Bergamasco Sheepdog: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Bergamasco sheepdog standing outside


Rosmarie Wirz / Getty Images

The Bergamasco sheepdog is a medium-large herding dog breed from Italy that has a long coat that naturally forms loose mats, or flocks, for protection. Once these flocks form, the coat is very low-maintenance and barely sheds. Bergamasco sheepdogs are athletic, though they don’t require an excessive amount of exercise. But they are happiest when they have a “job” to do, such as herding livestock.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Herding

HEIGHT: 22 inches (female), 23.5 inches (male)

WEIGHT: 57 to 71 pounds (female), 70 to 84 pounds (male)

COAT: Long, corded

COAT COLOR: Black or gray, can have black patches

LIFE SPAN: 13 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, protective, companionable



Characteristics of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

Bergamasco sheepdogs tend to have a patient and protective temperament, and they are very devoted to their work. They generally are loyal and loving with their family, though they also have an independent streak to their personality.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

The exact origin of the Bergamasco sheepdog is unknown, but it has lived in and around the Italian city of Bergamo for centuries. Its ancestors were possibly Middle Eastern dog breeds that were used as barter in the region. 

These hardy dogs were well suited for the harsh terrain of the Alps as they herded and guarded livestock. Their flocked coat protected them from both the elements and injury. And their exceptionally long upper eyelashes helped to keep hair out of their eyes and prevent snow blindness. These bright dogs learned to work closely with their humans, understanding their job and being independent enough to problem-solve on their own. 

The breed’s numbers began to dwindle after World War II, but breed associations worked to keep it alive. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Bergamasco in 2015, and it still is a rare dog breed around the world today. 

Bergamasco Sheepdog Care

Bergamasco sheepdogs should receive a moderate amount of daily exercise, and they require consistent training and socialization. Plus, their unique coat is surprisingly easy to care for as long as you know how to treat it.


These dogs should receive at least an hour of exercise per day via walks, jogging, hiking, playtime, and more. They also enjoy dog sports, such as agility and herding, which can help to exercise both their bodies and their minds. However, swimming is not usually an ideal activity because the water weighs down their flocked coat and impedes movement.


The Bergamasco’s coat has three different hair types: dog (fairly soft), goat (coarser), and wool (fuzzy). The latter two don’t start to come in until the dog matures. 

When the dog reaches its first birthday, the coat must be “ripped,” a process that forms the mats, or flocks. This can take a few hours, but it’s a one-time process for the dog’s life. After that, the flocks will grow and become denser, not requiring brushing and only minimally shedding. It’s important to note that while the flocks are technically matted fur, the mats don’t go all the way to the skin to cause irritation. 

Baths are only required a few times a year, after which the flocks must be thoroughly dried with fans. Nails should be checked about every month to see whether they need a trim. And it’s ideal to brush the dog’s teeth daily.


Early training and socialization are important for this breed to prevent bad habits from forming. These dogs are very intelligent and generally respond well to positive training methods. They usually see their humans as equal partners, rather than “alphas.” And that sometimes can make them stubborn about training. But as long as you are consistent about your commands and positively reinforce good behavior, they should comply with what you are asking.

Moreover, it’s important to introduce your dog to different people, other dogs, and various locations ideally from a young age. This will help to build its comfort and confidence—and quell its protective instinct. These dogs tend to be naturally wary of strangers.

Common Health Problems

Bergamasco sheepdogs are overall a very healthy dog breed. The only hereditary health issue they can be prone to are hip and elbow problems. It’s also recommended that breeders proactively test for degenerative myelopathy to keep this spinal cord disease out of the bloodline.

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your dog. And feed a high-quality canine diet that’s nutritionally balanced. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But be sure to discuss the type of food and the amount with your vet to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Watch treats and other extra food to make sure your dog doesn’t overeat, and consistently monitor its weight.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bergamasco Sheepdog

While Bergamasco sheepdogs aren’t a common breed, it’s still worth checking animal shelters and rescue organizations for a dog in need of a home. If you’re looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $1,000 to $2,000, though this can vary widely. You might also have to wait for a puppy and travel a long distance for a breeder, depending on where you live, because there aren’t a lot of them.

For further information to help connect you with a Bergamasco sheepdog, check out:

Bergamasco Sheepdog Overview

  • Sociable and lovable companion

  • Excellent watchdog

  • Low shedder

  • Can be stubborn at times

  • Needs a one-time specialized grooming process

  • Needs proper socialization to be well-adjusted around strangers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before bringing home a Bergamasco sheepdog, make sure you’ve done plenty of research to verify that the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to breed owners, rescue organizations, reputable breeders, and vets. Try to spend some time around the dogs if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Bergamasco sheepdogs good family dogs?

    Bergamasco sheepdogs are moderately good around children. They should always be supervised around young children, and their herding instinct might cause them to nip at rowdy children.

  • Are Bergamasco sheepdogs aggressive?

    Bergamasco sheepdogs are instinctively protective. But that doesn't typically translate into aggression as long as they are properly trained and socialized.

  • Are Bergamasco sheepdogs good apartment dogs?

    Bergamasco sheepdogs might be able to live in a spacious apartment as long as they get out for enough exercise every day. They aren't typically excessive barkers, but they might be wary of strangers around the apartment.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bergamasco Sheepdog. American Kennel Club.

  2. Bergamasco Sheepdog Puppies For Sale. American Kennel Club.