The Bergamasco Shepherd, also known as the Bergamasco Sheepdog and the Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, is a large herding dog with incredibly long eyelashes. Here is what you need to know about these shaggy pooches.
The Bergamasco traces its roots back 7,000 years to Iran and Italy, where the dogs worked alongside shepherds in isolated mountain valleys to herd large flocks of sheep. As a result, Bergamascos think and work independently of their owners, unlike other herding dogs.
The distinctive mop of hair that covers their eyes is more than just a fashion statement. It protected the Bergamasco Shepherd from snow blindness during the winter while they herded sheep, which led to the development of their exceptionally long upper eyelashes, and their long, matted coats shielded them from the elements.
The breed comes in color shades ranging from solid black to solid gray. Underneath those long mats is a large, muscular, athletic dog, with males weighing between 70 and 84 pounds and females weighing between 57 and 71 pounds.
Bergamasco Shepherds are independent herding dogs with a protective nature. Their independence and decision-making capacity was vital to early shepherds, and today these qualities allow the Bergamasco to form individual relationships with every member of its family. They are highly intelligent dogs and will challenge their owners during training, but their loyalty and infectious good nature makes the effort of training a Bergamasco worthwhile.
Despite its shaggy appearance, the Bergamasco Shepherd is surprisingly easy to maintain. Its coat is composed of three types of hair, similar to dog hair, goat hair and wool. The "goat hair" and "wool" felt into long mats that only require attention during formation around 1 year of age, and eventually grow to reach the ground by age 6. The mats don't require brushing and the breed sheds very little.
As if that wasn't convenient enough, Bergamasco Shepherds only need a bath one to three times a year, which makes this hairy sheepdog a very low-maintenance pet. (Fun fact: These dogs are known to smell like a sweater when wet.)
This active large dog breed is generally very healthy. As it is a large dog breed, keeping the Bergamasco at a healthy weight is important for joint health and to avoid hip problems and other diseases. Their ears should be checked regularly for cleanliness and infection, and regular visits to the veterinarian, combined with parasite prevention, exercise and a high-quality diet will help them get the most out of their 13 to 15-year life expectancy.
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Bergamascos require daily exercise and space to roam. These are not apartment dwellers and do best in homes with large yards for them to explore.
If you love spending time outside, enjoy working with an intelligent dog, want a low-maintenance grooming routine and have experience with herding breeds, then the Bergamasco could be the perfect dog breed for you.
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