The Bergamasco Shepherd is a densely-coated, medium-sized, heavily-boned, muscular, and strong dog that serves as a loving and protecting companion for any dog owner. This shepherd breed is known for being lovable, calm-tempered, patient, protective, determined, and vigilant. Read on to learn all about the Bergamasco Shepherd and find out what it’s like to own one.
Dating back thousands of years, the Bergamasco is an ancient shepherd breed that originates from Italy. This medium-sized pup was first used in Persia to help gather and direct sheep through the country’s rough mountainous environment.
The Bergamasco breed rose to popularity in the mid-1800s but went through near-extinction after World War 2 when there was a severe drop in wool production demand. After nearly becoming extinct, the Bergamasco breed was targeted for population growth and preservation by Dr. Maria Andreoli (a geneticist).
The average weight of a Bergamasco Shepherd is 57 to 71 pounds for an adult female and 70 to 84 pounds for an adult male. The typical height for this dog breed is 22 to 24 inches. The fur coating is highly distinguishable as it is long, dense, rough, harsh, and matted. This breed is considered non-shedding which is a relief as many shepherds are heavy shedders. The Bergamasco only needs an occasional bath and brushing.
Bergamasco Sheepdog Colors
The American Kennel Club only recognizes two color classes for this breed: black and gray. Many Bergamasco sheepdogs are silver or coal in color as well. The majority of Bergamasco pups feature solid or merle gray fur. Sometimes the flocks of fur will have a light yellowish tan or pale gray-yellow undertone.
Unique Fur Coat
The fur coat of a Bergamasco is truly one-of-a-kind. This dog breed has three kinds of fur (referred to as “dog”, “goat”, and “wool”) which are matted together. The flocks and mats on the Bergamasco are existent throughout the body—including the legs. It is a long-haired dog breed with head fur falling past the eyes as far as the chin. The topcoat is very heavy and protects from the cold—making it an effective sheepdog breed for the cold climate in Italy’s alps.
The Bergamasco is indeed a non-shedding dog and generally low maintenance. However, the three types of fur grow in at different times and need to be managed as the layers develop. At 1-year-old, the Bergamasco will have its goat and wool fur layers. You will need to spend the time to tear the fur into mats (which can take many hours). This process is a one-off task and will not ever need to be done again.
Behavior with Others
The Bergamasco Shepherd is a patient breed that is apparent in the dog’s behavior. This fact is apparent as these dogs are used for therapy purposes with handicapped children. This breed is child-friendly and serves as a protective home pet. They are known to be highly tolerant of and loyal to kids. Overall, they are loving watchdogs that make for a perfect family pet.
With strangers, the Bergamasco is an alert watchdog that does well to notify its owners when there is an unfamiliar person around. They are wary of strangers in the home especially and feel more at ease with a normal daily routine. They decide what they think about each person individually based on the vibes they get from them.
A Bergamasco pup might make it known when a stranger or intruder comes around but they will not normally get aggressive. They are more dominant with dogs they have not been around before.
This breed can coexist fine with other pets at home. The best-case scenario is that your Bergamasco will grow up alongside any other dogs in your home. Their guarding traits might come out with other dogs around, especially if they tend to play rougher with the humans in the house. It is only when other dogs come across as a threat that they will get more standoffish.
This particular shepherd breed is very alert and intelligent. They respect their owners but treat them as close friends and family. They do not view their owners as masters and are not submissive which makes them a bit hard to train. They are known to be self-learners thanks to their long history as watchdogs.
Their intelligence is very impressive. Historically, their responsibility was to group up hundreds of sheep and direct them as needed without any human interference. They learned to do well with handling problems as they came up. This trait has become instinctive by nature for the Bergamasco breed which can be seen in their modern-day behavior.
The Bergamasco breed loves human interaction and grows a friendly bond with their owners. These pups love mental and physical stimulation games. They like to play and serve as a companion for those around them. However, they are not wild or hyper by any means—balanced is a great way to describe their personality.
Training can be difficult because of the dog’s dominant nature. However, with the right display of authority, this will not be an issue. These dogs respond best to an owner that speaks calmly but firmly at all times. Respect must be commanded but, once that’s taken care of, they will respond well to your expectations.
The Bergamasco breed does well in its native land (Italy) and countries with similar types of climate—they like it a bit colder because of their thick fur coating. They are active and medium-sized—with a history of being outside in very open space—making them not a good option for apartment-based living. The best scenario for this breed is either living on farmland or in a house with some backyard space. A fenced-in outdoor space is best even though they are not runners and are loyal to their owners.
To this day, many Bergamasco pups serve as active farm dogs. Their need for exercise must be considered when deciding whether it’s the right dog for you. The very minimum amount of exercise that is recommended for this breed is one long daily walk.
Common Health Problems
Bergamasco sheepdogs are not seen as an unhealthy breed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) refers to this breed as “robustly healthy”. However, the only health survey that exists contains just 10 living dogs. This breed worked for many years solely for herding sheep in rough and cold terrain. As such, the genetics are strong and this dog breed is known to withstand harsh conditions.
The thick fur coat of the Bergamasco makes it a dog that can withstand cold conditions. Their coat also handles okay in the heat but cannot handle high heat conditions well. This type of dog is more likely to overheat and die than most other breeds.
The healthiness of the Bergamasco shows as the dog ages into its teen years. They remain active right up until their last years of life. Their wide stance, heavy-boned, and muscular structure make them less vulnerable to physically-limiting health issues.
The Cost of Treatment
The Bergamasco is a dog that is not at risk of many hereditary health issues. However, the lack of conclusive surveys for this breed makes it difficult to be certain. It’s entirely possible that serious health problems could occur at some point in your dog’s life. It is highly recommended that you invest in pet health insurance if you own a rarer breed.
Cataracts can cost an average of $2,000 to $3,000 to remove. Gastric torsion can cost $2,500 to $5,000 to fix depending on when it’s detected. Hip dysplasia can run anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000 for the surgery.
On average, the Bergamasco Shepherd will live to be 13 to 15 years of age. The breed does not have many commonly reported causes of death. However, gastric torsion can lead to death if it is left untreated and this breed is at risk of developing this health issue. Other early death causes to watch out for include internal bleeding from trauma, respiratory illnesses, neurological disorders, toxin ingestion, and poisoning.
Investing in Pet Health Insurance
Pet insurance protects owners against expensive treatments and surgical procedures. There are many options out there when it comes to dog coverage. If you own or plan to own a Bergamasco Shepherd, seeing as it’s a rarer breed with little health stats available, it is highly recommended that you search for a comprehensive insurance plan.
To make things easier, we offer a Pet Insurance Quote Comparison Tool. Check out your options and decide which insurance provider offers coverage and pricing that works for you.
Cost of Dog Health Insurance
The average monthly premium for dog insurance depends on where you live and the breed of dog that you own. Typically, dog insurance ranges around $40 to $50 per month. This number will vary outside of this range as well—making it essential to shop around.
Go Get Your Bergamasco
The Bergamasco breed is fun, loving, intelligent, protective, and so much more. It’s the perfect dog for anyone seeking a companion—even a great choice for owners with little children and other pets. The information on this breed supports that there is nothing significant to worry about if you make it your next pet.
Now that you know the Bergamasco is a great choice of pet and companion—go find your perfect little fellow to bring into your family. Take advantage of our insurance shopping tool and keep your dog’s health costs to a minimum. This dog is meant to live healthily for a long time, but a dog is as much a part of the family as a person and preventing disaster is well worth the small monthly cost.