Characteristics & Temperament

Characteristics and Temperament of the Bergamasco

We discussed in the History section of our website, how, over the years, the Bergamasco was bred to have very specific traits. Often, the Bergamasco’s working life herding livestock, entailed being a permanent companion to a solitary Alpine shepherd, sometimes being sent up into dangerous terrain to retrieve sheep, goats or cattle independently, in addition to guarding the flock by night. The modern-day Bergamasco temperament and behaviour pattern, has evolved to suit the physical and mental challenges that this purpose demanded. The Bergamasco has a genuine balance between physique, working ability and temperament.


Being alone with a herd of livestock to look after, meant using their own initiative to navigate a safe passage and so the Bergamasco developed a great and diverse intellect, with which to solve problems themselves. Whether working with a shepherd, or in a domestic situation, the Bergamasco will usually need to understand “why” they have been asked to do something, otherwise they can appear stubborn, their instinct being caution, rather than blindly following orders. Only then will they happily obey, although, often on his own terms, or finding his own solution.

Calm and peaceful

Careful selection was applied to eliminate excessive aggression (highly undesirable in a sheepdog) and so the Bergamasco is a peace-loving dog. Puppies play together and grow up in harmony with each other and develop strong personal links that are never broken, and as adults show excellent self-control, are unselfish and portray sound judgement. Bergamascos build very strong relationships with their owners and family. They are friendly, loyal, patient and empathic. They are particularly tactile and, indeed, many are used as therapy dogs.


Whilst being strong and decisive, Bergamascos, almost always, especially within the same family, avoid irritating or provoking one another, preferring to live in peace and mutual respect with each other…and that applies especially to their interactions with humans.

The Bergamasco will regard their owner as a friend, rather than a master, and after establishing a trusting relationship will gladly obey to demonstrate affection, and an eagerness to please the owner, although as discussed above, any commands must make sense to this intelligent sheepdog.

Protective instinct

Although not instinctively aggressive, the Bergamasco is an excellent and brave watchdog as they do not like strangers coming close to their flock or family, being especially attentive in watching over lambs and young children.

Awakening primitive instincts refined over thousands of years, today’s Bergamascos are patient, tolerant, gentle, playful and protective, actively seeking the company of children, making them perfect companions for youngsters, taking on the dual role of playmate and protector. Morever, when the Bergamasco is released from their instinctive duty of guardian, they are friendly with everybody.

Herding Instinct

Notwithstanding the Bergamasco’s natural instinct for tending and herding livestock, in the domestic setting the humans in their family home have now become their flock. When walking off lead with the family a modern-day Bergamasco will sometimes either go in front of the group to look out for any dangers (terrain, wolves strangers etc) ahead or bring up the rear to look after any stragglers.

Obedient (Bergamasco-style)

As discussed earlier, the Bergamasco is highly-trainable, amazingly obedient, and eager to please once mutual trust and respect has been established and they understand the rationale behind a command. Given their heritage, the Bergamasco is thoughtful and able to take sole ownership for the flocks left under their care.

Bergamasco Appearance

The Bergamasco is a medium-sized, heavily coated, solidly compact sheepdog, with a square frame, powerful build, and rustic appearance. They are strong, agile and can move at great speed when necessary. Fully-grown males weigh 32–38 kgs and stand at 58–62 centimetres (23-24.5”) to the withers. Females are smaller, typically weighing 26–32 kgs, usually with a height of between 54 and 58 centimetres (21-23”).


Bergamascos are a hardy breed, strong and athletic. There are no known health issues with them and life expectancy is between 13 and 15 years.

The Coat

The most distinctive feature is the unusual felted coat, created by three types of hair (fine, dense, oily undercoat combined with long, harsher goat-like hair, and a woolly outer layer) that, at 10 to 15 months of age, start to form loose “mats”, “flocks” (flat layers of felted hair) or “boccoli”, covering the body and legs, which provided them with protection against the fierce cold, the harsh terrain, dense vegetation, and wild predators of the Italian Alps. The felts start from the spine and extend down the flanks, continually growing until they reach the ground. The thick curtain of hair that covers the eyes served as a visor, protecting the eyes from Alpine snow-blindness, and held off the face by very long eyelashes.


Most Bergamasco puppies are born totally solid black, or various shades of grey, or a “dark merle” colour (a mixture of grey and black), with the latter two, as adults, often sporting a highly variegated grey coat. Sometimes, with age, and typically those with a black coat, Bergamascos will develop tinges of rusty- brown caused by sun-bleaching.