Cane Corso

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Cane Corso

The Cane Corso is an ancient breed of dog that has likely been in existence for thousands of years. A Mastiff breed, large and powerful with exquisite muscling, this dog has traditionally been used as both a hunter and a guardian. Nowadays, the most common job given to the Cane Corso is that of ‘personal protection’ – a canine bodyguard, if you will.

Dedicated to their family, this is a fiercely protective dog who will be territorial within their home. Their exercise requirements need to be adequately met, and they must be trained to a high degree to avoid the development of unwanted behaviours. Stubborn at times and never eager to please, an experienced trainer is highly advised.

About & History

The Cane Corso Italiano, also known as the the Italian Mastiff, is a Molosser (or Mastiff) type dog that likely dates back several millennia. This breed is thought to have originated from an ancient dog that existed in Epirus, and then subsequently was employed by the Ancient Romans as a warrior, as well as a hunter.

Large and powerful dogs were traditionally prized, and thus the Cane Corso was created through mindful breeding in order to create formidable guard dogs. Offering protection to Italian farmers, but also apt at herding their livestock and hunting, this dog earned its place in history as a versatile guard dog. Impressively, one of the most sought-after attributes of this breed was its ability to defend against and kill wolves.

Popular particularly in the more rural parts of southern Italy, the Cane Corso became a truly integral part of many farms, with farmers reluctant to stop using them, even as their jobs were widely replaced with technology. They did, however, suffer from a decrease in popularity, as did many other dog breeds at the time, during World War II, when men were drafted away, and society suffered financially. Coming close to extinction, a dedicated effort began in the 1970s, and the Cane Corsos of the time were bred with similar Mastiff type dogs in order to revive the bred, resulting in the production of a heavier dog overall. In 1983, The ‘Society Amatori Cane Corso’ was formed. Thankfully, all dogs that fit the standard were accepted (not just those with a known pedigree), ensuring a wider gene pool and less inherited disease within the population. In 1994, the Cane Corso was recognised by the Italian Kennel Club.

Used most often for personal protection and as a companion animal nowadays, the Cane Corso has undeniably earned itself a poor reputation for being overly aggressive and a dangerous dog to own. This reputation has been caused by ignorant owners, improper (or absent) training and the use of the breed in unsavoury practices, such as dog-fighting. As a side note for any Cane Corso owner, as they are officially on the ‘Dangerous Dog’ breed list, several insurance providers will refuse to cover them.

Appearance

Cane Corso Large Photo

While similar in appearance to many Mastiff-type dogs, the Cane Corso has been bred over time to be more streamlined and athletically built, ensuring they can successfully run and hunt. They nonetheless should appear imposing and powerful enough to deter any intruder. While many Mastiffs have noticeably short and ‘snubbed’ faces, the muzzle of the Cane Corso is relatively long considering its ancestry. They are, however, still classified as a brachycephalic breed.

Their head is broad, and their neck impressively thick. Their ears will flop forward if not cropped – a practice that is falling out of favour in recent times. Their eyes are almond-shaped, and darker eyes are preferred, though the colour will typically reflect their coat colour. They will have a long tail that should be carried erect, though many Cane Corsos will have their tails docked when young.

Females stand at 58-66cm and weigh between 40-45 kgs, while males are larger, measuring 62-70cm and weighing up to 50kg. Their short coat can come in a variety of colours and white patches are accepted. Common coat colours include:

  • Black
  • Brindle
  • Grey
  • Fawn
  • Red

While short, their coat is in fact a double coat, with the outer fur being much harsher than the velvety undercoat.

Character & Temperament

Loyal to the end, the Cane Corso is the quintessential guard dog, fiercely dedicated to its family, defending them at any cost. While commonly forming a strong bond with one family member in particular, they will protect everyone in their inner circle. Strongly suspicious of any new people, the Cane Corso will be wary to the point of aggression and great caution is advised when a new person encroaches on their territory. A well-trained Cane Corso will be aloof towards strangers and will wait for a command from their owner to ensure them that all is okay. Failing to appropriately train the Cane Corso from a young age can lead to a dog who will not accept visitors in their home.

Traditionally an independent dog, the Cane Corso is comfortable in its own company, and will rarely demand human attention. Having said that, leaving a Cane Corso alone for a prolonged period of time will inevitably lead to nuisance behaviours, such as destruction within the household or incessant barking.

While generally very tolerant of children they have grown up with, the Cane Corso should be supervised at all times with any children due to their innate strength and potential for aggression. The Cane Corso is notorious for being dog aggressive, and in particular, intact males will not tolerate other intact males. Care must also be taken with smaller animals, such as cats or rabbits, as the Cane Corso is a born hunter and may well mistake family pets for prey.

Trainability

Photo of Cane Corso puppy

The Cane Corso is a natural guard dog, patrolling their territory and ensuring intruders know they are not welcome. They also tend to have an incredibly dominant personality and will question authority throughout their life. It is thus imperative that their trainer is experienced and consistent. Their intelligence keeps their trainer on their toes, but also means that they generally respond well to instructions and will learn new tasks quickly. This breed of dog responds particularly well to positive reinforcement and treat-based training.

An ill-prepared owner who does not dedicate enough time to training their Cane Corso is at risk of owning a potentially lethal weapon and should seriously question if they are the best owner for this breed of dog.

Health

Generally known for their good health, the Cane Corso has a life expectancy of 10-12 years and tends to have a good quality of life. As they are less brachycephalic than other Mastiffs they do not commonly suffer from the associated breathing problems. Some conditions, which should be monitored include:

  • Bloat – A life-threatening condition that occurs when the stomach fills up with gas that cannot escape. The animal will appear visibly bloated and will drool and pant. Without immediate veterinary attention, the animal is likely to pass away.
  • Orthopaedic Conditons – Many large dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and other painful and degenerative bony abnormalities. Breeding animals should be screened and affected dogs should not be bred from.

Exercise and Activity Levels

With relatively high exercise demands, particularly in comparison to similar breeds, this large dog needs a good deal of activity in their lives to keep them calm and well-adjusted. A long, daily run and access to a large fenced garden is essential. A very secure garden is essential in case the Cane Corso sees prey outside and attempts to escape. Dogs should not be exercised on extendable leads or too close to other animals due to the high risk of dog fights. Without an outlet for their energy, a Cane Corso is much more likely to misbehave and become aggressive.

Grooming

A low-maintenance dog with a short coat, brushing 2-3 times weekly will be adequate. It is absolutely essential to introduce a grooming regime when this dog is a puppy to ensure acceptance. Ear checking and cleaning, tooth brushing, coat brushing, paw checking, bathing and claw clipping must be started as soon as possible.

Famous Cane Corsos

This is a breed of dog that has been owned by many Hollywood celebrities, including Vin Diesel, Christina Milian and LeBron James.

Cross-Breeds

There are several popular crosses of the Cane Corso including:

  • American Pit Corso – Cross between a Cane Corso and an American Pitbull Terrier
  • Labrador Corso – Cross between a Cane Corso and a Labrador Retriever
  • Italian Daniff – Cross between a Cane Corso and a Great Dane

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