This ancient breed of guard dogs of herds has spread all over the region of the Alps; the total number of these dogs was especially great in the Bergamo valleys, where the breeding of sheep was highly developed.
From a personal memoir of Annibale Guidobono Cavalchini, comes lovely the following:
“The flock were driven up to their Swiss summer pastures in May… a grand Pastoral Transhumance as each year the shepherds with large flocks of sheep from the Po valley, including ours. They grazed their flocks on fallow land in search of grass and at night returned to the farm where they were made welcome in exchange for a little fresh-ricotta cheese or other cheeses which they specially prepared for me with whole grains of pepper. Those were unforgettable flavours of the past. The shepherds were accompanied by their Bergamaschi dogs, which were widespread throughout the Alps. Their ability and intelligence in driving the sheep fascinated me, as it did many of the other farmers of the lower Po valley. No traffic policemen could have done better.”
The Character and Temperament of the Bergamasco Sheepdog
“The Bergamaschi are dogs with a lively intelligence, always alert but at the same time quiet when their intervention is not required. When needs be, they are determined, courageous and excellent guard dogs. They establish a close bond with their owner and family and do not like being left alone.
“They have a sweet face with an almost languid expression, which always seems to want to communicate something to you. They learn easily, but do not like to carry out useless tasks. They know how to use up their strength sparingly and control their behaviour depending on the situation. Their well-balanced temperament and natural intelligence make them excellent guard dogs but above all ideal companions. They can be trained for a great variety of tasks: environmental services, man-work, obedience, agility and of course, guarding and herding sheep.
“This is a rustic breed, strong and rugged, resistant to all types of weather and particularly suitable for life in the open air, an excellent companion for sports-loving people with an outdoor lifestyle.”
Most Bergamasco sheepdogs have maintained the natural instinct which drives them to round up a flock of sheep or other animals which are scattered at pasture and drive them to where the shepherd indicates. The breed has been selected for this task and carries it out with an ancestral passion. The dogs can drive livestock even over difficult terrain and mountain paths with intelligence and self-control and are indispensable to shepherds during their travels. Bergamaschi can also be trained for pleasure and to take part in work dog trials organised by organisations such as the Cani da Lavoro su Bestiame (website in Italian).
See the complete FCI Breed Standard, under “Breed Info” on this site.