Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard of the Bergamasco Sheepdog General Appearance: The Bergamasco, with origins dating back almost 2,000 years, is a true heritage breed, which developed unique characteristics without man-made aesthetics. The Bergamasco Sheepdog is a medium-sized dog of rustic appearance with an abundant coat covering all parts of the body. Strong, sound and brave, the Bergamasco is above all very intelligent, calm and even-tempered. The distinctive flocks (flat woolly strands of felted hair) that cover their bodies protect them from the elements, as well as making them appear larger, with a foreboding appearance warning most predators to stay away. Bergamascos are mountain sheepdogs that are slightly longer than tall. Their unique skeletal structure makes them well- equipped for working in rough terrain. Correct, efficient movement is essential. Owing to the steeper shoulder and pelvis angles, they have a free, low-reaching, extended elastic trot with both front and rear feet remaining close to the ground. Having no need for speed, their gait is a steady, slow trot that can be maintained for long periods without tiring. There is a fair amount of variation both with respect to size and coat. The variations discussed in detail below are not considered undesirable as they do not affect the working ability of the dog. The ideal Bergamasco at any stage in coat development is a well-balanced dog with a rustic appearance. The ideal height ranges from 21 to 25 inches. Size, Proportion, Substance: The Bergamasco is ideally suited to move and guard sheep on the alpine rocky slopes and pastures with a body slightly longer than tall. Built for strength and resistance, the Bergamasco has a lean, athletic build on sturdy (but not heavy) bones with a well- developed chest, relatively short necks with firm, limber muscles. This framework is well- muscled, without being thick or bulky. The length of body measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks is 5 to 6 percent longer than the height measured at the withers. (Height-to- length ratio approximately 10:10.5 to 11.) Measured at the withers, the ideal dog stands 23½ inches and the ideal bitch stands 22 inches. However, there is a fair amount of variation in the breed with respect to height, and taller females or shorter males are acceptable as long as they are between 21 and 25 inches tall. Males weigh between 70 and 84 pounds. Females weigh between 57 and 71 pounds. Disqualification – Height under 21 inches. Any height over 25 inches must be considered a fault. The minimum height requirement of 21 inches shall not apply to dogs or bitches under twelve months of age. Head: The head is large, roughly proportionate to the size of the dog. The skull and muzzle are of equal length, (parallel to one another) and joined at a pronounced stop. The hair on the head may either be flocked or not. In either case, the typical disheveled appearance is natural and rustic. Eyes - The eyes are large, oval, and set just slightly obliquely. Eye color is chestnut, with the darkness of the color varying from hazel to dark brown. The eye rims are tight-fitting and black pigmented; eyelashes are particularly long so that they can lift the hair falling from the forehead over the eyes. The expression is attentive and calm. Disqualifications – Any lack of pigmentation of the eye rims; one (or two) full blue eye(s). Ears - The ears are soft and thin and hang down on either side of the face. The ears are set high. At its widest point, the ear is from 2½ to 3 inches wide. Ear length does not exceed half the length of the head, and shorter is preferred. The top two-thirds of the ear is triangular, with slightly rounded tips. When the dog is alert, the ears prick up at the base, with the top two-thirds semi-drooping. Viewed from the side, the ears appear to be an extension of the curve of the back of the neck. The ears may either be
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flocked or not. Skull - The skull is slightly domed between the ears and rounded at the forehead. The skull is as wide as it is long and features a prominent occiput and a marked median furrow. Muzzle - The depth and width of the muzzle, measured at midpoint, are each half the length of the muzzle. The muzzle is blunt, tapering only slightly toward the nose. The upper longitudinal planes of the skull and the muzzle are parallel. Nose - The nose is large and black, with big, well-opened nostrils. In profile, the nose is on the same line as the top of the muzzle and does not extend beyond the forepart of the muzzle. Disqualification – Dudley nose. Lips - The lips are tight and black pigmented. Bite and Teeth: The jaw is wide with strong, evenly spaced teeth meeting in a scissors bite. The line of the incisors is straight and perpendicular to the outside lines of the jaw. A level bite is acceptable. Serious Faults – Overshot, with a space greater than one eighth of an inch. Undershot bite, such that there is a complete loss of contact by all the incisors. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck - The neck is strong, slightly arched, with well-developed muscles. Measured from the nape to the forward edge of the withers, the neck is 20 percent shorter than the length of the head. The neck circumference is at least twice the length of the neck. There is no dewlap. The hair on the neck forms a thick collar with a varying degree of flocks present. In action, the neck is carried forward with its upper profile almost a continuation of the topline, with only a slight angle at the withers. Topline - The stacked side silhouette presents a level topline to a slight rise over the loin with a slightly sloping croup falling off to a low-set tail. While moving, the topline is level. Body - Chest and Ribs: The chest is heart-shaped when felt from the front. The rib cage is well-sprung and let down to the elbow. (The depth of the rib cage is equal to half the dog's height at the withers.) Tuck-up - Tuck-up is nearly absent. Back - The back is straight. Loin - The loin is slightly convex, firmly joining the back and the croup. Croup - In the Bergamasco, the croup slopes about 35 degrees downward from the horizontal. Pelvis - The pelvis is well-developed. The length is 31 to 32 percent of the height at the withers with a fallaway of 35 to 40 degrees from horizontal. Due to the steeper inclination of the pelvis, the rear extension is lesser than other breeds who work on flat terrain where speed and stride width are more important than power. Therefore, at a trot, the Bergamasco’s drive will not be as high and long as other herding dogs. Tail - The tail is natural and undocked, thick at the base, and tapering to the tip, inserted in the lower third of the croup. When in repose, the tail hangs down to the hock and curves slightly outward. While moving the tail flags back-and-forth at a level higher than the topline, but not curling forward over the back. Forequarters : The legs are straight when viewed from the front and side and well-proportioned in relation to the size of the dog. Shoulders - The shoulders are tightly knit and strong. The shoulder blades are wide and long with a steep angulation, 55 to 60 degrees from the horizontal. The length is at least one-fourth the height at the withers. Upper Arms - The upper arms are strong and well-muscled. They are just slightly longer than the shoulder blades. The angle formed by the upper arm and shoulder blade is about 115 degrees. The ratio between the distance from withers to elbow and from elbow to the ground is 1:1. This is essential for a dog which has to move both up and downhill where extra effort is required. Elbows - Elbows are set on a plane parallel to the body. They are neither close to the body nor jutting out. The humero- radial angle (between upper-arm and forearm) ranges from 150 to 155 degrees. The hair hanging down from the elbows is profuse, long and thick, tending to flock. Forearms - The forearms are strong with lean muscle. They are roughly the same length as the upper arms (1:1) and are
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placed so that the point of the elbow is on a vertical line falling from the top of the shoulder blade. Pasterns - The pastern joint (carpus) follows the vertical line of the forearm and is very mobile. The pasterns are straight when viewed from the front, and slightly sloping when viewed from the side (about 10 degrees from vertical). Dewclaws - Dewclaws may be removed. Feet - The front feet are oval shaped, arched with tight toes, well-flocked with hair. Pads - The pads of the feet are thick and black pigmented with a tight skin. Nails - The toenails are strong and black. Hindquarters: The Legs are straight when viewed from the back and well-proportioned in relation to the size of the dog. The femur and tibia are roughly the same length. This, in combination with the 35 to 40 degree slope of the pelvis, make the dog better suited for locomotion over hilly territories. Upp er Thighs - The upper thighs are long, wide, and well- muscled, sloping downward and forward at a 95 to 100 degree angle from the pelvis. Stifles (Knees) - The Stifles are perfectly in line with the limbs, neither turned in nor out. Lower Thighs - The lower thighs are as long as the upper thighs, with lean muscles. They slope downward and back, forming an angle of about 105 to 110 degrees at the stifle joint (femur-tibia). Hocks - The length of the hock is no less than 25 percent of the height at the withers. Viewed from behind, the rear pasterns are vertical and parallel to one another. Viewed from the side, the rear pasterns are vertical and placed so that the hocks just slightly extend past a vertical line dropped from the point of buttock. The angle of the hock joint (tibio-tarsal) is about 130 to 135 degrees. Dewclaws - Dewclaws may be removed. Feet - The back feet are slightly smaller than the front ones. They are oval shaped, arched with tight toes, well-flocked with hair. Pads - The pads of the feet are thick and black pigmented with a tight skin. Nails - The toenails are strong and black. Coat: The Bergamasco is a rustic, working dog with a coat that takes years to reach maturity, and can vary considerably. As discussed in detail below, the distribution, size, texture and thickness of the flocks grow differently in each individual. A young dog’s coat goes through a number of stages in the early years. Female coats are subject to change due to hormones and raising pups. These are natural differences and therefore are not to be penalized. The make-up of the Bergamasco's coat is extremely complex. The hair is composed of three types of hair: undercoat, "goat hair," and woolly hair. The undercoat is short, dense, and of fine texture adhering to the skin forming a protective, waterproof layer. The "goat hair" is strong and rough in texture, as in goats, which stays smooth without tufting together with itself. The third type of hair is woolly hair. This type is somewhat finer in texture and grows together in tufts. The "goat hair" and the woolly hair naturally weave together over time and form the flocks, which have a tight consistency akin to boiled wool. The flocks are somewhat flat, irregular in shape, and sometimes open in a fan-shape at the tip. The distribution of the goat and woolly hair over the body is not homogeneous. Because of this, there is little uniformity in the abundance, size and width of the flocks throughout the body. For instance, from the top of head, continuing over the top of neck and top of withers and often down to the shoulder joint up to the middle of the back, “goat hair" predominates, resulting in a smoother texture and less flock formation. However, the complete absence of wool is not acceptable. On the remaining parts of the neck, shoulders and chest, the presence of the woolly hair is more prevalent; thus, has more flock formation. On the back of the body and the legs, the woolly hair is very abundant and mingles with the reduced quantity of "goat hair;" thus, an abundance of flocks form in this region. The
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hair on the legs also hangs in flocks rather than feathering. The hair on the top of head and ears may either be flocked or not. In either case, the typical disheveled appearance is natural and rustic and hangs over the eyes. The eyelashes are exceptionally long and serve to hold the hair/flocks somewhat away from the eyes. The coat is never shaven or the wool brushed out. Trimming is acceptable for hygienic reasons and the ease of movement around the feet and pads. Also, the coat may be thinned or trimmed when it becomes too thick and long hampering normal movement and compromises the dog’s welfare. However it must maintain the traditional rustic appearance of the dog. Puppies: From birth to 10 to 12 months of age, the coat is soft and short. At approximately 9 to 10 months of age, the goat hair and woolly undercoat begin to grow in. Human intervention is usually required to separate the coat into the beginnings of flocks at this point. This leads to the formation of informal bundles, then eventually to stubby formations that can give an unkempt and messy appearance at this period of the dog’s life. This is natural and unavoidable. It is only at approximately 3 years of age that the flocks will have grown long enough for the unique look for which the dog is known to begin to be achieved. The flocks continue to grow throughout the dog’s life. They may reach the ground at 5 to 6 years of age; hence young dogs must not be penalized for a coat which has not yet lengthened. Color: Only eumelanin, i.e., black melanin is present in Bergamascos. Bergamascos are born solid gray or gradations of gray (including merle) up to and including solid black. The color often changes to different shades as the dog matures. The majority of dogs born black as well as the black patches of the merle dogs will lighten into shades of grey from light to charcoal due to a “fading black” gene; a few will remain black. A superficial coloring includes shadings of tawny-brown and fawn at the lower part of flocks as a result of discoloration of old hair under the influence of sun, water and atmospheric factors in general as well as aging of the hair. The loose hairs gradually change color: the gray hairs turn yellowish while the black ones take on a tawny hue. The overall look of these may be more reddish brown from a distance. The flocks must be examined at the roots, close to the skin, here the coat must be either black or gray. Solid white is not allowed but white markings are acceptable if they cover no more than one-fifth of the body. Disqualification – White coat color on more than one-fifth of the total area of the body. Gait: Bergamascos had to adapt to various ways of moving the sheep, sometimes covering long distances every day to get to the grazing grounds, while at other times they would only cover short distances within specific areas. The gait must have steady and elastic movement with resistance for efficiency and power. Due to its unique angulations of the fore and hind quarters and compact build, the Bergamasco’s gait is focused on resistance, strength and low center of gravity, with both fore and hind feet closer to the ground. The forward and backward reach, while extended are less than flatland herding breeds. The proportions and angles of the fore and hind quarters provide the needed for strength and resilience in hilly terrain. Their natural gait is slower paced than other herding dogs. The natural and preferred gait for the Bergamasco to achieve a calm and balance movement while preserving energy in a mountainous terrain is a free, extended, elastic, slow trot with both front and rear feet remaining close to the ground. The pasterns are supple and flex freely at a 90- degree angle. The head is carried forward with the neck forming a slight angle at the withers.
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The topline is level, and the tail flags back and forth at a level higher than the topline, but not curling forward over the back. Temperament: The Bergamasco is a drover and a guardian. The primary functions are to move and guard herds and livestock. Tasks for which the breed expresses consummate ability, thanks to its qualities of vigilance, concentration and harmonious build. The Bergamasco’s capacity for learning and strong determination are combined with a calm and patient temperament. They are bred to think for themselves and assess each situation. This does account for some of the stubbornness that runs in them. Bergamascos have a unique ability to size people up and determine the appropriate way to interact with both family members and strangers. While they may appear aloof, they are ever watchful. Just because the eyes are not seen does not mean they are not watching. They have an eager-to-please nature and establish a close relationship with humans. The breed must never be aggressive without cause, or fearful. Bergamascos are highly intelligent and self-possessed and may display indifference to attempts to engage their attention. Serious Faults: Overshot, with a space greater than one eighth of an inch. Undershot bite, such that there is a complete loss of contact by all the incisors. Disqualifications Height under 21 inches. The minimum height requirement of 21 inches shall not apply to dogs or bitches under twelve months of age. Any lack of pigmentation of the eye rims; one (or two) full blue eye(s). Dudley nose. White coat color on more than one-fifth of the total area of the body.
Approved February 8, 2022 Effective May 4, 2022
HISTORY OF THE BERGAMASCO By Donna DeFalcis President, BSCA; Silver Pastori Bergamasco
I n the beginning, man’s relation- ship with dogs was limited to hunting but, with the evolution of the human species, stock-breeding is man’s most ancient occupation. By then, dogs were well integrated in human communities and immediately found a place in what can be seen as man’s fi rst step towards civilization. Together with man, the dog became a shepherd. It is now universally accepted that the fi rst centers for domestication of sheep and goats were located in central and southern Asia and spread from this region. Di ff usion was mainly due to population groups which emigrated in search of new pastures. Scientists who dedicated their studies to bovine and sheep breeding noted the pres- ence in these same regions of dogs with long, bristly coats. Th e origins of these breeds probably go back to the Himalayan zones where a wolf with a very thick coat was known “Canis lupus laniger”. From these regions, they then di ff used from east to west, settling in mountainous zones along a practically uninterrupted line from the upper planes of Asia to the Alps and the Pyrenees. Along this route there is now a variety of breeds now stabilized and recognized, which are almost certainly direct descendants from a common ancestor. Th e ancestors of our modern Bergamas- co arrived in Italy in the wake of migratory populations, spreading right over the fl anks of the Alps and here he survived for centu- ries and centuries, unchanged due to the in- accessibility of the Alpine region. It was only after the Second World War that industrial expansion and development of tourism caused profound economic changes in life style in the Alpine valleys. Victims of this transition were the fl ocks together with their dogs. It is interesting to note that around the end of the last century, the dog was still de fi ned by some authors as “Alpine Sheepdog” and sometimes as “Northern Ital- ian Sheepdog” which shows that the name “Bergamasco Sheepdog” is fairly recent.
Th e present name of “Bergamasco Sheepdog” should not be attributed to its place of origin, as commonly assumed, but is more probably linked to the history of the “Traveling Shepherds”. Th e arid Bergamasco Valleys provided few resources for the inhabitants who were thus forced to seek work elsewhere, assum- ing tasks which were habitual for them, looking after animals. Th ese were salaried shepherds which took care of the fl ocks of rich landowners and whose work consisted in driving them to the most suitable pas- tures. Th ese traveling shepherds, as indicat- ed by the name, moved around following the migratory routes which took them from the high Swiss planes to the shores of riv- ers in the Po Valley, according to season and requirements. Th is work was traditionally carried out by people from the Bergamasco Valleys, so that through association with the dogs which always accompanied them as indispensable. It is highly probable that the name “Bergamasco” of the shepherds also became the common name of the dogs. For us, the important thing to remem- ber is that we must not be confused by the name and consider the Bergamasco region as the home territory of the breed. To obtain a Bergamasco Sheepdog, you must not think that you will fi nd it among the shepherds in those mountainous valleys since sheep have long ago become extinct in that region. Industrial expansion and the development of tourism caused profound economic changes in life style in the Alpine valleys. Victims of this transition were the fl ocks together with their guardian dogs. No longer jealously protected by their shepherd masters, the dogs have gradu- ally disappeared or mongrelized. It is only thanks to the e ff orts of a few enthusiastic breeders that it has been possible, after a long period of decline, to restore consisten- cy and homogeneity to this Italian breed. In view of its exceptional qualities, it can now compete on equal footing with the best- known foreign breeds.
Th e Bergamasco is a herding/ fl ock guardian that can work with a shepherd and or tend to a fl ock on their own and also fended thinking through everyday prob- lems at the same time working with their shepherds to drive sheep from valley to val- ley through dawn to dusk. Th e Bergamasco has an understanding of what their needs are and your wants and will do so with their own style. At the same time, they were bred to be gentle and not excitable so as not to disturb the sheep. The Coat One of the more important characteris- tics is the coat and the main breeds of this group are the Komondor and Puli in Hun- gary, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Briard and Pyrenees Sheepdog of France and the Catalan Sheepdog of Spain. As the dogs migrated north the Bearded Collie and the Bobtail can be found. Th e following are the three types of coat: 1. Undercoat, very fi ne, short and oily, that stays next to the skin making a protective, water resistant layer. 2. Goat hair, coarse, strong, wiry similar to the goat, stays apart, keeps the wool- ly coat from twisting. 3. Woolly coat, fi ne, long and mats together, making the fl at fl ocks. Th e three types of hair are not equally distributed throughout the Bergamasco. Th e goat hair is found on the withers and extends back to approx. half of the body. On the back half of the body, chest and legs there is a lot of woolly coat, also some goat hair grows among the woolly coat in these areas. Th ese two types of coats weave together to make what we call today ( fl ocks). Th e coat is very complex, because of the presence of three types of hair. Th e Bergamasco is the only dog that has three types of coat and this makes them di ff erent from all other breeds and par- ticularly interesting in the viewpoint of historical evolution.
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JUDGING THE BERGAMASCO SHEEPDOG By Juan-Manuel Olivera-Silvera Breed Club Historian, Judges Education Chairman; Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America
P iles of yarn are stacked outside the show ring and the judge is waiting for the next breed to come in. Th e Stewart calls the numbers and all of a sudden the piles of yarn start moving and magnificent dogs flood the ring. Th e crowd starts asking: are they large Puli? Smaller Komondor? But the colors and coat are di ff erent. Here enters the Bergamasco Sheepdog, an ancient herding breed from the Alpine regions of northern Italy and southern Switzerland. Th e Bergamasco Sheepdog is a muscular, heavy-boned herding dog with a large head and a thick tail that hangs down to the hock and curves slightly upward at the end. Th e Bergamasco’s characteristic feature is its unique coat, made up of three types of hair which form flocks, strands of hair woven together creating flat layers of felted hair; those flocks cover the dog’s body and legs, and can be confused with cords. For a judge, an in-depth manual examination of the dog is imperative in order to discover what hides underneath this magnificent coat. It is important to point out that the Ber- gamasco Sheepdog is a 2000 years old natu- ral breed, which has evolved with very little human manipulation. Th e Bergamasco is a true heritage breed, which developed unique characteristics without man-made aesthetics. While the standard has guidelines about the breed traits, it is important to note that the individuals of a natural breed are not cut in one single mold: t ɨF TJ[F UFYUVSF BOE UIJDLOFTT PG UIF flocks grow di ff erently in each individ- ual. Females can have a lighter coat and dogs under 4 years old have much shorter flocks and should not be penalized in the show ring as it is very slow growing. t .BMFT JEFBMMZ TUBOE JODIFT BOE females 22 inches (with only +/-1 inch). Th e Bergamasco is pretty homogeneous
in its size. It is considered a medium size breed, is heavy bones and has a muscular compact built. Some larger and heavier males can be relatively bigger that petite females (85 lbs. vs. 55 lbs). In judging a Bergamasco in conformation shows, one must look for a well-balanced dog with a rustic appearance and with plenty of sub- stance, instead of a cookie cutter image. t .BMFT TIPVME CF NBTDVMJOF BOE SFHBM weighing 70 to 84 lbs. relative to the height of the dog. Females are more femi- nine in body with a weight di ff erence in the range of 55 lbs. to 70 lbs. Let’s examine what one should expect while judging this unique breed. The Head Th e head is long more or less, proportion- ate to the size of the dog, with the skull and muzzle of equal length, parallel to one anoth- er, and joined at a pronounced stop. Th e skin on the head is tight with no wrinkles. Th e skull is slightly domed between the ears and rounded at the forehead. Th e skull is about as wide as it is long, and fea- tures a prominent occiput and a marked median furrow. Th e ears are set high; they are soft and thin and hang down on either side of the face. Th e ear length does not exceed half the length of the head, and the top two- thirds is triangular in shape, with slightly rounded tips. When the dog is alert, the ears prick up at the base, with the top two- thirds semi-drooping. Th e nose is large and black with big, well- opened nostrils. In profile, the nose is on the same line as the top of the muzzle and does not extend beyond the forepart of the muzzle. Th e eyes are large, oval, and set just slightly obliquely. Eye color is brown, with the darkness of the color varying with the color of the coat from any shade of hazel to dark brown; a lighter eye is not a fault as
long as it is not blue. Th e eye rims are dark and the expression is attentive and calm. Th e lips are tight and just as the nose and eye rim, of dark pigment. Th e jaw is wide with a full complement of strong, evenly spaced, white teeth meet- ing in a scissors bite. Th e line of the incisors is straight and perpendicular to the outside lines of the jaw. In conformation shows, only the front teeth are examined. Th e Bergamasco’s neck is strong, slightly arched, and should be about 20 percent shorter than the length of the head, mea- sured from the nape to the forward edge of the withers. In action the neck is carried for- ward with its upper profile almost a continu- ation of the topline, with only a slight angle at the withers. A Body Build For the Mountain A very important structural character- istic, a ff ecting the Bergamasco Sheepdog’s locomotion for optimum e ffi ciency while performing their tasks, is the importance of the length of the body. Th e Bergamasco is very slightly longer than tall, with the length being about 5 to 6 percent longer than the height at the withers. Th e Bergamasco should neither be an even square nor too long in body. If the square dog’s proportions were to be applied to a Bergamasco, the body would be squeezed into unnatural proportions with too short of a pelvis. Th is would cre- ate an insu ffi cient length of the pelvis and its angulations and, in consequence, hind lower limbs too long, ine ffi cient in uphill locomo- tion, as the dog’s center of gravity would rise. A longer proportion of 10 to 20% longer than tall is just as incorrect as it would not be suitable for rapid ascent and for downhill. Such build being better suited for sheepdogs that work on flatter terrain covering larger distances instead of using power traction. Bergamascos always carry out their work in
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mountainous regions so they need a solid and compact build. In order to be most e ffi - cient in their environment, which requires work on steep hills, Bergamasco are best built with a di ff erence of 5-6% between the two measurements (body length and height at the withers) without making the dogs any less compact. From a side view, the rib cage is deep but with an almost absent tuck up, and the line of the back inclines very slightly downward from prominent withers to a strong, broad back. Th e croup is slightly TMPQJOH BCPVUUPEFHSFFTEPXOXBSE from the horizontal. Th e shoulders are massive and strong; the blades are wide and long with a steep 60 degree angulations from horizontal. A characteristic of the breed is the short humerus. Th e deltoid muscle and the great dorsal muscle which flex the humerus on the shoulder blade acts with greater power on a short axis. Th e combination of strong shoulder muscles and short humerus are the best instrument to guarantee resistance and potency for a dog which moves up and downhill where extra e ff ort is required. Th e similarly shorter length of the radius avoids the lift of the foot further than nec- essary, to preserve energy and to keep grav- ity level low. Th e metacarpus must be short and angled at 80 degrees from the vertical, sometimes giving the impression the dog is slightly bracing when stacked. Th e abundant hair over the legs and paws can accentuate that impression. At the rear, a broad and well-developed QFMWJTXJUIUPEFHSFFBOHVMBUJPOTGSPN horizontal is essential to support enough muscle mass for an e ffi cient trotter suited for uphill powerful movement. Th e tibia and femur are roughly the same length (due to axis of the pelvis) and better suited for locomotion over hilly territories. Due to the steeper inclination of the pel- vis, the rear extension is lesser than other breeds, as too much angulation would be sign of a shorter pelvis and longer limbs (bet- ter suited for flat terrain where speed and stride width are more important than pow- er); the metatarsus is relatively short as well (25% of height). Rear toes pointing outward are not uncommon as they add e ffi ciency in rear
traction in uphill movement and are often seen in mountain working breeds. Th e tail is natural and uncut, thick at the base, and tapering to the tip. When the dog is in repose, the tail just reaches the hock, with the bottom third of the tail forming a hook. In action the tail is often spread out fanwise, and flagging, carried above the back line and in the shape of an arc. It is worthwhile to add a few comments on tail carriage; if the croup is the right length with a correct croup inclination, so that the tail insertion is also on the right spot, a high tail carriage can also be considered a sign of exuberant character. On the other hand, if the croup is too short and the tail is incorrectly inserted, bad tail carriage is a result of a faulty insertion as a result of poor built. A Coat Unlike Any Other Th e Bergamasco coat is made up of three types of hair: an undercoat, a “goat hair,” and a woolly outer coat. t ɨFVOEFSDPBUJTTIPSU EFOTF BOEPGmOF texture. It is oily to the touch and forms a waterproof layer against the skin. t ɨF iHPBU IBJSw JT MPOH TUSBJHIU BOE rough in texture. t ɨF PVUFS DPBU JT XPPMMZ BOE TPNFXIBU finer in texture than the “goat hair.” Th e “goat hair” and outer coat are not distributed evenly over the dog and it is this pattern of distribution that is responsible for the formation of the characteristic flocks (the strands of hair woven together creating flat layers of felted hair). Each flock of hair ranges in width anywhere from one inch to three inches wide on the body. Th e coat, from the withers down to the midpoint of the body, is mostly “goat hair” which often forms a smooth saddle in that region. On the back of the body and the legs, the woolly outer coat is abundant and mingles with the reduced quantity of “goat hair” in that region to form wider flocks. Th e flocks are larger at the base than at the end; they are flat, irregular in shape, and may sometimes open in a fan-shape. Th e hair on the legs also hangs in flocks rather than feathering. Th e flocks are never combed out. Th e hair on the head is mostly “goat hair” but is somewhat less rough in texture and hangs over the eyes. For those who have allergies, it is impor- tant to note that the Bergamasco’s coat is
made up of hair, not fur and is considered to be non-shedding. To make it clear, the Bergamasco hair does not cord, (cording is the twisting of curly hair together to create a spiral strand). Th e Bergamasco coat is very di ff erent than that of corded breeds, in that the strands of straight hair weave together creating the flocks. In the Eastern European breeds, such as the Komondor and Puli, the coat consists mainly of curly wooly hair with relatively little goat hair. Th e opposite is true for the Western European breeds: Briards and Cata- lonian Sheepdogs, for example, have coats mainly of goat hair. Th e Bergamasco, from the Alpine region geographically between them, would seem to form a bridge between these two groups with a coat in which both type of hair are presents in almost equal quantities, although straighter and di ff er- ently distributed. It is hard to say whether this geo- graphic concomitance is a coincidence or whether it has a deeper significance involving climatic and selective factors. Th e fact remains that the Bergamasco is the only one of these breeds with this distinguished characteristic, which makes the breed particularly interesting from and historical and evolutionary aspect. While the Bergamasco coat is extremely complex, the uniquely typical characteristics to remember are: t ɨF EJTUSJCVUJPO PG UIF WBSJPVT UZQF PG hair over the body is not homogeneous. Th e withers have more goat hair while and often absent of flocks, while the rear section of the dogs has a vast amount of wooly hair. t $POUSBSZ UP UIF 1VMJ BOE ,PNPOEPS coat (twisted soft wooly and corded), the Bergamasco “flocks” are large, often flat, irregular and sometimes opening fanwise. t #FDBVTF UIF HPBU IBJS JT TUJĊFS JO UFY - ture, it forms wide thick meshes so that the woolly hair weaves through it instead of around itself, creating a woven felted texture. t ɨFUPQPGUIFIFBEJTPGUFOinPDLwGSFF with smooth goat hair. Small flocks under the chin and on each side of the muzzle are present. It is important that the head proportion (with the hair) be well bal- anced and proportional to the body. 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& % &$&.#&3 t
t 'FNBMFTNBZIBWFMFTTDPBUUIBONBMF and often loose their coat after lactation, this should not be considered a fault. t %VF UP UIF MPOH HSPXUI QSPDFTT PG UIF coat, young dogs coat should be appreci- ated for the stage of their age. t ɨF #FSHBNBTDPT DPBU TIPVME OFWFS CF shinny nor curly. An Ever-Changing Color Bergamascos are born genetically black or blue merle (black with part of the body diluted into lighter grey). But the color often changes to di ff erent shades as the dogs mature. Th e majority of dogs born black as well as the black patches of the merle dogs will lighten into shades of gray from light to charcoal; a few will remain black. Solid white is not allowed but white markings are acceptable if they cover no more than one-fifth of the body. Th e color also includes shadings of Isa- bella and fawn at the lower part of flocks, as a result of discoloration of old hair under the influence of sun, water and atmospheric fac- tors in general as well as ageing of the hair. Th e loose hairs gradually change color: the grey hairs turn yellowish while the black ones take on a tawny hue. Th is is what causes the Isabella and fawn shades visible in the coats of adult dogs. If the flocks are lifted up and the hair examined at its roots, close to the skin, the coat must be either gray or black. A Unique Gait Bergamascos are seen as mountain sheep- dogs; they are built for strength and resistance with well-developed chest and ample thorax, relative short necks with strong muscles. Th eir type of herding is nomadic in dif- ficult mountainous terrain. Several unique conditions a ff ecting the gait are to be considered. Sheep are timid in nature and tend to bolt when scared, the dog’s job is to keep the upper hand with- out provoking panic in rough terrain. When the sheep flock moves, it is slowly with a tendency to disperse. Th e dogs have to walk along side the flock, moving back and forth with no specific need for great speed. On the contrary, the gait has to be slow and even, requiring great resistance. When the grazing areas are reach, the dogs have to keep an eye
on the flock, so the sheep do not wander too far or run into danger by getting too close to ravines and cli ff s. When intervention is indispensable, the dogs need to avoid brusque movements to avoid the sheep to panic with a full stomach or to fall in steep terrain. At work, the Bergamasco does not walk beside the shepherd, but behind him in order to capture any gesture intended to spur it into actions. In the Alps, the Bergamascos had to adapt to various ways of moving the sheep flocks, sometimes covering long distances every day to get to the grazing grounds, while at other times they would only cover short distances within specific areas. Since grass is less abun- dant than in planes, the sheep have to stay on the move in order to find enough food. As the flocks are to be driven all day long, the Bergamascos cover a considerable distance pacing, and need to be highly resistant. Since the sheep move slowly in mountainous ter- rain, the dogs have no need for speed; on the contrary, the gait is slower and even. Every action is to be carried out with studied calm. Exuberant or highly strung dogs which bolt too fast or in an uncontrolled manner would have been totally useless for their job and made the shepherd’s work more di ffi cult. Th e shepherds favor a calmer, better-bal- anced dog for which speed is only important in rare occasions of sprint, no unpredictable action, but a homogeneous, resistant and regular gait. Another important typical trait of the Bergamasco’s gait is its leaping, helped by strong neck movement. Bergamascos move at a trot, but when the path becomes too steep, they either slow down or advance in leaps. Th is type of action has been erroneous- ly defined as galloping or cantering. While the gallop consists of a regular succession of paw supports, leaps succeed each other with no specific rhythm; furthermore, fore and hind legs are often together on the ground which is never the case in the gallop. Note that due to its compact built, the Begamasco’s center of gravity is low and the feet move close to the ground to be most e ffi - cient in uphill terrain, while preserving resis- tance and e ffi ciency. Because of its unique angulations of the fore and hind quarters, the Bergamasco’s movement is very di ff er- ent than other herding breeds that focus
more on speed on flat terrain, with a lon- ger extension of the limbs and higher foot- ing o ff the ground. Th e Bergamascos gate is more focused on resistance, strength and low gravity with foot closer to the ground. Th e movement can be slower than other herding dogs and they can break into leaps if speed or inclination changes. Movement in the Show Ring Th e Bergamasco’s characteristic gait is not always correctly evaluated in the show ring. As a result, handlers with little expe- rience with this breed have developed the bad habit of showing their dogs “strung up in the lead”, forcing them to raise their heads too high and produce a high stepping “flowery” and absolutely a-typical gait. Th is action much adored by some show competi- tors, while more “dramatic” and attractive to spectators, is completely unnatural and anti-productive from the point of view of energy waste and uphill e ffi ciency for the built of the Bergamasco Sheepdog. It is important that the Bergamasco’s neck not be too long and that the head not be carried high during movement. Th e motto “ Th e longer the step, the better the gait” should not be applied while handling a Bergamas- co Sheepdog, and any artificial modifica- tion of the movement would prevent judges from appreciating the true qualities which the Bergamascos should possess. Additionally, the Bergamasco sheepdog always works behind the shepherd to watch any hand gesture; therefore, it should be moved beside the handler without too much speed. Th e correct presentation of a Bergamasco in movement should be with loose lead, a reg- ular and calm speed, feet close to the ground, with the dog side by side or slightly behind the handler, both at the breed or group level. In conclusion, when judging a Berga- masco Sheepdog, step out of the cookie cutter “show gait” idea of movement, think of the breed characteristics and functions, and judge the dog as a whole. You’ll dis- cover the Bergamasco, a regal, intelligent sheepdog with a calm, self-assured expres- sion. And don’t forget, an in-depth manual examination is imperative in order to dis- cover the magnificent dog hiding under- neath this unique coat.
t4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& % &$&.#&3
I discovered the Bergamasco back in 1999 from a picture in a dog encyclopedia. I had been looking for a non shedding breed, since my dog at that time, though she had a wonderful personality, threw a coat twice a year. When she did, it was everywhere: on my toothbrush, on my plate, in my coffee. And all over my clothes. When I got to the office in the morning, I looked like a human hairball. So I was determined that the next one would not shed. I was thinking of some easy-to-manage coat with hair, not fur, and a nice personality. I was leaning toward the Portuguese Water Dog when I saw the encyclopedia picture of a Bergamasco and I was hooked—I’ve always liked things that are different, and I had never seen such an interesting coat. It looked vaguely like dreadlocks, but the cords weren’t round, they were flat. The description said they had wool in the coat. What? I had to find out more. I found Donna DeFalcis on the internet. She and her husband Stephen had brought over the first US Bergamascos from an experienced breeder in Italy, and the breeder was helping them establish the breed in the United States. Donna and I talked for over an hour on the phone and I knew I had found the right breed—intelligent, gentle, independent, but not stubborn, friendly, but not all over you. Basically they sounded like the same wonderful personality my Border Col- lie/Lab mix had, minus the coat-throwing part. I had to wait six months, but it was worth it! Denali, as I named her (couldn’t think of an Italian name I liked, but I figured at least Denali ended in a vowel) turned out to be the best dog I ever had. She was sweet, gentle and kind. She loved everybody and everybody loved her. I took her to puppy class, but I never had to train her after that because she trained herself. She’d see what I wanted her to do (or not do) and would act accordingly. I couldn’t believe it. I started to realize that I didn’t think of her as a dog. With all my other dogs, when they would do something bad, or dumb, I’d think, “Well don’t get upset; they’re just a dog.” But I noticed after a while that I never thought that about Denali. She was never “just a dog”; she was my friend. I thought of her as my equal and she thought of me as her equal—it was funny. There was no master/dog relationship, there were just two beings, one hairy and one not, who were best friends. Equal intelligence, equal emotional sensibilities, equal abilities to detect “vibes” of people or places. It really was like having a best friend you are so attuned with that you don’t need to talk. You both just know what the other is thinking and feeling. Denali was from the second litter born in the USA. When my Border Collie/Lab mix died two years later, Denali was bereft. She had kept Chloe company every day. Chloe at that point was 16 and couldn’t’ see very well and didn’t wander around much. She liked to just sit in a shady area of the lawn and enjoy the weather. Denali, even though she was a playful, energetic puppy, would sit with Chloe for hours, keeping her company, never leaving her side. When Chloe went, Denali was very sad—she moped around the house, wondering where her friend had gone. I called Donna to ask about another puppy, and it turned out someone had given up a female from the third US litter because she was too rambunctious. What? This seemed hard to believe of a Bergamasco, since Denali was the very picture of calm. Bergamasco THE BY ROB LAFFIN
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Sarah looked at Custoda with so much love, and so much pain, I started crying. I couldn’t imagine how much pain Sarah was going through—not only saying goodbye to Custoda, but not being able to explain why she had to, that it was for her own good. And that maybe they would be together again someday. She just had to look at Cus- toda, knowing Custoda was thinking she was abandoning her. It was the most heart- breaking look I’d ever seen. Custoda had a very hard time adjust- ing to life at my house. She missed her mother so much. I would take all the dogs down to the shore and throw tennis balls for them. They loved chasing the balls, especially if they landed in the water. But Custoda would just sit and watch. She never joined in. She would stay close to me, prob- ably hoping I would take her back to her mother soon. Up at the house, if we were outside, Cus- toda would run up the hill of the driveway, then turn around to me and bark, as if to say “Come on! Let’s go find my Mom!” I felt so bad and didn’t know what to do. Finally, I sat down and thought, these dogs are like humans—so intelligent and emotionally sensitive—what would a human kid need if she was separated from her mother? And the answer was: Lots of Love. So from then on, I hugged Custoda dozens of times a day, always whispering comforting words. “Your Mommy loves you. And I love you. Everything will be ok.” She slept right next to me in the bed. I made sure to take
Sarah was waiting as I pulled in next to her. She and I both had pick-up trucks, and we took all kinds of things she was giving me to help—food, leashes, collars, ex-pens and a nice whelping box—out of the back of her truck and put them in mine. She had made a big pork roast and cut it into chunks for “Toady” as she called her to have for nibbles on the five hour drive to my house. When it came time to part, my heart went up in my throat. Custoda was sitting in the passenger seat in my truck, and got upset as we started pulling out. She looked over at Sarah, as if to say, “Where are you going? Why are you leaving me?”
Well, it turns out Bergamascos are not all the same! They all have the great quali- ties I described above, but some are more active and a little more independent-mind- ed. That was Emma. She reminded me of the tough girls in middle school who got into fistfights at recess. She was a wild one! But Denali loved her and she loved Denali. I think Denali calmed Emma down a little bit, while Emma encouraged Denali to be more adventurous. And I was learning something—Berga- mascos are like crack cocaine: once you try them, you’re hooked. It wasn’t long before I had four—two boys and two girls. They got along well and we were a happy family. Then one day, I got a sad call. A lovely woman who had a female from the first Bergamasco litter had a family emergency where she could not take care of her ani- mals, at least for a year or two. So she was looking for temporary homes for her two Bergamascos—a male named Nepo and a female named Custoda. I agreed to take Custoda. She was a half- sister to Denali and they were both large, but very gentle. Unlike Emma, who was small and about as gentle as Rocky Balboa. I figured Custoda would feel at home with these fellow Bergamascos. I drove to meet Custoda and her mom (whom I will call Sarah) at a rest area on the Mass Pike. She and I had become quite friendly at dog shows over the years. Back then it was a small group, and we were all quite close, sharing our passionate love for these wonderful, rare dogs. Dog shows were like pleasant family reunions for us. We brought food and spent the whole day, while the dogs played.
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by agreement not waking me. I didn’t want to get up and say goodbye because I knew I would burst into tears. And I wanted Cus- toda to be happy to go. So I said goodnight the night before, giving Custoda a final hug, telling her how much I loved her, and went to bed. When I got up, they were gone. I looked out the kitchen window at the driveway hill, where Custoda had sat so many times, bark- ing and urging me to take her to find her Mom. Finally she had got her wish. And now she, and her Mom and her brother Nepo were all off on a big adventure driv- ing across the country to their new home. I cried, missing her, but they were also tears of joy for her. I never saw Custoda again. Sarah was very good about keeping in touch, describ- ing their new life and how happy Custoda and Nepo were. And then one day, she had bad news. The day we all dread when we love our dogs more than anything else in this world. It was devastating for both of us to lose such a bright and loving spirit, but we were so glad Custoda had ended up having a nice long life. It had some hard adjustments for her, but it turned out with a happy ending. So now she is gone, and Sarah and I both look forward to being with Custoda again when it’s our turn to go.
Now it was my turn to be heartbroken. I loved Custoda as much as I loved any of my other dogs. She and Denali were like twins—such similar personalities and they got along so well. I did not want to lose her. Sarah made it clear that I didn’t have to. She was so appreciative I’d given “Toady” a home, she wasn’t going to demand her back if it would be too hard for me. But I thought back on that look Sarah gave Custoda when we were pulling out of that rest area three years earlier, the saddest thing I’d ever seen. And I knew I had to give her back. No matter how much it hurt me, it would be so good for Sarah, and Custoda, and Nepo. When Sarah came, Custoda was beside herself. Sarah had brought Nepo too, and when he and Custoda saw each other, they went crazy with joy. As Sarah and I talked, Custoda didn’t know what to do. We were sitting on facing couches. Custoda would hop up on one couch and sit next to Sarah for a while as we talked, smiling and wag- ging her tail. Then she’d run over and hop up next to me and smile at me. It was clear she loved us both and didn’t want us to feel she was playing favorites. But I could see she was going to be so happy being reunited with her original family. Sarah slept in the guest room and left very early the next morning with Custoda,
plenty of alone time with her outside, where we could walk and play, just the two of us, without the others horsing around. Eventually, she pulled out of her sad- ness. In time, she started joining in with the other dogs at playtime, and as time went by, seemed to feel that she was a member of the family. At last! I was so glad she was finally feeling better. Over the next three years, I fell totally in love with this sweet being. When hap- py, she had such a joyful personality, it was almost as if she had a sense of humor and was laughing when we all were play- ing. A friend would come over and put a handkerchief on her head like a babushka, and add sunglasses. She seemed to enjoy the fun of it all—she was a bit of a prima donna and liked to be in the spotlight. She would turn her head and show it off, purposely clowning. She had adjusted, finally. We all slept in the bedroom together, and she was good buds with Denali and the others. Then one day, the phone call came. Sarah’s family emergency was finally over, and she was ready to start the rest of her life. And she wanted Custoda back. The family who took Nepo were giving him back to her, would I give Custoda back, too, so the three of them could be reunited and start their family life again?
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