The laid-back, even-tempered Cane Corso from southern Italy is unofficially also known as the Italian Mastiff or Italian Molosser. It is slowly becoming more famous outside of Italy and is mainly suited to sporty owners with plenty of space and experience with dogs.
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The Cane Corso is a large, strong dog: Males can reach up to 68cm in shoulder height and females up to 64cm. They weigh a maximum of 50kg and according to the standard, should be built slightly longer than they are tall. Due to the striking forehead furrow and emphatic eyebrow ridges, the Cane Corso always looks slightly pensive. The head is broad and surrounded by triangular lop ears. In addition, the short, shiny coat is very dense with little undercoat and is found in black, grey, fawn and red, whilst brindle varieties are also allowed for all shades.
Origin and deployment
The Cane Corso is also said to be a descendant of the ancient canis pugnax. The ancient Romans deployed these powerful canines as war and herding dogs. Cane Corsos were deployed as watchdogs, cattle dogs and livestock guardian dogs on farms in southern Italy. The Cane Corso is considered to be an independent working dog to this day. The exact origin of the name Cane Corso is unknown: 'Cane' is the Italian for dog and 'corso' could come from the Celtic word 'corso', meaning 'powerful'. However, a connection to the Latin 'cohors' for 'herder' or 'guardian' is possible. The FCI only recognised the Cane Corso as an independent breed in 1996. Nowadays, these dogs are also found as protection, police and tracking dogs, as well as for hunting big game. Cane Corsos are happiest working in a pack. It is still rare to encounter these imposing canines outside of Italy.
Providing that they have been well trained, Cane Corsos have wonderful character traits. They are considered obedient, playful, loyal and fond of children. As excellent watchdogs, they don't tolerate strangers – whether animal or human – in their territory. Moreover, they are quite reserved, meaning that they are ignorant to dismissive of strangers. Their family is everything to them and will be defended in emergencies. Although a Cane Corso is never aggressive for no reason, it is willing to uncompromisingly defend its territory and loved ones. The Cane Corso is a confident and loyal companion with consistent training and clear subordination.
Like many large dog breeds, the Cane Corso also tends to suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia. Responsible breeders try to prevent this as far as possible – ask before buying a puppy what precautionary measures they have taken. These large dogs should not have to regularly climb stairs. A balanced diet and sufficient exercise (without too much jumping or compressions) contributes to maintaining healthy joints.
Some dogs of this breed are prone to cardiac disease. In this case too, the breeder can reduce the risk. Signs of a cardiac disease can be, for instance, fatigue, shortness of breath or coughing. Speak to your vet in such cases, because timely medical treatment can relieve the heart and often slows down the course of the disease or even stops it for a while. The Cane Corso often has sensitive eyes, so you should protect it from draughts, ventilators and air conditioning. Pure-white Cane Corsos are now occasionally offered, but beware: These dogs can be genetically affected by deafness. A healthy Cane Corso can live to up to 12 years of age.
Cane Corso diet
As early as the puppy phase, diet makes a huge contribution to your dog's health and wellbeing. If you have been given stock of your puppy's usual food from the breeder but don't want to use this permanently, slowly get your dog used to its new food. This works best if you still give it its usual food when it enters your home in order not to put it under additional stress. Puppies are particularly at risk of growing too fast if the protein content of their food is not adapted, which can lead to skeletal problems. Make sure there is a high meat content, regardless of whether you choose dry food, wet food or BARF. Avoid pet food with grain. You should calculate treats as part of the daily food intake to prevent weight gain. Water should of course always be freely available to your Cane Corso.
It's sufficient to brush your Cane Corso every few days to remove loose fur. This can also be removed with a trimmer during the moulting period. These dogs normally don't need a bath – you can wash out stubborn dirt with a mild dog shampoo. Since these Italian Mastiffs have firm skin in the jaw and snout area compared to other mastiffs, they barely salivate. Special dental snacks or dried chew sticks from specialist stores are suitable for dental care.
Training this breed requires plenty of expertise and some intuition. The Cane Corso needs an empathetic, consistent and clear pack leader. It isn't a dog for beginners, because it can be almost uncontrollable if not trained correctly due to its size and protective instinct. Clear training for a Cane Corso demands a high level of consistency and responsibility and cannot be mastered with theoretical knowledge, but only in combination with experience with dogs. Early socialisation of puppies and young dogs is particularly important, which is why you as a Cane Corso owner should definitely attend a dog school.
Only occupied Cane Corsos are even-tempered – they were and are still working dogs. Despite its bulky appearance, the Cane Corso is a sporty dog that likes to accompany its owner everywhere. It will run alongside on bike rides following the right training and makes an excellent riding companion dog. It is suited to obedience, being a medical service dog, or even as a tracking dog. Due to its weight, it is not suited to agility.
Is a Cane Corso right for me?
Before you take a Cane Corso into your home, you should determine whether you can cope with this headstrong breed. The breed isn't suitable for living in a city or apartment: It needs plenty of space and its own territory to guard. However, it cannot be left to its own devices for too long: These dogs are very drawn to their pack and need family contact and plenty of activity in the form of exercise and tasks to complete. A Cane Corso owner should be sporty and enjoy spending plenty of time with their dog – best of all in the great outdoors. These dogs are considered very fond of children, though of course mainly older children aware of the rules for treating family pets with respect. The breed can live in peace with cats and other pets if it was socialised with them as a puppy.
A breed which requires great attention
Consider that your Cane Corso will demand a lot of your time on a daily basis for over a decade. Care provision during holidays or in case of illness should be minutely planned. Before the dog enters your home, take time to sort basic equipment such as a collar and lead, harness, dog blanket and/or basket, toys, transport case for the car, bowls, brushes and practical aids such as lint brushes or tick tweezers. There are of course ongoing costs with these canines weighing up to 50kg. They need a high-quality dog food with high meat content, as well as a veterinary check-up at least once a year. Liability insurance also forms part of the ongoing costs.
Cane Corso: a breed for knowledgeable owners
Due to its authoritative appearance, this breed has unfortunately in the past attracted some owners who see these proud dogs more as status symbols than furry friends. Combined with laziness and a lack of canine knowledge, this is a scenario in which the Cane Corso's protective instinct and stubbornness can take on a dangerous dynamic. With knowledgeable and responsible owners, these powerful Italian dogs are reliable, confident family members with no aggressive tendencies. Certain requirements may be needed for owning this breed.
How to find your Cane Corso
If you have chosen to take a Cane Corso into your home, you can get searching for a suitable breeder. The breed is found most frequently in Italy, its country of origin. These stately dogs are rare sights in other countries, although the number of breeders is increasing. Nevertheless, it is possible that you won't find any breeders close by and may have to consider longer trips.
What to look for in a potential breeder
Can you visit the breeder at their home to observe the surroundings of the dogs and their parents? Do they respond patiently and with expertise to questions on their breed, as well as on the parents' healthcare provision? Are the puppies comprehensively socialised? Do the parent animals there appear healthy and even-tempered? And not least: Is the breeder also interested in your ability to offer a good home? You should be able to answer all these questions with a 'yes' before signing the purchase contract.
As part of the handover of the puppy, you should receive a portion of its usual food, along with the vaccination and pedigree certificate. A good breeder will remain a port of call for questions about the breed even after their dogs have moved out. They will be happy if you let them take part in the puppy's development through photos.
Definitely steer clear of breeders who don't belong to an association and are offering supposedly pedigree Cane Corsos at bargain prices. Breeding requires plenty of expertise regarding the specific breed and precise selection of suitable animals in terms of character, type and health to avoid nasty surprises. This is an investment of time and money that irresponsible breeders don't want to take on.
Try your luck with online research
If you want to give an older Cane Corso a home, the search can prove time-consuming, especially outside of Italy. Due to the low population, the breed can rarely be found on an off-chance at local animal shelters. However, a promising option is online research. These are often associations specialising in Mastiffs and other Molossers. These organisations can usually make a good assessment of the character of older dogs and will determine whether the dog is suitable for your circumstances and experience. Whilst there are of course also some well-trained Cane Corsos being rehomed, which may have lost their home due to a move, for instance, there are also some that have ended up in an animal shelter because they overwhelmed their previous owners and only belong in the hands of very experienced canine experts.