History and Origins
Written by Luigi Guidobono Cavalchini Translated by Ana Hernandez
After World War II the state of the Bergamasco population was alarming and in danger of becoming extinct. The rural population had a considerable decrease. There were very few purebred Bergamascos available that were suitable to start a breeding plan. Thanks to the intervention of admirers of the breed a structured breeding plan was established after the war. This program was able to rescue the wonderful genetics that the shepherds have selected during centuries.
A campaign was initiated to promote and to educate people about the breed. The noble men that helped with this campaign were the Marquis Paolo Cornaggia Medici, who was interested in the breed since before the war and had already written a draft of the standard in 1950; Mr. Isaia Bramani from Bergamo who had the first recognized kennel named Brahama, in 1942; Mr. Pietro Rota the owner of the Kennel Valle Imagna (established in 1945), my father the baron Annibale Guidobono Cavalchini founder of the kennel Valle Scrivia established in 1949. During 1947 just one litter was registered on the genealogy registry, 2 were registered in 1948, three in 1949, just one in 1951 and five in 1952.
Alpino di Valle Imagna (LOI 50784), was one of the dogs that entered the first Italian beauty championships. Pietro Rota obtained Alpino from a shepherd. Alpino was prestigious subject, a founder dog that was an important point of reference in the drafting of the official standard on January 1958. Alpino was a good dog however he was very heavy (weighing more than 40 kg), his shoulders were straight, the tibio-tarsal angle too open and did not have enough difference between the two hairs, goat on the front of body and woolly on the back.
In 1949 the Society of Bergamasco dog lovers (Societa Amatori del Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, SAB for the Italian acronym) was founded. The first president of SAB was the Baron Annibale Guidobono Cavalchini. Thanks to the activities and the efforts of this initial group of enthusiasts the breed was able to survive extinction. Other Bergamasco enthusiasts joined the original group and support of the breed. Among them was Professor Achille Alipandi founder of the Vercella kennel (1953), the architect Sandro Carnelli and Mrs. Carla Mariana founders of the Lupercali kennel (1954), Mr. Mario Chignoli founder dell’Idro kennel (1959), Dr. Cantini of Bergamo founder of the Grigiastro kennel (1966) and Dr. Maria Andreoli (Kennel dell'Albera 1966).
In 1956, the SAB was officially recognized by the Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiana (ENCI for the Italian acronym The Italian National Dog Club) and amended the standard. In the same year the standard draft endorsed by the ENCI was released. It took 3 years of fieldwork to compile the standard. During those years the different parts of the body of different specimens were measured until a general consensus about the structure and the character was reached. The main contributors that participated in the definition of the standard were Mr. Pietro Rota, the architect Sandro Carnelli, Dr. Cantini, the baron Annibale Giudobono Cavalchini, the Marquis Paolo Cornaggia Medici, and Dr. Alberto Franellich. At that time alternative names were proposed to the ENCI, including sheepdog from northern Italy (cane da pastore dell’Italia settentrionale), sheepdog from north Italia cane da pastore del Nord Italia) and Alpine sheepdog (cane da pastore delle Alpi). After ample discussion it was decided to keep the name as Bergamasco shepherd (cane da pastore Bergamasco). It was the most descriptive name though it is true that the dog was present in all of the alpine area. The majority of dogs were present at the Bergamasco Valley. In this place was where most of the dogs showed uniform characteristics.
Edited. Provided by the National Bergamasco Sheepdog Alliance
The Bergamini herdsmen who travelled the Bergamo Valley in the Alps and Lombardy region began the stricter selection of their dogs for the ability to handle the difficult and almost inaccessible mountainous terrain, while performing the dangerous task of guiding cattle to grazing lands by working from the head to the tail of the herd. The Bergamascos kept the large herds of cattle together, guiding them through hazards and protecting them during the night from predators.
As agricultural need changed, the Bergamasco became associated with guiding flocks of sheep in the same tending style as it did with cattle. Primarily though this breed was a cattle dog and not a “sheep” dog as commonly believed.
Heike Langloh of Stonedance Bergamascos in Ontario, was the first Bergamasco breeder in Canada. She imported her first Bergamasco from the U.S.A in the 1990’s and later imported Bergamascos from Europe. She had a great interest in diversifying the breed and worked with several breeders in the United States and abroad to uphold the FCI standard in Canada. Her puppies are spread throughout Canada.
In the mid 2000’s Jeanine Dell’Orfano of Alp Angel Bergamascos bred the first Bergamasco litter in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes. Many of her puppies live in Canada. She has since continued her breeding program in the U.S. but maintains her home in Nova Scotia and travels between the two.
There are Bergamascos scattered throughout the different provinces of Canada and the population is slowly increasing. We hope the BSCC will be a place for all Bergamasco enthusiasts of Canada to come to together to learn, share their experiences and come together for the welfare of the breed and to promote responsible breeding and ownership. The BSAC respects all other Bergamasco clubs around the world and would like to work in unison to preserve and protect this precious breed in integrity and health.