The New Year typically means new beginnings in many areas, and the American Kennel Club is no exception. Effective Jan. 1, the AKC has recognized four breeds, and, while the breeds are new to the AKC and the show ring, they are all old, established breeds. The breeds are the Spanish Water Dog, the Bergamasco, the Cirneco Dell’Etna and the Boerboel.
You might expect the Spanish Water Dog to be in the sporting or working group, but this dog is actually in the herding group. I thought that the dog might be closely related to the Portuguese Water Dog, but it is not. The Spanish Water Dog was bred as a farm dog, with herding as its primary function. The dog also was used as a hunting dog, and many fishermen also used this dog, which is one similarity to the Portuguese Water Dog. The SWD may enjoy swimming and diving, making him a good candidate for the sport of dock diving.
The SWD is slightly smaller than the PWD. They range in size from just under 16 inches to just under 20 inches, while the PWD should be between 17 and 23. While both breeds have curly coats, they are treated in very different ways. The PWD may have either a lion clip, where the hindquarters and muzzle are shaved, rather like a Poodle’s show clip, or they may be trimmed all over, with the hair being about 1 inch long.
The SWD, in contrast, is never brushed or combed, and is shown with natural curls, or with a corded coat, like a Puli or Komondor. In full coat, the hair covers the dog’s eyes. In the show ring, the coat may be clipped to a length of between 1 and 5 inches, but no other trimming is allowed. Traditionally, the working SWD was sheared once a year with the sheep. The SWD may be black, brown, beige, white, or parti-color and has a docked tail; some dogs are born with a short tail, so tail length may vary between individuals.
The other addition to the herding group is the Bergamasco, a breed that originated in what is now Iran. Shepherds who traveled throughout the region brought the breed to Italy, where it was called the “Bergamasco.”
Although the breed in no way resembles a Corgi, this phrase from the breed standard did remind me of a Corgi’s attitude. “The breed thinks independently, however, and often sees itself more as an equal partner than as a subordinate”
The Bergamasco is between 22 and 24 inches at the withers, about the size of the Bearded Collie, and just a bit taller than a Puli. The breed has a strong protective instinct and is “naturally stubborn,” never leaving a task until it is completed. Most Bergamascos’ coats are in shades of gray, including merle. White markings are allowed, but a solid white coat is a disqualification.
The Bergamasco’s coat is unique, consisting of three types of hair. There is undercoat, which is short, dense and fine. It is oily and forms a waterproof barrier next to the skin. Then comes “goat hair,” which is long, straight and rough. Finally, there’s the outer coat, which is wooly and a bit finer than the “goat hair.” Here’s the description from the breed standard, “The ‘goat hair’ and outer coat are not distributed evenly over the dog and it is this pattern of distribution that is responsible for the formation of the characteristic flocks (strands of hair weaved together creating flat layers of felted hair). Each flock of hair ranges in width anywhere from inch and half to three inches wide. The coat from the withers down to the midpoint of the body is mostly ‘goat hair,’ which forms a smooth saddle in that region. On the back of the body and the legs, the woolly outer coat is abundant and mingles with the reduced quantity of ‘goat hair’ in that region to form the flocks. The flocks are larger at the base than the end, flat, irregular in shape, and may sometimes open in a fan-shape. The hair on the legs also hangs in flocks rather than feathering. The flocks are never combed out. The hair on the head is mostly ‘goat hair,’ but is somewhat less rough in texture and hangs over the eyes.” After the mats set at the age of one, the coat is never brushed.
Next time, the Cirneco Dell’Etna and the Boerboel.