The Cane Corso, pronounced kha-neh kor-so (ˈkaːne ˈkɔrso) from Italian Cane (dog) and Corso, either meaning courtyard or guard, also known as the Italian Mastiff, is a large Italian breed of dog, for years valued highly in Italy as a companion, guard dog, and hunter.
The Cane Corso is a large Italian Molosser, which is closely related to the Neapolitan Mastiff. In name and form the Cane Corso predates its cousin the Neapolitan Mastiff. It is well muscled and less bulky than most other Mastiff breeds. The breed is known as a true and quite possibly the last of the coursing Mastiffs.
The Cane Corso is a descendant of the canis pugnax, dogs used by the Romans in warfare. Its name derives from cane da corso, an old term for those catch dogs used in rural activities (for cattle and swine; boar hunting, and bear fighting) as distinct from cane da camera which indicates the catch dog kept as a bodyguard. In the recent past, its distribution was limited to some regions of Southern Italy, especially in Basilicata, Campania, and Apulia.
The Cane Corso is a catch dog used with cattle and swine, and also in wild boar hunts. Cane Corso were also used to guard property, livestock, and families, and some continue to be used for this purpose today. Historically it has also been used by night watchmen, keepers, and, in the past, bycarters and drovers. In the more distant past this breed was common all over Italy, as an ample iconography and historiography testify.
As life changed in the southern Italian rural farms in the 20th century, the Corso began to become rare. A group of enthusiasts began recovery activities designed to bring the dog back from near extinction in the late 1970s. By 1994, the breed was fully accepted by the Italian Kennel Club (ENCI) as the 14th Italian breed of dog. The FCI provisionally accepted the Corso in 1997, and ten years later was fully recognized internationally. In the US, the American Kennel Club first recognized the Cane Corso in 2010. The popularity of the breed continues to grow, ranking in 50th place in the United States in 2013, a jump from 60th place in 2012.
The Cane Corso is not a fighting dog. They were bred as powerful working dogs for hundreds of years. Therefore they will not go out “looking” for a fight, but on the other hand they will not back down from other dogs who try to dominate them. The Cane Corso requires an experienced owner who knows how to display a natural authority over the dog. It can be aggressive with strangers and other dogs if not socialized or if it sees itself above humans in the pecking order. It should be carefully socialized when it is a pup. It is highly recommended that these dogs become fully obedience trained. If a Cane Corso is fully trained with an owner who is firm, confident and consistent, setting rules the dog must follow and placing clear limits to what he can and cannot do, along with providing the proper daily mental and physical exercise, the Cane Corso will be an amenable companion. Suspicious of strangers, but wonderful with the family, a well-balanced Corso will put up with strangers if the owners are present.
Our Cane Corso are family raised dogs and live with us in our home. I often say that our Corso will die to protect our family. Their loyalty and protection of their family is one of the primary reasons that I chose the breed. I have seen on numerous occasions when a stranger approaches our home our Corso will step between myself and the kids and the stranger. Not appearing vicious or barking but on guard and prepared to defend his humans. Cane Corso have a tendency to bond to one or two family members. When raised correctly, the dog should be submissive to all members of the family. Corso ears were originally cropped to help them ward off wolves while protecting livestock. Their ears are much more sensitive than the rest of their bodies. Generally, they are otherwise practically impervious to pain, so many Corso owners are often disappointed to find that electric “invisible fence” containment systems don’t deter their dogs.
The temperament of the Cane Corso can be described as very loyal, willing to please and quiet around the house, the Cane Corso is highly intelligent and very trainable. Active and even-minded, he is an unequalled watch and protection dog. The Cane Corso Italiano is great with children in the family. Docile and affectionate with the owner, they are protective yet gentle. The Cane Corso has a very stable temperament. It makes an excellent guard dog and watchdog. It will not wander from the home. They stick close to their masters. If necessary he becomes a terribly brave protector of people, house and property.
Cane Corso are generally referred to as light shedders however in our experience with our inside/house raised dogs they tend to shed year round and it is not heavy but it certainly is more than light. Cane Corso can be listed right up there with the best of the droolers and sloberers especially in warmer climates.
As with any other large breed animals the Cane Corso has had a history of hip dysplasia, and other joint problems however quality breeders and select breeding between two known health animals nearly breeds these issues out of quality Corso. Also with large chested dogs the Cane Corso is subject to bloat. Precautions should be taken when considering feeding times and limiting exertion after feeding. The average life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.
As the Cane Corso is a large energetic dog it is recommended that they live in an environment with plenty of room, however they can be raised in an apartment as long as there is plenty of room to exercise. Exercise should consist of 20-30 minutes of strenuous exercise daily.
Height & Weight:
Below are the breed standards however there are examples of both males and females that are accepted that are below and above these parameters.
Height: Males 24 – 27 inches (64 – 68 cm) Females 23 – 25 inches (60 – 64 cm)
Weight: Males 99 – 110 pounds (45 – 50 kg) Females 88 – 99 pounds (40 – 45 kg)
Cane Corso appear in two basic coat colors: black and fawn. This is further modified by genetic pigment dilution to create “blue” (grey, from black) and frumentino or formentino (from fawn, where the mask is blue/grey) colors. Brindling of varying intensity is common on both basic coat colors as well, creating tigrato (black brindle), and Grigio Tigrato (blue brindle). White markings are common on the chest, tips of toes, the chin, and the bridge of the nose. Large white patches are not desirable.
The Cane Corso is classified as a Mastiff and is assigned to the working group. They are recognized by the following groups/associations:
ACR = American Canine Registry
AKC = American Kennel Club
APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
NKC = National Kennel Club
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