The Cane Corso is a historic Italian breed of dog, known throughout Italy in ancient times for its athletic muscularity, sturdy build, large head, elegance and ease of motion, and skill as a trained hunter of formidable game such as wild boars and bears. It is a dog with a sturdy skeletal structure comprised of large bones, with predominantly rectangular dimensions shaping its large body, head and muzzle.
It has a dense, short, stiff coat and a light undercoat which will become thicker for the colder months. The coat is found in several colors, including black, and various shades of gray, fawn or red.
Some Cane Corsi have brindling in their coats. This subtle and irregular color pattern is usually slightly darker than the coat’s base color and not strongly pronounced.
Some of the red and fawn colored Corsi have masks around their eyes in either gray or black. Some may have a white patch on their chests, chins, throats, toes or the backs of their pasterns.
The Cane Corso breed in modern times retains the hunter instincts of its ancestors, but successfully lives with families who provide appropriate leadership, affection, space and respect for this majestic breed.
The Cane Corso ancestry traces to Roman war dogs; the canix pugnax. Its name is derived from cane da corso, which were dogs “de” course, or in common use; catch dogs. These are the large dogs trained to catch large hunting boars, fighting bears, or herding cattle and other livestock. Some catch dogs were covered with armor to protect them from the piercing tusks and teeth of their prey.
In recent history, Cane Corsi were mostly found in Southern Italy; particularly in the regions of Apulia, Basilicata and Campania. In ancient history, the breed was common throughout Italy. It was the working dog for carters, drovers, keepers and night watchmen, used to guard property and families.
In the 20th century, lifestyles on southern rural Italian farms changed after World War II, and the Cane Corso became a rarity as farming declined and soldiers and families moved to the north for better work opportunities. The Corso, no longer needed widely to work on farms, became nearly extinct as a breed until enthusiasts started recovery activities in the 1970s. These enthusiasts, encouraged by their successful breeding activities formed the breed club, the Society Amatori Cane Corso in 1983.
A Cane Corso is legendary for its unequaled desire and ability to protect its owners and its property. This is an intelligent, easily trained dog. While affectionate and docile with its owner, and certainly loving with its family and children, it has a powerful presence, which is both majestic and noble. While the puppies are fun and easy-going, they grow to adults to become dominant in nature. They will look to their family to determine who is the leader of their pack. If strong boundaries are not provided from the time puppies come into a family, they will grow up thinking they are in charge. It will be very difficult to argue with a dog that may grow to over a hundred pounds. Corsi need strong families who are capable of leading them.
Size and Exercise
Male dogs are approximately 25 to 27.5 inches tall, while females are generally 23.5 to 26 inches tall, when measured from the highest shoulder point to the ground. The Cane Corso torso is longer than its height by about 10%, when measured from the shoulder point to the buttock point. Its weight is usually in proportion to its height.
These large dogs need plenty of exercise and space to do so. They must be maintained in a fenced in yard to avoid their tendency to hunt in their neighborhoods. They are not appropriate pets for apartment dwellers unless sufficient private access to a yard is available.
Health Issues and Living Conditions
The health issues which most specifically affect the Cane Corso include:
- Hip DysplasiaDog’s hips have degrees of laxity which can be measured using the PennHip method. Once the score is assessed, it can be used to compare to other dogs within the same breed. Cane Corso is one breed which has more tolerance to laxity than other dogs. Both hips are scored, with the larger score determining the database placement. Dogs are assigned a median score, with the smaller numbers indicating tighter hips. Since 2011, the median score for Corso laxity is 0.61. Any Corso with this score has average tightness for the breed. Research has shown that the odds of developing Hip Dysplasia is lower for smaller laxity numbers.
- Demodex MangeThis is a form of mites, which can be treated with appropriate veterinarian diagnosis and care
- Eyelid abnormalitiesa) Ectropian- inward curling of the eyelid resulting in scratched eyeballs, irritated or infected eyelidsb) Entropian- outward rolling of the eyelid resulting in damage to sensitive eye tissuesc) Glandular Hypertrophy, or “Cherry Eye” – the third eyelid protrudes outward, swells or becomes infected, often turning red, and requiring surgical removal
Gastric Torsion, or “Bloat”This condition occurs when dogs are fed once a day and bolt their food along with large amounts of swallowed air. When dogs look at their stomachs and exhibit signs of pain, immediate veterinarian attention is required.
The Cane Corso has an expected lifespan from 9 up to 12 years. As a giant sized dog, it needs to have a formula of food which will keep pace with its growth and energy levels. It also needs abundant amounts of fresh drinking water.
The short, stiff coat of the Corso requires only occasional brushing, and it sheds only lightly. Using a soft bristled brush, it is easy to keep the typically shiny fur at its best. Additional grooming needs include regular teeth brushing, checking ears for debris or too much wax, and clipping the strong toenails to protect them from cracking and curling into paws.
Caring for Cane Corso Puppies
All Cane Corso puppies must be trained to help them grow up properly in their families. If they are not trained, they will take over the dominant role and be aggressive takers of what they want. Because they grow to very large weights and sizes, this must not be allowed. These important steps should be taken to help them grow up well:
Before Taking Your New Cane Corso Puppy Home
- Discuss what to expect with all members of the family
- Be certain everyone understands the needs and temperament of the breed
- Buy a large crate for sleeping and training that can be used for the dog’s entire lifetime
- Enclose the dog’s outside yard area with secure fencing
- Have a large kennel for the dog to use outside
- Buy an appropriate collar and leash
- Stock the recommended puppy food
- Find a veterinarian who understands working breeds
- Reserve space in an Obedience Training Class to begin in the puppy’s 16th week
On Arrival at Your Home
Cane Corso puppies need training and boundaries from the very beginning. They are pack animals and depend on cues to learn who is the leader of their pack. Here are steps to take to ensure they know their place:
- Train these sensitive and intelligent dogs with praise and rewards
- The first day home, hold the puppy on his back, cradled in your arms, to teach submissive behavior
- Establish set times and places for potty breaks in the morning, after meals, after playtime, and before bedtime
- Place the crate in your bedroom, on the floor, so the puppy is with “the pack” but lower than the leader
- Do not allow the puppy to sleep in your bed, as he must be lower than the leader to respect leadership
- Give affection, but do not allow the puppy to stay on laps all day
- Never allow children to tease, hit or hurt the puppy
- Never allow the puppy to chase and catch the children as this makes them “prey” in the dog’s world
- Never hit the puppy, as this brings out their aggressive and dominant traits
- Thump the puppy’s nose or squeeze its lip if it bites hard while playing
- Stop unwanted behavior by squirting the puppy with water
- Shake a can of coins as a signal to stop chewing things that are not its toys
- Teach the puppy who is safe by saying “It’s Okay”
- Consistently use the puppy’s collar to remove him from forbidden furniture
- Step into the puppy’s space and say “No!” to stop growling, snapping, or mounting
- When it is time for taking walks, insist the puppy “heel” and do not allow tugging on the leash or frequent sniffing stops
- Allow them plenty of time in the yard outside to play and exercise
Cane Corso Mixes and Types
The Cane Corso mixes and types are not purebreds. Each results from a particular breeding effort, and breeders who do mix recommend that potential owners research the characteristics of each breed in the mix to determine how to raise and handle each type.
Cane Corso Rottweiler Mix
Lab Cane Corso Mix
The breed was fully accepted by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) as the 14th Italian dog breed in 1994.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale (the FCI, or International Canine Organization), of Belgium provisionally accepted the breed in 1997, with full international recognition taking place in 2007.
The Cane Corso was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2010.
The Cane Corso Association of America is the official American Kennel Club Parent Breed Club for this breed in the U.S.A.
Delegates from the International Cane Corso Federation (1993) and the Association of Italian Cano Corso (1999) worked to develop relationships between breeders and proponents of the breed in both countries and served in various delegate roles until the breed was firmly recognized by the AKC.