Friday, August 5, 2011
Unusual Breed: Bergamasco
This is one of several breeds that are seen with a corded coat, though usually it is more of a form of plate-like mats that are said to be "felt-like". This is caused by the presence of three coat layers on the dog. After an initial treating of the coat of a young dog, the mats will form and stay that way for the rest of the dog's life.
They are a guardian and herding breed, believed to have originated in what was Persia. Unlike most herding dogs, the Bergamasco was bred to be able to independently tend the flock, though to also take some direction from the shepherd. They are highly intelligent because of this. They come in shades of black and grey, including merle, and may have white markings. Interestingly enough, despite the presence of the merle gene, completely blue eyes and a lack of pigment to the lips, nose, or eye rims are either very undesirable or disqualifications in a show setting.
The breed nearly became extinct after World War II when there was not as much of a need for wool, but was saved from "mongrelizing" of the face of the earth by a single Italian breeder. Though the breed is, overall, rather healthy, there is a significant incidence of bloat, hip dysplasia, and eye problems.
Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a creative commons license. Sources are Bergamasco Sheepdog Club of America and Embrace Pet Insurance Pet Health Center.