history of the Bergamasco Sheepdog

The Bergamasco sheepdog is a very ancient Alpine breed. For many centuries it was commonly found in the Italian and Swiss valleys, thanks to its exceptional skills as a flock guide, when sheep raising was the main economic resource in this area.

Historically, it is now universally accepted that the origins of the breed can be found to have come from Asia, where domestication of sheep and goats by migrating populations in search of new pastures expanded from east to west, from the upper plains of Asia across the mountains of Anatolia, the Caucasus, the Carpathians and the Alps to the Pyrenees.

The ancestors of our modern Bergamasco arrived in Italy in the wake of migratory populations, spreading right over the flanks of the Alps. Through the centuries to day, this breed virtually remained the same; for this we most be grateful to the shepherds for whom these dogs were invaluable because of their exceptional efficiency in leading flocks.

Transient
Transient

Initially, our Bergamasco must have been used as a watch dog, however with the advent of wide scale agriculture, the flocks had to be transported to far away grazing zone. Thus the Bergamascos sheepdog evolved to become a flock driver, friendlier, with great intelligence and with the courage to confront wild animals that might prey on the flocks.

Overtime the grazing area extended as far as Switzerland by the latter Middle Age (AD 739) from the eastern regions of Piedmont and Lombardy.

The breed satisfied the shepherds so much that they kept the strong will of the dogs unchanged. Nothing was worth to be modified to improve their performances. This conservation of the breed throughout the centuries has become the best guarantee of its exceptional qualities.
Those shepherds originally from the Bergamo region traveled from the Swiss Plains to the Po Valley and thus the Alpine Sheepdog gain the name of Bergamasco Sheepdog, originally referring to the shepherds.

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However, after the II world war, industrial expansion and the development of tourism brought about profound economic changes in the lifestyle of these valleys. The flocks with their dogs were inevitably affected by this process of modernization, which led to their partial extinction. No longer jealously protected by their shepherd masters, the dogs have gradually disappeared or mongrelized, since greater communication facilities favored the infiltration of new breeds in the previously isolated regions where the only dogs with the right of existence were the ones useful for the shepherd’s work.

Transient

It is only thanks to the efforts of a few enthusiastic breeders that it has been possible, after a long period of decline, to restore consistency and homogeneity to this Italian breed.

Although, in view of its exceptional qualities, it can compete on equal footing with the best-known foreign breeds. For many years the Bergamasco was confined within the Italian borders and it was only recently that, thanks to keen breeders, they have participate to the most important European shows with enormous success, thus becoming highly popular.
In the early 1960's geneticist Dr.Maria Andreoli created the Dell Albera Lineage and made her life's work to analyze the wide scale Historical evolution, define  a deep and accurate study of locomotion, build structure, temperament and genetics of the Bergamasco sheepdog.

Transient

  In the early 1960's geneticist Dr.Maria Andreoli created the Dell Albera Lineage and made her life's work to analyze the wide scale Historical evolution, define  a deep and accurate study of locomotion, build structure, temperament and genetics of the Bergamasco sheepdog.

In the recent decades, widespread interest for the Bergamasco has finally emerged and small groups have sprung up all over Europe and in the USA.  However widespread and numerous, these groups are unevenly scattered and this fact has led to the need for a common point of reference, where information is given and received. Resources to those international clubs are available in the Link tab.

In the USA, the Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America was initially established  in 1995. With the guidance of Dr. Maria Andreoli, American breeders imported the first Bergamascos to the US in the mid-1990s, and have been responsible for the introduction of the breed in the US. Since the arrival of these first Bergamasco, a careful breeding program was started, selecting the best available dogs from Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and England.

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In recent years, enthusiastic supporters of the breed have become accomplished in the show ring, and have developed an impressive number of champions. Other Bergamasco owners have become involved with herding, agility, and other types of training. The Bergamasco numbers have risen, through careful breeding and placement, from the original dogs who came from Italy in the mid- 1990s, to nearly 1400 Bergamascos in the US in a over a decade. Today the breed is a fully recognized breed of the American Kennel Club.