By Suzanne Alicie
I love watching dog shows on television because I always learn about some breed I’ve never seen before, which then leads to researching the breed. One of my favorite breeds to see has been what I call the “mop dog.” There are actually several dog breeds that have roped or matted coats that to me look like mops when they run – one of these is the Bergamasco Sheepdog. The Bergamasco is an excellent show dog with a nice smooth gait and striking features. The personality of these dogs shines through, although most often what catches my attention first is the coat.
Of course the most distinctive feature of this dog is its appearance; talk about a unique dog! The felted coat looks almost like dreadlocks and is quite long. This coat is made up of three types of hair that forms mats which grow to the ground. What is interesting to me is that Bergamasco pups are born with a smooth, short coat and as they grow the hair grows and mats itself.
The medium sized Bergamasco is compact but solid and powerful with a great deal of stamina and strength. Originating in the Italian Alps, the Bergamasco was originally a herding dog. These days this excellent working dog is bred and raised to compete in agility trials, shows, fly ball, tracking and of course herding exhibits. As a herding dog working in the mountains the felted coat was not only warming but also water resistant and didn’t tangle or get caught in things as loose fur would.
The color of the Bergamasco varies between shades of gray or merle, black and a few shades of brown mixed in. The colors are ideal for camouflage when the dogs worked in the mountains of Italy, guarding and herding the sheep.