1. Key Characteristics
- AKC Group: Herding
- Height: 22 inches for females; 23.5 inches for males
- Weight: 57–71 pounds for females; 70–84 pounds for males
- Life Expectancy: Around 15 years
The bergamasco is a fit, athletic, medium-sized sheepdog with a social personality, powerful build and unique coat, the colors of which include gray, silver and coal.
2. Where They Came From
The breed’s origin dates back thousands of years in Persia, the area now known as Iran, and other areas where the nomads migrated. The breed’s ancestors herded sheep and goats in the Zagros Mountains until the nomads moved to the Italian Alps. The Bergamasco’s job was to protect the flock, developing abilities to identify problems with the herd and handle them as needed.
The breed almost went extinct after World War II because of a decrease in demand for wool. Italian breeder and scientist Dr. Maria Andreoli preserved the breed through a careful breeding program spanning more than 40 years.
The American Kennel Club changed the breed’s classification from Miscellaneous to the Herding Group on January 1, 2015.
3. How Friendly Are They?
This intelligent, independent thinker is brave but peaceful, observant and aware of nearby movements. Excellent watchdogs, Bergamascos will warn when people approach the home but won’t be aggressive unless they perceive a threat.
Bergamascos are wonderful with children and will seek them out, play with them and be protective of them. They are also excellent therapy dogs for disabled children.
They are fine with submissive dogs, but dogs who will challenge them will be seen as a threat. Cats are usually accepted household members, but Bergamascos do best with them when raised together as a puppy.
The breed doesn’t respond well to harsh discipline and needs a firm, consistent and authoritative person.
4. Is This the Right Dog for You?
MEDIUM: Bergamascos need daily walks; they enjoy the outdoors and playing with children.
The breed is best suited for colder climates because of the dense coat and would do better in a home with a large yard than in an apartment.
MEDIUM: The coat changes over time, forming mats as the dog’s 1-year birthday approaches; you may need to “rip” the coat into mats or cords. The hair continues to grow throughout the dog’s life, with the mats or cords reaching the ground by around age 5 or 6.
The undercoat is dense and waterproof. The skin is kept clean and odor free by the oils it produces. The coat forms giant mats, exposing the skin, if it is shaved or clipped, and the skin can develop infections, rashes and hot spots. The cords can be trimmed if a shorter coat is desired, but once they form they should not be shaved or brushed.
Because the coat does not shed or smell, the breed is great for allergy sufferers. Occasional bathing — 1–3 times per year — is needed unless the coat becomes especially dirty.
LOW: Bergamascos are very healthy, with no specific health disorders or disease associated with the breed. Quality dog food, annual veterinarian visits and immunizations are important to provide a foundation for good health.
Watch these friendly Bergamascos as they meet and greet their adoring public:
5. Where to Adopt One?
Check shelters and rescues first when looking for a Bergamasco, since purebred dogs end up in these places every day. You can tart with our adoptable dog search.