Is It a Mop? Is It a Dog? Meet Italy’s Shockingly Shaggy Sheepdog, the Bergamasco

In the world of canines, the Bergamasco Sheepdog stands out—not just for its distinct appearance, but for its storied history and remarkable intelligence. Imagine owning a dog that looks like it could mop your floors, but instead, it’s outsmarting you at every turn. Welcome to the enchanting world of the Bergamasco Sheepdog.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

A Furry History Lesson

The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s story is one woven through time, dating back over 2,000 years, with origins nestled in the Italian Alps. These dogs didn’t just herd sheep; they were pivotal partners in the pastoral life, adept at navigating the treacherous terrain and protecting flocks from predators. Their unique coat wasn’t just for show; it was their armor against the elements and adversaries alike.

However, as the shadows of World War II fell over Europe, the traditional ways of shepherding began to fade, threatening the Bergamasco with extinction. The war left many aspects of rural life in disarray, and the need for such specialized herding dogs dwindled. It was within this crucible of history that the Bergamasco’s fate hung by a thread.

Enter Dr. Maria Andreoli, a visionary breeder and a savior of the breed. In the post-war era, she saw not just a dog but a legacy that deserved to be preserved. Through her efforts, the Bergamasco was not only saved from the brink of oblivion but was also introduced to the world beyond the Italian Alps.

By the late 20th century, the Bergamasco Sheepdog began to find its way into the homes and hearts of dog lovers in the United States and beyond. The AKC accepted this breed into its roster in 2015

Let’s Meet Some Bergamasco Sheepdogs

1. Penny & Joy

The Bergamasco Sheepdog
These beautiful girls live in Norway where they get to play in the snow everyday!
Source: @flyingcircusbergamasco

2. Bice

The Bergamasco Sheepdog
This girl lives in Milan Italy and is a great example of an all black Bergamasco Sheepdog

3. Gertie

A Woolly Evolution

The Bergamasco Sheepdog’s coat is a marvel of the canine world, a feature that sets it apart not just visually but functionally as well. At first glance, one might assume these dogs are born with their distinctive coats fully formed, but the truth is much more interesting.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

Bergamasco puppies are born with soft, fluffy fur that gives little indication of the drapery they will grow into. It’s only as they mature that their coats begin to evolve. Around one year of age, their puppy coats start to give way to their adult textures, comprising a mix of wool, hair, and goat-like fur. This transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but rather gradually, as the softer puppy fur begins to intertwine with the coarser adult fur to form the breed’s characteristic mats or “flocks.”

A Unique Blend of Textures

What truly sets the Bergamasco’s coat apart from other breeds, like the Puli’s well-known dreadlocks, is the nature of these flocks. While the Puli’s coat forms tight cords, the Bergamasco’s flocks are larger, flatter, and more loosely structured. This difference isn’t just cosmetic; it affects the coat’s maintenance and function. The Bergamasco’s flocks can grow quite long, sometimes reaching the ground, which provides protection against predators, the elements and debris, like pine needles, in their native Alpine regions.


Standard colors for the breed include gray, merle, black, and fawn, often with a base that may appear matted or “flocked” due to their distinctive coat texture. These colors can range from lighter to darker shades, allowing for some diversity within the breed while maintaining the characteristics that make them so recognizable.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

Low Maintenance, High Functionality

Despite its imposing appearance, the Bergamasco’s coat is surprisingly low maintenance. The flocks form naturally and require minimal intervention to maintain. Occasional brushing is recommended to remove debris and prevent matting at the skin level, but the flocks themselves should not be brushed out. This natural felting process results in a coat that is virtually waterproof and highly insulating, offering protection from both cold and heat. It’s a common misconception that such a heavy coat would be a burden in warmer climates, but the air trapped within the flocks acts as natural climate control.

If you’re considering a Bergamasco sheepdog shaved down for the summer, think again. Their coat is self-regulating, requiring only occasional brushing and no shaving.

Not Just a Pretty Face

But the Bergamasco Sheepdog is more than just its hair. Known for their ability to problem solve, these dogs were the original problem solvers in the shepherding world. Their intelligence is not just about obedience but about thinking critically, a trait that makes them both fascinating and, at times, challenging pets.

Their herding instincts mean they require daily exercise, but don’t mistake them for your average run-of-the-mill jogger’s companion. A Bergamasco would much rather engage in a complex game or take on tasks that challenge their mind and body.

Size Matters, But So Does Hair

Fully grown, a male Bergamasco Sheepdog reaches about 23 to 24 inches at the shoulder, while females are slightly more petite, standing around 21 to 23 inches.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

As for weight, these dogs are the perfect middleweight contenders, tipping the scales at a solid 70 to 85 pounds for males and 57 to 70 pounds for females. They’re hefty enough to handle a rugged mountain trek but won’t break your or couch when they decide it’s cuddle time.

A Lifetime of Companionship

When it comes to lifespan, Bergamasco Sheepdogs have a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

Is The Bergamasco Sheepdog Rare?

The Bergamasco Sheepdog was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2015. This recognition marked a significant milestone for the breed in the United States, highlighting its growing popularity and the efforts of breeders and enthusiasts to maintain its standards and promote its unique qualities.

Despite its official recognition and the enthusiasm of its dedicated community, the Bergamasco Sheepdog remains relatively rare in the United States. There are about 200 dogs on the AKC’s list and in terms of popularity this breed ranks #179.

The path to AKC recognition was paved by dedicated breeders and organizations who worked to raise awareness of the Bergamasco’s qualities and ensure the breed’s standards were maintained. One such breeder mentioned in the context of the breed’s development in the U.S. is Alp Angel Bergamascos in Connecticut, highlighting the role of dedicated breed enthusiasts in promoting the breed and contributing to its recognition.

The Bergamasco Sheepdog

Learn More About This Breed

For those looking into Bergamasco Sheepdogs, there are specific organizations dedicated to the breed. Each of these organizations is committed to the welfare of Bergamasco Sheepdogs, offering support for those looking to foster or adopt these unique animals. If you search for a “Bergamasco sheepdog for sale,” be sure to check with one of these organizations first so you ensure you are working with a reputable breeder.

  1. Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America: They occasionally find Bergamascos in need of a home, offering opportunities for both foster and permanent adoption arrangements. While they do not list specific rescue contact details publicly, they encourage interested parties to contact them for more information about fostering or adopting. More details can be found on their rescue page.
  2. National Bergamasco Sheepdog Alliance: This organization aims to foster collaboration and friendship among breeders and owners of Bergamascos and to inspire high standards of breeding, training, showing, education, and performance activities. While the site focuses on the breed’s community and standards, those interested in rescue operations or support may find valuable contacts or information through their network. You can learn more about their mission and activities on their website.
  3. Bergamasco Shepherd Association of Canada: This non-profit corporation is dedicated to preserving the integrity of this rare breed in health, conformation, working ability, and temperament while striving to maintain genetic diversity. They are committed to educating the public about the Bergamasco and promoting responsible and ethical breeding practices in Canada. Their efforts also extend towards rescue, club activities, breed education, and research. For more information on how you can support or get involved, visit their website.

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