modern Bergamasco shepherd lived in the Alps several millennia ago. There is a version that these dogs were brought into the indicated territory by itinerant merchants. The name of the breed is the Tibetan mastiff.
After some time, offspring appeared from crossing local dogs with imported mastiffs. Puppies were distinguished by endurance, rather big sizes, intelligence and working capacity. In the shepherd’s and security service they had no equal.
Based on this new species, the Bergamasco shepherd is bred. The center of the formation of the breed was Italy (Tuscany). At that time, in the northern part of Italy, cattle breeding was developed at the highest level.
The holdings of local farmers included large flocks of sheep, which were grazed by shepherds with the help of shepherd dogs.
Especially distinguished in terms of cattle breeding, the province of Bergamo. It is believed that it was here that the Bergamasco breed originated in the form in which we observe it now.
In honor of this province, the name of the new shepherd dogs appeared – the Bergamasco shepherd. Bergamo had the largest number of them, compared with other areas of the country.
In the modern world, the Bergamasco shepherd is used in its homeland for the most part as shepherds. In other countries, and in Italy too, these amazing animals are popular as companions, as pets, lifeguards and security guards.
Characteristics of the Bergamasco Shepherd
The Bergamasco Shepherd is a medium sized dog. The body is proportional, square in shape. Large visibility is created due to the coat.
The growth of adults is 56-62 cm, weight is about 26-38 kg.
A large head with a voluminous skull rests on a short, wide neck. Neither the neck nor the head should have skin folds. Ears are hanging, triangular in shape with rounded tips. The wool on the ears also curls into bundles.
The muzzle is not long, it has the shape of a blunt cone. Due to the hanging strands of hair, the eyes are almost invisible. They are quite large, oval in shape. The color depends on the color of the coat, preferably dark. The look is studying, friendly.
A black large rectangular nose. The jaws are powerful, well developed. The lips are tight. The teeth are large, scissor bite.
Croup is wide, with a slight slope. The body of the Bergamasco Shepherd in the lumbar region is slightly convex. The back is straight. The chest is deep, wide, convex. The bottom line is smooth. The abdomen should not be too tight or sagging.
The tail is medium length, saber-shaped. In an excited state, Bergamasco Shepherd lifts him to the top, but not above the line of the back.
All parts of the body with well-developed muscles, especially the limbs. The legs of the Bergamasco Shepherd are quite long, straight, parallel. Paws are hare, paw pads and black claws.
Coat is a distinctive feature of the Bergamasco Shepherd breed. It consists of long cords, the thickness of which can reach 2 cm. Its structure is similar to the structure of goat hair.
Bergamasco Shepherd hair is so thick that the skin is completely invisible. It is quite long, bound in tight cords. But reaches the maximum length when the shepherd is 5-6 years old.
Puppies and young dogs of this breed have a hair coat like bobtail. Then, as they grow older, mats are formed, the wool is the following layers:
- Undercoat – soft and oily to the touch, thick, has moisture repellent properties.
- The upper shirt – the hair is curly, shaggy, thinner than the last coat.
- Goat hair – rough, straight, long to the touch.
Together, the layers of wool listed above roll into dreadlocks, which serve as a protection against cold, natural rainfall, and also from the fangs of wild animals that shepherds have to deal with during herding.
The color of the Bergamasco Shepherd is gray. All kinds of shades are allowed, from almost white to black. There may also be not too large white marks on the main color.
Bergamasco Shepherd coat
The coat of the Bergamasco Shepherd is undoubtedly one of its most striking and attractive features. It is very long and comes in the form of tufts or cords, and has the distinction of changing texture depending on the part of the body. The softest hairs of the Bergamasco Shepherd appear on its head, in tufts that fall to cover the eyes. In the rest of the body, the texture is rough and hard, fulfilling the function of protecting the animal in its origins as a shepherd.
As for the color, the most common is that it appears in a gray tint, although it can be mixed with black or white spots, or even various shades of gray distributed throughout the body. Black specimens or white spots are also accepted as long as they do not exceed one fifth of the total coat of the animal.
Character and temperament of the Bergamasco Shepherd
The Bergamasco Shepherd is an always alert dog. In addition, he shows great intelligence and a lot of patience with other individuals, whether human or from the animal kingdom. One of its biggest advantages is that it is generally a very stable and balanced animal, in addition to being very easy to focus on the activity it does. All these qualities were perfect when it had to fulfill the function of driving or taking care of the herd, but these dogs are also very appreciated by the families which currently have them as pets.
It is rare to meet an aggressive Bergamasco Shepherd because of the silent genetics he shows, although he can be a good caretaker of a house because of his ability to be attentive to everything that goes on around him. This capacity is reinforced because he is wary of strangers, but he almost never bites in the presence of a strange presence, unless he sees his physical integrity or that of his family in danger.
It is an animal that needs good socialization and education as a puppy, and do it well, it will be very friendly with other dogs or pets, as well as with people and small children. The Bergamasco Shepherd can be a good companion for children’s adventures, provided they are not too small to injure themselves.
The Bergamasco Shepherd was raised in his origins for the rural world, although he knew how to adapt perfectly to urban life. This dog can live without problem in an apartment of rather reduced dimensions, as long as it is offered the possibility of carrying out all the exercises necessary to remain in perfect state of health.
Another key to this breed is that it adapts its temperament to the situation. Thus, he will be attentive, determined, courageous and resistant in work situations, but also affectionate, fun and patient when he is with the family.
The roots of the breed as a guardian are always present: he is careful and alert by nature and has a strong protective instinct. Early socialization is therefore essential.
It is not a suitable breed for owners who have never had a dog.
On average, a Bergamasco shepherd can live 12-15 years. Nature endowed the breed with good health. Surprisingly, these shepherd dogs do not suffer from hereditary diseases.
Rare cases are known when Bergamasco shows dysplasia of the elbow joints and hips. Dysplasia brings severe pain, the animal cannot move freely, is lame and, in the end, may lose its ability to move.
It is important to vaccinate on time to prevent viral diseases. Deworming and treatment with preparations for skin parasites is necessary.
Once a year, for the purpose of prevention, it is worth visiting a veterinary clinic with a Bergamasco, taking tests, and having an examination with a dentist.
Due to the thickness of the coat and dense long cords, diaper rash and skin diseases can occur on the skin. Such health problems occur in most cases due to improper care.
In the apartment, the Bergamasco shepherd does not feel comfortable. Dogs with a shepherd instinct need free space and fresh air. Therefore, the ideal option for good caring is a house with a personal plot.
If a Bergamasco lives in an aviary, it should be spacious with a large booth. The enclosure itself should not be installed in a draft or in the sun. If the yard is securely fenced, then the dog can freely walk around the site, laying down to rest in a booth. He is a homebody and will never leave the territory that he must guard.
If you decide to keep a Bergamasco shepherd in your house or apartment, be sure to walk it daily. The pet should be able to splash out the accumulated energy.
A bored Bergamasco, locked up for a long time in a confined space, can send an excess of energy to the destruction of the home. Can get sick, get depressed.
During the walk, the shepherd calmly behaves without a muzzle and even without a leash. This dog is so devoted to the owner that it will not leave him a single step. To strangers it won’t show aggression.
Bergamasco’s reaction to strangers is indifference or friendliness, provided that they are not dangerous.
Among all the conditions for proper care of a Bergamasco shepherd, the most important and time-consuming is the care of its unique coat. Of course, in addition to this, other procedures are required, as described in the list below:
- In different parts of the body of the Bergamasco, the coat is not the same. Therefore, it is necessary to care for each separately taken area, taking into account the quality and length of the coat. Dreadlocks do not need to be combed; they are carefully tidied up manually. Two to three times a week comb out the hair on the neck. It is recommended to entrust the care of the coat of exhibition dogs to experienced professionals.
- Bergamasco haircut is not needed, because of this the unique look of the dog is lost. It takes about 5 years for the tows to fully recover after being sheared. Only owners of working shepherds who are used as shepherds regularly trim their pets so that it is easier to move and tolerate the summer heat. Regardless of the use of the Bergamasco shepherd, it regularly needs to cut the hair around the genitals and anus, and also remove the hair between the paw pads.
- Bergamasco should be washed only in case of emergency. Water treatments are recommended as a shower. The fact is that thick tows dry for a very long time. As a result, skin moistening and irritation may appear under wet hair.
- In order for the wool on the muzzle not to acquire an ugly brown hue and not to give off an unpleasant odor, it is necessary to wipe the muzzle with a damp towel and a napkin after each feeding, removing the remaining food.
- If the claws do not grind naturally during walks, we cut them with a clipper.
- Eyes and ears are regularly examined for the presence of inflammation, excessive accumulations of secretions and injuries. Having discovered such phenomena, we urgently show the shepherd to the veterinarian.
Bergamasco nutrition is balanced. Buy dry, canned or natural food only in the highest class, of high quality and in no case with an expired date of use.
Large breed dogs, in addition to having a great appetite, need a different nutritional balance, including minerals and vitamins, than smaller dogs.
Some large breeds, such as the Bergamasco Shepherd, are prone to stomach bloating and other stomach problems; smaller and more frequent meals could minimize the risks.
If you get a Bergamasco Shepherd puppy from a breeder, he will give you a feeding schedule for your new pet and it is important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food to avoid upset belly.
We feed puppies 3-6 times a day, depending on age. Adults need two meals a day. During estrus, a female, as a rule, loses her appetite, it happens that she refuses to eat at all.
During this period, it is recommended to transfer the dog to a single meal and reduce the daily allowance.
In the diet of the Bergamasco shepherd there should be 30% or more protein (low-fat meats, offal, sea fish). Carbohydrates in the form of vegetables and cereals are also important.
It is forbidden to feed: smoked meats, sweets, fatty meat, potatoes, and legumes.
Due to the fact that Bergamasco is not active and often leads a sedentary lifestyle, it can quickly gain excess weight, eventually suffering from obesity. It is important that the owner controls the calorie content of the products and the diet of the shepherd.
It takes about an hour of exercise a day, although this dog breed so full of energy has a lot of resistance and will gladly accept more exercise time if you can offer it. Remove any dirt from the fur when they come home.
Training and education
The Bergamasco Shepherd is naturally endowed with a sharp mind, quick wit and excellent memory.
Such a dog is able to quickly memorize commands, it perfectly understands what the owner requires of her, but sometimes, not following the commands, it is simply lazy or stubborn.
You can overcome laziness and stubbornness if you start raising and training from puppyhood. It is easier to find a contact with a small Bergamasco Shepherd puppy and earn his trust. Also, a young dog needs to be taught that the owner’s word is law.
For training lessons to be successful, try to motivate the Bergamasco Shepherd. Often, having learned the lesson, the dog refuses to re-execute the command. This is not at all due to the incomprehensibility of the pet, it simply does not want to do the same thing a second time without encouragement.
If you find an approach to the Bergamasco shepherd, properly conduct training and education, it will turn into an obedient dog that understands perfectly.
Bergamasco Shepherd Dog Breed Highlights
- The Bergamasco Shepherd makes a wonderful pet.
- It is very good with children.
- This dog is very smart and in good hands, easy to train.
- It is a dog breed with a low coat.
- The Bergamasco Shepherd is a very good guard dog.
- The Bergamasco Shepherd is very suspicious of people it does not know.
- It can be booked around dogs it does not know.
- It requires a lot of maintenance on the grooming front.
- This dog is not the best choice for new owners.
- It is a dog that suffers from separation anxiety when left alone.
- The Bergamasco Shepherd has a strong sense of prey.
Bergamasco shepherd Fun Facts
Owners of flocks who have Bergamasco shepherd dogs claim that these dogs are able to distinguish other people’s sheep from their own, as each of its wards is known by smell.
In a battle with a wolf, Bergamasco wins due to his “carapace” consisting of dreadlocks. The fangs of a predator cannot penetrate such a reliable defense.
The coat of the Bergamasco shepherd resembles the hair of a bullet and a Komondor. Only in Bergamasco, the cords are flat and wide, are in the form of a fan, and the Hungarian Komondor and bullets have wool twisted into thin threads.