The Bergamasco Sheepdog, otherwise known as the Bergamasco Shepherd, is a breed of herding dog that originated in the Italian Alps within the region of Bergamo, Italy. As it is a herding dog, the Bergamasco Sheepdog was originally utilized by farmers for herding sheep, although the breed has developed thick and shaggy fur that allows them to also fight back against predators who may attack the farm. Because of its thick fur that often mats over time, the Bergamasco Sheepdog is considered “the shaggiest dog in the world.” To know more about this unique breed, let us take at the origins, the characteristics, and the proper care for the Bergamasco Sheepdog.
Origins of the Bergamasco Sheepdog
Many dog breed historians believe that the Bergamasco Sheepdog came from an unknown breed of herding dog that was distributed in Europe. The breed then changed appearance in every region in order to adapt to the region’s temperature and climate. The herding dog developed into other breeds, such as the German Shepherd, the Cane Paratore, the Berger Picard, and the Bergamasco Shepherd.
The Bergamasco Shepherd developed its shaggy fur to combat the harsh weather conditions in the Italian Alps, which is known for its constant snowing and freezing temperatures. Furthermore, the breed’s name is actually derived from its city of origin, Bergamo, where a portion of the Italian Alps called the Bergamasque Alps is located.
The breed became popular for farmers, as it is able to live long in the cold weather while also being able to fight predators that are usually attacking or preying on sheep. Most Bergamasco Sheepdogs were killed during World War II because, for soldiers to get into the farms that located directly in their route, the dogs had to be neutralized since they are very protective towards their owner’s property. Because of the war, the Bergamasco Sheepdog breed became almost extinct. Fortunately, there were many dog breeders who sought to revive the Bergamasco Sheepdog breed stock, and through them, the breed was able to become prominent again in the Italian Alps.
Characteristics of the Bergamasco Sheepdog
Height: 22-23.5 inches
Weight: 57-84 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years
Beneath the Bergamasco Sheepdog’s thick fur is a muscular body that is also heavy-boned. The breed has a relatively large head and a thick tail, which curves upwards. Its shaggy fur can often form mats over time, and it would eventually look like patches of soft armor. There are three types of hair that the Bergamasco Sheepdog grow, and all of them would form natural flocks, which are strands of fur that naturally weaves together to form a thick form of fur.
Besides their body, their eyes are covered in thick fur as well, although it has long eyelashes that prevent the fur from getting too close to the eye. The thick fur around the eyes is a natural protection against snowblindness. The color of the Bergamasco Sheepdog can be black or different shades of gray. The breed would sometimes also have a fawn color on its fur, but it is not as abundant as the gray or the black. Even though their fur is thick, they don’t shed frequently, which makes them great companion dogs for people with nasal allergies.
Bergamasco Sheepdogs are often known for their intelligence, although they are sometimes hard to train since they heavily rely on the animal instincts that they got while fighting predators. Most farmers in the Italian Alps would even say that they are more reliable for protecting sheep rather than herding them since they are difficult to train. The breed is generally unfriendly towards strangers too, but it can grow to be sociable if it gets used to seeing strangers almost every day. Because they are protective of their owners, they are perfect guard dogs for homes.
Caring for the Bergamasco Sheepdog
Because the Bergamasco Sheepdog has such thick fur, many dog lovers would probably have a hard time brushing its coat. For most dogs, fur that forms mats or flocks is considered unhealthy, but for the Bergamasco Sheepdog, the flocks and mats are perfectly natural. Even though it has a shaggy coat that looks like it can withstand grime and dirt, it is still recommended to brush its fur at least once a month so that it will stay clean and healthy.
As mentioned previously, Bergamasco Sheepdogs are usually aggressive towards strangers, so they would have to be trained at a young age to be sociable so that they wouldn’t cause problems with your visitors. In addition, because it is strong and muscular, the breed is not suitable for children who are looking for pets to play with. The Bergamasco Sheepdog is more suitable for adults who are looking for guard dogs who will protect them against home invaders or thieves.