Monday, 4 January 2010
I lent a helping hand at the recent Brussels Dog Show and saw a breed of dog I had never seen or heard of before.
The Bergamasco or the Bergamasco Sheepdog or the Bergamese Shepherd dog or the Bergamese Shepherd is an ancient shepherding breed which traces its origins back thousands of years. Believed to have originated in Persia (in the area that is now Iran), hardy, vigorous shepherding dogs worked with their nomadic masters, tending and herding flocks of sheep in the harsh Persian mountain climates. The breed was exclusively selected for its working abilities, and its bloodlines were kept a secret by the shepherds for many years.
Trade routes brought these nomadic tribes west and some settled in the Italian Alps.
The Bergamasco's coat is its most striking physical feature: three kinds of hair combine to form dense, flat, felt-like mats that continue to grow over the course of the dog's life, reaching the ground at approximately 5 years.
The coat is striking and unusual in appearance, but is actually a very efficient protection system for the dog. The mats protect from cold and wet. The Bergamasco can tolerate extended periods outdoors in freezing cold, or even wet weather, without becoming uncomfortable. In addition, the coat protected them from the attacking bites from wolves, and in modern times can protect them from bites from other dogs, and also protects from insect bites. The matting does not extend all the way down to the skin, and so the mats do not pull at the dog's skin. Also, air is able to circulate down to the skin in between the mats, allowing the skin to breathe.
Contrary to what many first-time observers think, the coat is not at all difficult to maintain.
Many people who are allergic to other dogs find that they are not bothered by the Bergamasco's coat.