The Hair of the Dog
There has been much written already about the unique coat of this breed which creates a definitive and most striking appearance. An integral feature, it has been the subject of much meticulous documentation and illustration. This all started, with a handful of individuals from the last century, who began a co-operative effort to revive this disappearing breed.
The Bergamasco coat goes through three stages of development, after which, this living tapestry continually exhibits subtle changes throughout the Bergamasco’s life. Always individual, always unique, it is also triple coated.
From fluffy, plush puppy (stage 1), to a felted coat brought on by the appearance of the “goat hairs” which helps create the individual matts for the fully flocked coat (stage 2); to the continued maintenance of the developed, growing flocks (stage 3). Although impressive and quite imposing, the coat requires relatively simple and straightforward care.
Here is some general information about the Bergamsco coat:
The coat – The adult dogs have a very abundant coat which is the most striking characteristic of the breed. The front half of the body has a harder textured coat with wavy locks, while half way from the chest to the back of the body, and on the legs, the coat develops matted strips the length of which depend on the age of the dog; on the face the coat is less rough and falls over the eye, hiding them. The coat develops progressively in time and does not become fully matted until two and half to three years old.
The colour of the coat – The colour is solid grey or merle of all nuances from pale grey to black; and shades of Isabella and light fawn are also permitted. Solid black is permitted provided it is opaque. Solid white is not permitted and is a disqualifying fault, as are wall eyes. White patches are tolerated as long as they do not exceed one fifth of the whole coat, otherwise it is a disqualifying fault.
Special care of the coat – The coat of the Bergamasco sheepdog does not require as much attention as one might suppose. The matted strips form naturally. Particular attention must be paid at about one to one and half years old when, in some specimens, the coat can tend to form a uniform matted fleece. In this case, the coat must be divided by hand into strips a little at a time. The coat should never be cut except under exceptional circumstances but worked by hands making large wide strips of about 3-5 cm wide. In the front part of the body and around the ear, these strips must be divided so that large matted patches do not form.
The adult dogs that live in the house can be bathed quite frequently, while those specimens that live outdoors should be bathed less often. It is very important not to brush the coat while the hair is wet. Once the coat is dry, the beard and the forelock can be brushed out.
The coats of older dogs can be trimmed when it gets particularly long, especially round the genital area. If the coat is well cared for your dog should not smell. Show dogs should not have their coat trimmed but it should be clean, abundant and of the correct texture.
Important note about the coat – The Bergamasco has, what is called in Italian DOPPIO PELO, which means that the dogs have, at least on the neck and shoulders, ‘goat hair’ that doesn’t felt as easily as the rest of the ‘wool’ on the body. This is very important to help the dog move properly. As well, the mats are finer and shorter on the front legs and breast so not to hinder the dog by agitating bidirectional movement.
Coat Care Links
The following information stems from some of those who were instrumental in reviving the breed and those who carry on that work today.
- Valle Scrivia – The Coat
Coat care information available in English from Valle Scrivia in Bergamo, Italy.
- Blizzard Peak Alpaca and Bergamasco – Coat Care & Grooming
This link takes you right to a user-friendly and well-organized approach for complete, “hands on” coat care. Starts from the very beginning, fluffy puppy, through developing stages, to an adult coat. Great pictures and super suggestions.
- Luna di Lana – How to Groom a Bergamasco
Note that most of the information on this site is in German.
As in most things concerning this breed, the best and most immediate source of help, for issues of coat, health, and general care, should be the breeder. Please use this resource… I am always willing to help you better understand your Stonedance Bergamasco.