The Bergamasco, an ancient sheep-herding breed, hails from the town of Bergamo, Italy. He may remind you of another corded sheepdog called the Puli — which also sports a signature matted coat — but while the Bergamasco comes from Italy, the Puli gained popularity in Hungary. Because of his herding heritage, you may find that the Bergamasco tends to think for himself, closely observe strangers and be inclined to protect his family.
Berger Picard (Herding)
The Westminster debut of this sheepdog calls for a fun pronunciation lesson: Berger Picard is pronounced “bare-ZHAY pee-CARR.” Where in the world did that name come from, you ask? Well, berger is the French word for "shepherd," and Picardy, France, is where the breed originated. Voilà, Berger Picard! These shaggy-looking dogs are typically very active and (health permitting) can make fantastic companions for jogging, hiking, swimming or running.
The Boerboel is another breed with some interesting etymology: Her name translates to "farmer's dog" in Afrikaans. She was developed in South Africa to guard farms, diamond mines and other property — and, even four centuries later, is still likely to retain the protective, territorial nature for which she was originally valued. Though the Boerboel is generally devoted to her family, this Mastiff breed is probably not a wise choice for first-time dog owners.
Cirneco dell’Etna (Hound)
If you're considering bringing a Cirneco dell’Etna into your family, make sure you build a tall fence around your yard first; this stunning sighthound is known for being a stellar jumper. Cirnechi (which is the plural word for the breed) are rarely found outside their home country of Italy — there are only about 200 of them in the United States. They're famous for hunting silently, allowing them to catch their prey off guard.
Lagotto Romagnolo (Sporting)
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a curly canine who possesses a keen sense of smell, thanks to his heritage as a truffle hunter, and many excel at the dog sport of nose work. You may expect that his dense, curly coat would leave fur all over your furniture, but he sheds surprisingly little, compared to other breeds. Just remember that the Lagotto usually requires regular trimming by a groomer.
Miniature American Shepherd (Herding)
Your eyes might be deceiving you... this isn't a shrunken Australian Shepherd! In fact, it's a completely different breed you'll see in the ring at Madison Square Garden this year: the Miniature American Shepherd. These small herding dogs tend to be energetic, loyal and agile, with coats that come in black, blue merle, red (liver) and red merle coloring.
Spanish Water Dog (Herding)
Whether you call him a Perro de Agua Español, Perro Rizado, Turco Andaluz, Barbeta or Spanish Water Dog, we bet you're looking forward to seeing this adorable breed vie for the Best in Show title. The breed, which goes by many names, gained popularity in Spain as herding dogs on farms and as part of the crew on fishing boats. Spanish Water Dogs have webbed feet, and many of them enjoy water activities like dock diving and swimming.