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History of the Bergamasco

The Bergamasco Sheepdog is an ancient Italian breed, originating from the Alps in Northern Italy, in the region of Bergamo. They were used as herding dogs, mainly for cattle, and were indispensable to shepherds wandering between the mountains and the Po Valley as the seasons changed, and they searched for new pastures. 

 

Bergamascos are used to this day throughout Italy and many parts of Europe, as herding dogs, guiding and protecting herds of cattle and sheep.

Our dogs at Bergamascos of London originate from one of the first breeders in Italy of the Bergamasco named Valle Scrivia, bred by the breeder Luigi Cavalchini. Originating with his father's dogs up in the Po Valley, Cavalchini moved to Bergamo to continue the Valle Scrivia Bergamasco dogs legacy with his wife Gabriella. 

Bergamascos were first brought over to the UK in the early 1980s, and today have made their mark across the world including UK, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, USA, Canada, Australia, and even Israel. 

 

Breed Info

Bergamascos have wonderful temperaments. They have good characters, often cheeky but loving personalities, but if and when necessary can be decisive, courageous and stubborn. They are highly intelligent dogs, patient and calm, whilst remaining  playful throughout their lives. They make perfect guard and companion dogs, are fast learners, which makes them suitable for most activities. Many are used as therapy dogs around the world due to their kind nature.

There is often confusion over their unusual coats, with most people believing they must be difficult to maintain, are smelly, or always dirty - this is NOT true! To bust the myth about Bergamascos being smelly - they should be washed as and when is required. I bath my dogs every couple of months, just as I would our family Goldendoodle. Of course, if they go for a dive in muddy puddles, or go digging in the garden, they'll have an extra bath, but when the weather is dry, they tend to just shake off any sticks or leaves. They require regular brushing on the head and chest (more info on this below), and the flocks do need regular maintenance once formed. However, this doesn't require more time than any long-coat dog's weekly brushing! Their unusual coats are soft and fluffy as puppies, and really rather beautiful when fully formed.

 

The Specifics

In accordance with the largely unified standards of the European FCI, Kennel Club UK and American Kennel Club, the following summary of characteristics and specifications applies to the Bergamascos.


Full details can be found on the relative association websites (see our links page). 

Body: 

Height is measured from the top of the shoulder bone to the floor. 

Males:                                         Females: 

Height: 60 cm ± 02 cm                 Height: 56 cm ± 02 cm

Weight: 32 - 38 Kg                        Weight: 26 - 32 Kg

Head, Eyes and Ears

Though the head often seems larger proportionally to the rest of the body, this is simply due to the abundance of hair covering it! Their soft, wet and squidgy noses must be black.


The expression in a Bergamasco's eyes is sweet, serene and attentive. Large and oval, usually dark brown, varying in shade according to the coat colouring. Blue eye(s) count as defect and are disqualified. The eyelashes are usually very long to lift the hairs that fall over the eyes. 


The ears are triangular, small and short, whilst also wide and floppy. Soft and thin to the touch, hanging are covered in wavy hair. 

Illy eyes.jpeg
luna.jpeg
 
 

Colour

Bergamascos coats can be either various shadings of grey, or solid black.

The grey coats may contain grey of all different shadings from light grey to black, with patches of white, Isabella or light fawn. The black coats must be opaque. They may contain white patches as long as this does not exceed one fifth of the total surface of the coat; otherwise, this counts as a defect and results in disqualification. An entirely white colour coat is not allowed and counts as a defect, resulting in disqualification. Isabella or light fawn must also not exceed one fifth of the total surface of the coat; otherwise, this counts as a defect and results in disqualification. 

Here are some examples of varying colours or fully flocked adult Bergamascos... 

Ela di Valle Scrivia

Ela di Valle Scrivia

photo credit: Luigi Cavalchini

Sansone

Sansone

photo credit: Luigi Cavalchini

Darma di Valle Scrivia

Darma di Valle Scrivia

photo credit: Luigi Cavalchini

Coat

Coat and Grooming
The Bergamasco coat is one of the more attractive features of these beautifully flocked creates. The coat is made up of various layers: 'dog coat', 'wool' and 'goat', and goes through various stages of growth, eventually resulting in a flocked dog. This mix of coat types results in no shedding, and these dogs therefore have hypo-allergenic coats. 

Stage 1 - Puppy Coat

Soft and fluffy coat, like many long-haired dogs. The coat grows and lengthens progressively with age. 

 

Stage 2 - Middle stage, 10-12 month

More coarse and fuzzy hair come through. This is when the layers of the coat begin to establish themselves. The 'goat' and 'wool' hairs make the coat much more dense. At this stage, the coat must be separated into flocks - sounds time consuming and complex to maintain but once it's done, it's done forever! 

As can be seen by the image below, the areas where the flocks should be formed are white marked, whilst the head and chest should be brushed out, marked in red. The green markings should be cut off. An hour (at most) a week of maintenance is required until the coat is fully formed to keep the mats separated as the hair continues to grow. 

Stage 3 - Adult Coat

A fully flocked adult coat can take until approximately the age of 2.5 - 3 years old to appear full with reasonable length flocks. These will continue to grow throughout the dogs life. 

Provided information based on guidance from Luigi Cavalchini, di Valle Scrivia