The Bergamasco is a herd and guard dog famous for its extraordinary coat of loose mats and cords that are super dense. This dog breed is a native of Italy, known for its herding and guarding skills. The Bergamasco is an independent thinker and a real problem-solver, thus it must be given proper training from a young age. It is a lively and friendly dog with an instinctive desire to protect. It has a lifespan of thirteen to fifteen years.
Have you decided on a Bergamasco dog? Here is a brief background of this highly intelligent and independent dog.
The Bergamasco is a native of Italy, specifically in the Italian Alps near Bergamo. It was originally bred as a herding and guarding dog because of its exceptional intelligence and independent nature. However, the Bergamasco breed can be traced back seven thousand years in the Middle East, now believed to be somewhere between Iran and Iraq. The ancestors of the Bergamasco arrived in Italy in the middle of migratory populations, some spreading over the borders of the Alps.
This dog breed was once in danger of becoming extinct during World War II when the need for wool was driven low. Thus, shepherds and dogs found themselves unemployed. Dr Maria Andreoli, an Italian breeder, saved the breed in the early 1960s when she re-established the consistency and homogeneity to the Bergamasco Breed.
Today, the Bergamasco standard is upheld by enthusiasts in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, United States, Canada, and other countries.
Appearance and Grooming
The Bergamasco is a heavy-boned, muscular herding dog with a large head and a long, thick tail that curves slightly upwards at the end. This medium-size, sturdy-looking dog breed weighs 60–85 pounds, and stands 56 –60 centimetres at the withers. The Bergamasco has a strong underjaw, oval eyes that look calm and attentive, and triangular ears that are set high on the head and drop down over the brow. The Bergamasco is easily distinguishable because of its unique coat made up of three types of hair that form its dense, flat, and felt-like mats. Its coat covers its body and legs to protect it from the weather and predators. The coat grows every year and reaches the ground, until its fifth year when it stops growing. According to the breed standards, the Bergamasco's hair is typically coloured grey, solid black, or gradations of shade including merle. Other colours include Isabella and fawn. Some Bergamascos sport a solid white coat colour, albeit not acceptable to breed standards.
Contrary to what most people think, the Bergamasco's coat is not too difficult to maintain. Its coat is manageable once the cords have developed and formed. It will then be dense enough that few things will get caught in them. The Bergamasco will not require bathing more than one to three times a year, thanks to its coat's natural oils. Also, brushing is not required. The rest is basic grooming such as cleaning the ears, trimming the nails, and making sure there are no signs of infections, ticks, or fleas.
Temperament and Intelligence
The Bergamasco is a working dog bred to herd, guard, and protect. It is an extremely intelligent dog and is known as an independent thinker. It is also a very affectionate dog with a deep desire to please its owners. However, its desire to please must not be confused with being submissive. It is loyal and protective of its family, sociable with friends, but suspicious of strangers. The breed is also known to show dominance around unfamiliar dogs.
The Bergamasco is not ideal for first-time dog owners because it needs proper training and handling at a very young age. The Bergamasco needs to be given an extraordinary amount of physical exercise and mentally stimulating activities for it to be happy, relaxed, and to stay out of trouble. The Bergamasco is quiet and only barks to alert owners. This dog breed is patient and gentle with small children, but playtime must still be supervised to avoid accidents.
Nutrition and Feeding
A typical serving of an adult Bergamasco is three to four cups of high-quality dry dog food. You can use a variety of food products such as a diet of kibble and premium-quality canned or raw food. It is recommended that a Bergamasco be fed at least two times every day—mornings and evenings.
Here is the typical calorie needs per day of a standard Bergamasco adult weighing 60–85 pounds:
- Senior and less active: up to 1,500 calories daily
- Typical adult: up to 1,700 calories daily
- Physically active/working dog: up to 1,900 calories daily
The amount of food and frequency in feeding will largely depend on the dog's size, age, build, and activity level. The Bergamasco is a large dog with a life expectancy of thirteen to fifteen years. The best diet for this dog breed is one that is grain-free, all-natural food. Stay away from food with fillers, added sugars, artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives.
Health and Exercise
The Bergamasco is a healthy breed with almost no genetic medical disorders at all. Just to make sure that you have a healthy Bergamasco dog or puppy, contact a reputable breeder or a consult a veterinarian if you already own a Bergamasco dog.
One thing to remember is the Bergamasco does not thrive in hot climates. Cutting and shaving are out of the question since cutting the shaggy locks can cause irritation that may develop into skin infections.
Cost of Ownership
A well-bred Bergamasco puppy will cost anywhere from £700 to £1000 from a KC-registered breeder. On top of the purchase price, set aside a budget for dog supplies and equipment such as bowls, leashes, toys, collars, and beds. Food expense is £40-£50 per month for high-quality dog food with complete nutritional requirements to keep your Bergamasco healthy.
Regular health checks, vaccinations, boosters, and other basic vet procedures will cost you around £1,000 a year. This does not include special procedures to treat other medical conditions. Getting pet insurance will add £30-£80 to your monthly expenses depending on the policy coverage.
Bergamasco Breed Highlights
- The Bergamasco is friendly if adequately socialised.
- It is highly intelligent and an independent thinker.
- It was bred as a guard dog, so it is incredibly protective.
- The Bergamasco has super dense mats for its coat.
- The Bergamasco, contrary to popular belief, is a hypoallergenic dog.
- It is active and requires lots of daily physical and mental exercise.
Are you sure the Bergamasco is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.
Dog Breed Selector Quiz