Cane Corso

Cane Corsos are descendants of war dogs used during the Roman Empire. Find out everything you need to know about Italy’s most popular canine in our comprehensive guide.

cane corso dog laying on grass

Height: Male 25-27.5 inches, female 23.5-26 inches
Cane Corso Weight: 40-55 kilos
Lifespan: 9-12 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): No, this breed is not registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the pros and cons of the Cane Corso:

Pros:

  • Excellent guard dog
  • Quiet and calm when indoors
  • Intelligent and easy to train
  • Low grooming maintenance

Cons:

  • Not ideal for first-time owners
  • Dominant, needs firm leadership
  • High exercise needs
  • Lots of drooling

Overview

The Cane Corso is the most popular dog breed in Italy, but only 50 years ago these canines were facing extinction. Ever since their revival, the breed has seen a boost in popularity both inside and outside their native country. In the Mastiff family Cane Corsos are one of the easiest to train an ideal trait for large breed dog lovers.

Calm and relaxed indoors, this canine is a pleasure to have in the home. They do have high exercise needs and will need an owner who can meet this. If they aren’t receiving enough activity, destruction will soon follow and these large jaws can quickly destroy any home!

The Cane Corso dog breed will drool from their mouth due to their jowls. Drooling is at its worst after food and water consumption. Keep a towel to hand in order to keep their face clean. Some Corsos may have tighter jowls which will reduce the amount of drool produced.

cane corso dog laying on grass

An Italian Mastiff makes a fantastic protection dog. Although they aren’t the most popular choice of police dogs, they are still used by law enforcement. Yet despite their well-known role of guarding, this breed has a well-balanced temperament and can happily fit into family life.

It used to be common practice to crop and dock the ears and tail of the Cane Corso. In Italy, tail docking is still legal but ear docking isn’t unless there are exceptional reasons to do so. In the UK both docking and cropping are illegal.

History

The exact origination of the Cane Corso Mastiff isn’t known. What we do know is that these dogs come from Italy, dating back to the Roman Empire, and are descendants of the Canis Pugnace. These fighting dogs were regularly used and prized for their assistance in war. Both the Cane Corso and the Neopolitan Mastiff descend from this breed.

An ancient Roman mosaic depicting a Wild Boar hunt features a dog that strongly resembles the Cane Corso. Other historical pieces of art have been seen to include this canine. In 1390, a piece of work produced by Giovannino de Grassi featured the breed, along with the 1790 sculptures of the Reggia di Caserta.

Once the Roman Empire had run its course, the Cane Corso Italian Mastiff saw a change in their job role. They were mostly used in Southern Italy as a hunter, guard and farm dog. During this period, the breed was expected to protect livestock from predators such as the now-extinct Italian Wolf and Wild Boar.

Throughout Italian history, the Cane Corso has proven vital. Yet by the time the 1970s arrived this breed came close to extinction. Giovanni Bonnetti and Dr. Poalo Breber were responsible for the breed’s revival. This led to the creation of the Società Amatori Cane Corso breed club in 1983. Then in 1996, these canines received FCI recognition.

Today, the Cane Corso is still an active working breed used for guarding, tracking, companionship, and police work. The breed can also be seen participating in dog shows. In Europe, internet users have made the Cane Corso one of the most searched dog breeds. Yet despite this, they are still not recognized by the United Kingdom’s Kennel Club.

Related: Learn about the Border Terrier dog breed.

Personality

Cane Corso Temperament:

Whilst the Italian Cane Corso is known for its protection and guarding skills, they can actually make decent family pets. Independent, confident, friendly, and loyal, the Cane Corso will go to great lengths to keep their family safe. The breed isn’t as aggressive as they would have been during the Roman Empire, but they’re still exceptional guard dogs.

Cane Corso’s are intelligent and can be easily trained with the right owner. They do have a dominant side and will need a strong and experienced leader to take the reigns. With the correct training and socialization, an adult Cane Corso will have a well-balanced and calm temperament.

studio shot of a cane corso dog

Are Cane Corsos Good with Strangers?

Cane Corso puppies are trusting and friendly towards strangers. As they get older they will instinctively become more wary and suspicious. Train the Corso depending on their use. If they are being used for guarding purposes then this breed will be on the constant alert around those they don’t know.

Family pets will follow their owner’s lead, relaxing around those accepted indoors. However, if they sense danger the Cane Corso won’t hesitate to initiate a defense.

Are Cane Corsos Good With Children?

Yes, this breed gets along well with children of all ages. Cane Corsos are understanding of their size, adjusting play techniques for those smaller than them. The breed is patient and can handle the difference in a child’s behavior, but play should always be supervised. Kids will receive the loyalty and protection of the Cane Corso.

Are Cane Corsos Ok With Other Dogs?

Their behavior towards others relies heavily on socialization. Cane Corsos can be dog friendly, playing nicely with canines of all sizes. However, they may be aggressive towards dogs of the same sex. It’s all dependent on their socialization. They can live with other dogs and cats provided they’ve been raised together.

Exercise

An older Corso won’t be as high in energy as a Cane Corso puppy but will need up to two hours of exercise each day. It is important this Mastiff receives its daily activity requirements in order to maintain their health. Jogging, cycling, and fast-paced walks are some activities that can be enjoyed together.

cane corso dog on leash

As a heavy breed, this canine won’t be an exceptional runner but does have the stamina to work outdoors all day. Remember boredom leads to destruction. This breed is independent and with the right exercise and attention, they can be left alone for up to 8 hours.

Related: Things you need to consider when planning to own a West Highland Terrier.

Health

Below are the breed-related health issues of the Cane Corso dog:

  • Hip Dysplasia- If the ball and socket of the hip joint don’t fit together properly, they will rub against each other. It can be painful and can lead to arthritis.
  • Elbow Dysplasia- Lameness is a common sign of elbow dysplasia and can affect one or both of the legs. This symptom is commonly seen between the ages of eight months to two years.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- A potentially fatal condition where the stomach twists trapping the food contents and gases within. Mostly seen in large breeds. Large meals and fast eating are common causes.
  • Entropion- The eyelid rolls inwards resulting in the lashes scratching the surface of the eye. Pain, ulcers, and pigmentation development are just some of the symptoms that may occur.
  • Ectropion- The lower eyelid rolls outwards exposing the inner tissues lining the eyelid. This will cause dryness and also makes the eyes appear droopy.
  • Cherry Eye- The gland in the corner of the eye pops out due to the weakening of the connective tissue.

Intelligence & Training

Cane Corsos are known for their trainability. They’re highly intelligent and have been used for a wide range of job roles throughout history. Today, the Cane Corso Mastiff is still an active working dog and loyal companion.

These canines love pleasing their owners and excel in obedience training. As they enter adulthood they may become dominant and rowdy, pushing boundaries. Firm leadership will be needed to guide them back onto the right track. It is incredibly important they have been regularly socialized before they reach this stage.

Establish leadership first before starting obedience training. Once a dog respects their owner, their listening skills will become stronger. Whilst this breed can handle harsh training techniques, no dog should ever be hit during training. If you would like a Cane Corso for protective purposes, visit a trainer who is experienced in this field.

Determine what your pooches favorite reward is. This could be affection, treats, or even a toy. With the right motivation, their concentration will be easier to gain. Another important factor in training is socialization. This large breed can cause serious harm to smaller canines and even people.

Related: How do you take care of a Beagle? Find out here.

Grooming

Although a large breed, the Cane Corso is fairly easy to groom. Their short coat will need a brush once a week, allowing their natural oils to care for the coat.  The best tools to use are bristle brushes, grooming rakes, and mitts. Frequent brushing will be needed during the Spring and Autumn months when shedding is at its highest.

Wash the Cane Corso every 6-8 weeks although a bath can be given sooner if they get dirty before then. In the warm weather, baths can be given outside. Natural drying is best, however, a blow dryer can also be used to hasten the process.

close-up of cane corso dog

The long ears of the Cane Corso block airflow from entering the ear canal. This can make them prone to ear infections. To prevent this cleanse their ears weekly, removing any debris or fur blocking the entrance. Grooming techniques need to be introduced as early as possible, to prevent any possible fears.

Trim the Cane Corsos nails every 2-3 weeks. Clippers can be used but due to this breed size, some owners find grinding tools easier. Brush their teeth 2-3 times a week, although vets recommend this is done daily to prevent health issues such as gum disease.

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