October 23, 2017

Introduction to the Cane Corso

The Cane Corso, otherwise known as the Italian Mastiff, is the descendant of dogs used by the ancient Romans in warfare.

For centuries the dogs have been kept on farms and used as catch dogs for cattle and swine. They have also been used for boar hunting and to guard property, livestock, and the family home.

The breed stands up to 28 inches tall at the withers and weighs up to 110 pounds.

They require training and good socialization from a young age.

The Cane Corso makes a loyal, loving pet when raised properly but they are not recommended for first time dog owners.

History of the Cane Corso

The Cane Corso is descended from the war dogs, known as canis pugnax, used by the ancient Romans. The related Neapolitan Mastiff is also descended from these dogs, though the Cane Corso is said to be the older breed. These are molosser-type dogs, descended from the original molosser-mastiff dogs of southeastern Europe. Molosser-type dogs, in general, are large, powerful dogs, with large, heavy bones, pendant ears, a neck that is short and well-muscled; and a muzzle that is comparatively short and broad.

The name “Cane Corso” may possibly have several origins but one of them is probably from “cane da corso,” a term in rural areas for dogs that worked with cattle, swine, and engaged in other activities such as boar hunting and bear fighting. Cane Corso were catch dogs – dogs that physically take hold of livestock, boar, or other animals in contrast to dogs that bay or tree animals.

The Cane Corso has also been used to guard property, livestock, and family homes. Some dogs are still kept for these purposes today. The dog has also been favored by night watchmen in the past. Carters and drovers have also used the Cane Corso to pull carts. At one time the breed was common throughout Italy but in the recent past they have been limited to parts of southern Italy such as Apulia, Basilicata, and Campania. Images of the Cane Corso have been found all over Italy. The breed has often been mentioned in Italian poetry.

As rural life in southern Italy began to change in the 20th century, Cane Corso numbers began to decline. In the 1970s people dedicated to the breed began efforts to save to it from becoming extinct. The breed was accepted by the Italian Kennel Club in 1994. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the breed in 1997. The American Kennel Club in the United States recognized the Cane Corso in 2010. The breed has quickly become popular in the U.S. It is currently the 40th most popular breed in the U.S., up from the 50th place in 2013 and the 60th place in 2012.

Although the two breeds are related and both are mastiff-type dogs found in Italy, in appearance the Cane Corso and the Neapolitan Mastiff are very different. The Neapolitan is an imposing guard dog with plenty of wrinkles. By comparison, the Cane Corso is a much lighter, more athletic dog.

Cane Corso Health Related Issues

The Cane Corso is subject to several health issues. Canine hip dysplasia, commonly found in many large/giant breeds, is an issue in the breed. Hip dysplasia is a result of abnormal wear of the hip cartilage. This wear and tear can ultimately lead to arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD). Hip dysplasia can be due to trauma (injury), genetic factors (the shape of the hip and hip socket), and environmental factors (nutrition, weight, exercise, floor surfaces, and other things). There are a multitude of things that may or may not cause hip dysplasia for any particular dog. A dog may have parents, grandparents, siblings, and other relatives that all have hips rated Excellent and still end up with hip dysplasia. Likewise, a dog from a long line of bad hips can be rated with Excellent hips. For the most part, breeders that breed dogs with Good and Excellent hips will, over time, have puppies with better and better hips, but it can’t always be guaranteed with each puppy. Hip dysplasia is currently fairly common among Cane Corso in the United States with about 39.1 percent of dogs tested (and reported) having some degree of dysplasia. You can view statistics here.

Idiopathic epilepsy also occurs in the Cane Corso. Any dog of any breed or mix can have a seizure. Epilepsy is not uncommon among canines in general. With idiopathic epilepsy the cause is unknown. Causes can range from fevers to tumors to poisons to trauma. Some seizures are easily controlled with medication and others are not. In some cases a dog may have a single seizure and never have one again. In the Cane Corso idiopathic epilepsy usually starts at about 2 years but it can begin as early as 9 months or as late as 5 years.

Some Cane Corso can also have problems with demodex mange. This condition is caused by demodex mites. These mites are found on all animals, including humans, but they only become a problem for your dog when his immune system fails to keep them in check. When that happens, an over-abundance of demodex mites erupts, leading to the mange. This can be due to a generally compromised immune system, stress in your dog’s life from things like shipping, moving houses, being around a new dog or baby, and so on. Your vet can do a skin scraping to check for the mites. There are some easy, safe treatments to get rid of them but it’s important to understand what’s going on with your dog’s immune system, too.

Cane Corso can be prone to many of the same eyelid problems that affect other molosser breeds such as entropion, ectropion, and cherry eye.

As a large breed with a deep chest, the Cane Corso is also prone to bloat. Bloat or gastric torsion is a life-threatening problem that can occur very quickly. The exact causes are unknown but nervous dogs, dogs that eat too fast and gulp air seem to be more likely to bloat. If you suspect that your dog is bloating, go to the vet without delay. This is an emergency situation and your dog needs immediate treatment!

The Cane Corso Association of America recommends that dogs be tested for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and have a congenital cardiac exam or advanced cardiac exam. These tests are especially important if a dog is being considered for breeding. Several tests are also considered optional for dogs in the breed: patellar luxation; eye examination by a boarded ACVO ophthalmologist; autoimmune thyroiditis; and participation in the OFA/CHIC DNA Repository.

The CHIC DNA Repository, co-sponsored by the OFA and the AKC/CHF, collects and stores samples of canine DNA, along with geneaological and phenotypical information that corresponds to the DNA, in order to facilitate testing and research in the future that is aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited disease in canines.

Cane Corso Temperament

In terms of personality the Cane Corso is a smart, trainable dog. They have a noble bearing and they are excellent protectors. They are assertive, confident dogs. They are normally eager to please their owners and quite docile at home. They make an affectionate, loyal family dog. They are usually good with children but we always recommend supervision when there is interaction between dogs and small children, just to be safe.

The Cane Corso should remain calm and undisturbed when someone approaches them but they are capable of reacting when necessary. They are good with other dogs but they need supervision. Their protective instincts will extend to other animals when necessary. If you have cats or other small pets in the home, you should use caution. The Cane Corso can be disposed to chase them.

The Cane Corso is much more versatile than you might suppose. Although they are a very large breed, they are muscular and athletic. They move with exceptional grace and speed for such a large dog. In other words, they can quickly leap into action when the occasion calls for it. This may be a gentle breed at home but strangers should not try to mess with them.

According to the Cane Corso Association of America (CCAA), the AKC parent club for the breed, these are dogs that require mental stimulation. You can’t leave them at home with nothing to do all day and doggy daycare is not enough. They need a job or something to keep them occupied. They excel at many dog sports such as obedience, tracking, agility, dock diving, nosework, and protection work. A Cane Corso needs something in his life besides eating and sleeping.

Like other dogs with large flews (hanging lips), drooling is always a possibility. The breed is not known for being a problem barker but they will bark when necessary.

This breed eats more than many other breeds due to their size. You should also count on higher vet costs for large/giant breeds. They also require plenty of daily exercise. The Cane Corso Association of America says that a dog needs about a mile of exercise in the morning and again in the evening. They note that the Cane Corso was bred to work hard and the dogs still thrive on getting plenty of exercise today.

The Cane Corso tends to be a socially dominant dog so they are not a good fit for people who are too soft or timid about handling dogs. If you do not have the confidence or experience with dogs to handle such a large, powerful, dominant breed, please do not get one. In the right hands the Cane Corso can be a very good pet. However, without proper socialization, training, and owner control, this would be a very bad match.

There is a fun side to the breed. Check out these dogs relaxing at home.

Cane Corso Grooming

The male Cane Corso is 24 to 28 inches tall and the female is 23 to 26 inches tall. Males weigh 99 to 110 pounds; females weigh 88 to 99 pounds. Historically the Cane Corso’s tail has been docked. This is still true in the United States.

The breed has a short coat but it is double-coated with an undercoat. They typically shed throughout the year with a big blowout twice a year in the spring and autumn. Dogs that live in colder climates will have a thicker undercoat than dogs in warm climates.

Grooming is minimal. You should curry and brush your Cane Corso weekly to get rid of dead hair, especially in the spring months. A tool such as the Zoom Groom is often recommended, along with a good brush.

Keep your dog’s nails short. You can trim them every 2 to 3 weeks, or as needed. Most owners use clippers or a Dremel tool.

Check your dog’s ears frequently to make sure they are clean. If they need cleaning you can use a good ear cleaner from your veterinarian or a pet store.

Bathe your Cane Corso as needed.

Cane Corso Fun Facts

  • According to some sources, the Cane Corso is the only true coursing mastiff. The dogs can run and chase down some kinds of game.
  • As a farm dog, the Cane Corso was often called upon to hold a bull to be castrated; guard sheep against wolves; fight badgers; guard the vineyards; and pull carts. The breed has been amazingly versatile in Italy through the centuries.
  • The Cane Corso was pitted against lions and other large animals in the ancient Roman arena games.

Common Cane Corso Mixes

We didn’t find too many Cane Corso mixes online. The mixes we did find were a Rottweiller/Cane Corso mix and several Pitbull/Cane Corso mixes. We also noted an American Bulldog/Cane Corso mix, a Labrador/Cane Corso mix, and a Sharpei/Cane Corso mix.

Cane Corso FAQ’s

What is a Cane Corso Life Expectancy?

Many Cane Corso live to be 10 to 12 years. This is longer than many giant breeds.

Are Cane Corso easy to train?

Yes, this is a very intelligent breed. They are eager to please and considered easy to train. It’s important for the Cane Corso to be trained and well-socialized from a young age because they do tend to be very protective, especially regarding their people and homes. Owners should participate in the training instead of sending the dog to someone else to train. It’s very important for a Cane Corso owner to be able to control his/her own dog.

Do Cane Corso shed a lot of hair?

According to the Cane Corso Association of America and various breeders, this is a breed that sheds a little all the time, despite having a short coat. You can expect a dog to have a big shed or to “blow coat” in a big way in the spring and sometimes in the fall, before the winter coat comes in. Regular weekly brushing will cut down on loose dead hair in the house, dust bunnies, and “tumbleweeds” hiding under your furniture.

Do Cane Corso make good apartment pets?

We would not generally recommend a Cane Corso as an apartment pet. If you live in an apartment and you absolutely have your heart set on having a Cane Corso, you might be able to make it work but it wouldn’t be easy. These are very big dogs and they are not especially tidy. They need a lot of daily exercise. There are many small and medium-sized dogs that would be easier to keep in an apartment.

Are Cane Corso good with Children?

Yes, the Cane Corso is good with children – at least with children in your family. As is often the case with very protective dogs, you will need to be careful about visiting children. Not all dogs are as tolerant of other people’s children. Make sure you supervise whenever your Cane Corso interacts with children in general, just to be safe.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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