Bergamasco Sheepdogs are friendly and intelligent, and often form powerful and loyal bonds with their owners.
Other Names: Bergamasco Shepherd Dog, Cane de Pastore Bergamasco
Country Of Origin: Italy
Dog Group: Sheepdog
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Medium
Lifespan: 13-15 years
Temperament: Alert, friendly, loyal
Suitable For the First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes
Good With Strangers: No
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
The Bergamasco Sheepdog is a unique breed that originates in Italy, where it was primarily used as a livestock herding dog.
The breed is recognized by its long coat that forms into dreadlocks. While this means shedding is minimal, Bergamasco Sheepdogs aren’t hypoallergenic.
Although still kept primarily for working purposes, the Bergamasco Sheepdog makes an excellent family pet and enjoys being around children.
The breed is loyal and attentive to the needs of its owners and makes a great companion pet.
Color: Black or merle
Height: Males – 22-23.5 inches, Females – 20-22 inches
Weight: Males – 70-84lbs, Females – 57-71lbs
Personality and Temperament:
The breed is naturally cautious, meaning they make good guard dogs, but Bergamasco Sheepdog shouldn’t be naturally aggressive, as this is considered a fault.
The breed can pick up obedience commands very quickly due to its high intelligence, but this can also make it stubborn if not appropriately treated.
Bergamascos are capable of learning a wide range of complex commands and are even known to act without verbal commands.
Any obedience training should be started as early as possible to make sure the dog knows how to behave.
The breed is good around other animals, including both dogs and other pets. However, owners should be aware that Bergamasco Sheepdogs retain a strong herding instinct, which they may try and use on other dogs.
While the breed isn’t known to be aggressive, owners should also be cautious keeping the dog around small rodents, as it might decide to play a bit too hard.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs make great family pets and enjoy being included in family activities. They’re good with children, but should be appropriately socialized before being introduced to children.
Also, it’s worth being wary of the children themselves, as the breed’s coat presents a tempting plaything to smaller children.
The breed is naturally cautious and therefore make excellent guard animals. They’re very alert to suspicious noises and people.
For this reason, Bergamasco Shepherd dogs aren’t good around strangers, but the effect of this can be minimized through proper training.
As previously mentioned, the breed isn’t naturally aggressive, so owners shouldn’t need to worry about the dog attacking strangers, as it’ll likely just bark.
Because they were bred as herding dogs, Bergamasco Sheepdogs need plenty of exercises. At least one hour-long walk every day should be the minimum, but the dog will take as much walking as it’s given.
Similarly, Bergamascos enjoy playing, so they should be given plenty of mental stimulation at home. A simple game of fetch is often enough, but this should be mixed up to stop the dog from getting bored.
Due to their size and exercise needs, Bergamasco Sheepdogs aren’t suitable for living in an apartment.
What’s more, the breed can bark if alarmed, which can happen quite often, and this kind of behavior isn’t ideal for apartment life.
The perfect home for a Bergamasco Sheepdog is one with plenty of lands that’s nice and secure.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs are generally an excellent choice for first time owners, providing the new owner is willing to keep up with their exercise needs.
The breed is usually easy to train, friendly, and low maintenance, which are all desirable characteristics for a first-time owner. However, new owners must ensure they’re firm with training because the breed can be cheeky at times.
Although Bergamasco Shepherd dogs have long, thick coats, they can be kept in warmer climates. They originate specifically from the Italian Alps, which is colder, but their coating helps with thermoregulation.
However, those living in particularly hot areas should be very careful about where and when they exercise the dog.
Ideally, Bergamasco Sheepdogs should be kept in colder climates as this allows owners to appreciate their unique coat truly.
The breed can be left alone for long periods, which makes them the right choice for working owners.
However, the breed is also very friendly and so may become depressed or hyperactive if not given enough attention.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs will be much better if left alone with another dog, as this will provide them with some company.
The coat of a Bergamasco Sheepdog is very easy to look after. Although their skin is long, it naturally forms into “flocks,” which are mostly dreadlocks.
While puppies, they have very normal coats but develop three different kinds of hair around the age of 1.
These are dog, goat, and wool, which denote different texture and length. The dog’s coat will reach almost to the ground by the age of 6 years.
Once these three types of hair come through, owners must rip the coat into mats.
Although this sounds painful, it’s simply the process of forming the flocks, and once it’s done, it never needs to be done again.
The breed doesn’t shed, and so doesn’t require brushing at all. This makes it an incredibly low maintenance breed.
Similarly, Bergamasco Sheepdogs shouldn’t be bathed too often, as this can ruin the flocks.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs aren’t known to be hypoallergenic, but some people with dog allergies can keep them fine.
On the other hand, people with allergies to wool and lanolin have been known to have problems.
Due to their long hair, owners should check and clean the dog’s ears at least once a week, as this will help reduce the risk of infection.
The dog will also need its nails trimmed, although not as often if it gets enough exercise, and its teeth should be cleaned several times a week to minimize the risk of tooth decay.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
There isn’t much available information for common health conditions for the Bergamasco Sheepdog, mainly because no large-scale, in-depth studies have been conducted.
However, the breed is known to suffer from common canine diseases such as dysplasia of the hip, elbow, and arthritis
Because the breed isn’t very common outside of working circles, breeders aren’t obligated to conduct health checks on puppies.
The breed is considered generally healthy though, so potential owners shouldn’t let this put them off getting one. The main thing is to ensure the dog has a proper diet and attends regular checkups at the vets to catch any problems early.
Conclusive information about the origins of the Bergamasco Sheepdog are sparse, but a recent study found that it shares genetic traits with some other European herding dogs, including French, German, and Italian dogs.
Some historians believe that the Bergamasco Shepherd dog is related to the Briard, a French breed of herding dog, but Italians insist that it was the other way around.
Either way, the Bergamasco Sheepdog as we know it was first recorded in the 19th century and comes from Bergamo in the Italian Alps.
While the breed’s coat might look nice, it was a well-designed trait for working life. Not only did it protect the dog from harsh Alpine climates, but it was also beneficial when fending off predators as it acted like body armor.
The coat is a fascinating design because it does a fantastic job of keeping the dog both warm and cold, and owners are warned against shaving it or even trimming.
Doing so can massively impact the dog’s ability to regulate its temperature. What’s more, Bergamascos that haven’t had their coat flocked look like completely different dogs.
The breed was always popular in its native country, although numbers started to drop off after WW2 for a variety of reasons, but mainly from the shift away from agriculture.
However, in recent years Bergamasco Sheepdogs have experienced a resurgence as both working and companion animals.
Bergamasco Sheepdog Facts & Figures
Did You Know?
- Bergamascos are often confused with the Komondor, which originates in Hungary, as they both have very distinctive coats. However, the Komondor’s dreadlocks look more like rope, whereas the Bergamasco’s are flat.
- Bergamasco Sheepdogs have very long upper eyelashes to help keep their long fringe out of their eyes. The fringe, in turn, is specifically to prevent the dog from getting snow blindness.
- Ancestors of the breed, and European herding dogs more generally, can be traced back around 7,000 years to present-day Iran.
- The American Kennel Club recognized the Bergamasco Shepherd dog as part of its Foundation Stock Service from 1997.
- The breed has very acute hearing and is known to warn of approaching people long before they’re seen. This is another reason why they make excellent guard dogs.
- If you are considering to get a Bergamasco puppy, visit
Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America for more details.