They are huge with exceptional build and very solid muscles. They have their origins as prized guard dogs of Italian farmers, livestock owners, and other people who value the dog’s protective nature. We’re talking about the Cane Corso, of course. This breed has the athleticism of a German Shepherd and the strength of a Mastiff. It is never fearful a characteristic that differentiates a true guard dog from those that only wear a badge on their canine chest. If this is your first time to own a pet dog, the Dogo di Puglia, as the Cane Corso is also known, is not for you. This is a breed that is large and headstrong. It is active, intelligent, and powerful, too. Hence, it only responds well to someone who has a very clear understanding of what such a guard dog and companion canine needs.
History of the Cane Corso
The large and powerful Cane Corso is a descendant of the mighty canine warriors of the Roman Empire. It belongs to a class of giant dogs that served as guardians of human settlements and properties. It is a mastiff type of dog that features a well-muscled body, large and powerful jaws, and a huge rounded head.
Cane Corso historians put the lineage of the dog to as far back as 1137 BC. Its ancestors are the guard dogs that ancient Molossian tribes bred with the specific task of protecting their human families and their properties.
When the Roman Empire conquered Greece in 27 BC, many of the Roman soldiers brought with them these large guard dogs back to Italy. They bred the dogs with the native population of canines in Italy to produce two very distinct breeds: the Neapolitan Mastiff and the Cane Corso. The former was larger and hence, became more popular than the Dogo di Puglia.
The Cane Corso was formidable in the battlefront, nonetheless. After all, Cane Corso is a very loose translation of the word “guardian dog” or “bodyguard dog”. They accompanied Roman soldiers in their expansionist efforts as they moved across Europe and the fringes of Asia. One has to understand that the original Cane Corsi were way larger than their present-day descendants. This allowed them to perform many astonishing feats of bravery and heroism in the face of an unrelenting enemy.
Ancient Cane Corsi are famous for carrying buckets of flaming oil attached to their backs. They would charge the enemy frontlines using this tactic. One can only imagine the fear in the eyes of their enemies when they see a hulking dog with flaming bodies leading the charge.
The end of the wars saw these large dogs take on a different role. No longer were they charging battlefield frontlines. Instead, they charged at any wild animal that strayed into the farms and properties of their human masters. Wolves, bears, and wild boars were never a match to the strength and tenacity of the Corso. They also chased away potential troublemakers. Hog raisers used Corsi to track down sows that have given birth only recently. These female pigs have the uncanny behavior of hiding their piglets. It’s the Corso’s job to look for their hiding places.
Corsi are also excellent cattle drivers. They help livestock owners in driving the herd to the slaughterhouse. If a bull decides to exert its dominance, the Cane Corso will never back down. It will grab the bull by its nose or neck to incapacitate the large animal.
Because of its protective nature, the Cane Corso was a favorite among Italian farmers and property owners. If you were to time-travel back to the Italian countryside during the 1st millennia AD, you will appreciate the importance of the Corso to these people.
The World Wars of the 20th century almost led to the extinction of the breed. The Italian Army conscripted Italian farmers and farmer hands, leaving behind Corsi with no one to take care of them. While dogs can survive on their own, many Corsi met their end because of their fierce loyalty to their human masters. These are dogs that were unwilling to leave their master.
With the destruction of Italy during the Second World War, it was very rare to find Corsi in the fields. With post-war modernization in full swing, Italian farmers no longer saw a need for these hulking guard dogs. Instead, property owners relied on their firearms to protect themselves and their investments.
In the backcountry of the Italian landscape, very few of these dogs survived. Towards the middle of the 1970s, Cane Corso enthusiasts sought to revive the dying breed. They went from one rural Italian farm to the next in the hope of finding the few Corsi still alive. Hence, selective breeding allowed the rebirth of a formidable guardian canine breed.
In 1983, this group of breed enthusiasts established the Society Amorati Cane Corso. Five years later, the very first Cane Corso reached the US shores. In the early 1990s, these dogs began gracing dog shows all over Europe. They showcased their remarkable build as well as amiable temperament.
In 1994, the Italian Kennel Club accepted the Cane Corso as its 14th breed of Italian origin. Three years later, the Federation Cynologique Internationale accepted the Cane Corso, but on a provisional basis. It would take a decade for the world governing body of dog enthusiasts to give the breed its full recognition in 2007.
Another 3 years would pass before the American Kennel Club began accepting Cane Corsi in its registry. By 2012, Cane Corsi ranks 60th among 193 AKC dog breeds. A year later, it jumped 10 places to number 50. In 2016, the breed ranked number 40th. A year later, it reached the 37th spot. As of the 2018 rankings of the AKC, the Cane Corso is at a respectable number 32 position. Not bad from a dog breed that almost became extinct.
If you have been paying attention to the history or origins of the Cane Corso, you know that this is a dog breed that you don’t want to mess with. Aside from the fact that it belongs to the group of large molosser type of dogs, there are plenty more you need to know about this fascinating breed.
- Local Italian farmers call the Cane Corso as the Dogo di Puglia, Cane di Macellaio, Italian Mastiff, and Cane Corz.
- Male Corsi can reach heights of between 24 and 27 inches, while females will have a shorter stature at about 23 to 25 inches.
- Female Corsi can tip the weighing scale from 88 to 99 pounds. Males, on the other hand, weigh in at 99 to 110 pounds.
- The FCI says that the ideal height of a male Cane Corso should be 24 to 28 inches; 23 to 26 inches among females.
- An adult Corso should project the look of power and athleticism.
- It has a skin that is moderately-tight. It is possible for the dog to have a dewlap on its neck. This is normal.
- The bottom of the dog’s jawline should always have that characteristic hanging lip.
- The Cane Corso’s most important feature is its head. It has a very imposing size, complete with a flat forehead that converges with the canine’s muzzle.
- It has a flat and almost-rectangular muzzle. It should be as long as it is wide. The muzzle should also be almost equal to 1/3 the length of the dog’s skull.
- Cane Corsi with darker eyes are more acceptable in show circles. However, the eye color tends to follow the shade of the dog’s brindle pattern.
- In the past, the ears are cropped in equilateral triangles. Cropping the dog’s ears meant there’s less chance that a wild animal will bite the dog’s ears. Cropping is now illegal in many jurisdictions, however. Hence, you can see Cane Corsi with their ears hanging on their heads.
- Cane Corsi come in two fundamental coat colors: fawn and black. There are also Cane Corsi that come with a “blue” color as well as a bluish-gray hue.
- Brindle coat patterns are very common among Corsi. They can be Tigrato or Grigio Tigrato.
- On the average, a Cane Corso can live up to 9.3 years, maxing out at 12 years.
Things You Should Know
Owning a Cane Corso is a full-time responsibility. This is not an ordinary dog. It came from a line of dogs that are known for their excellent guarding instincts. They may only have average intelligence, but very few other breeds can match their strength and raw courage. On the good side, this is a great dog for any family who may want to feel secure in their home.
Not for the newbie pet parent, the Cane Corso only responds to an individual who has a firm grasp of positive reinforcement techniques. It is true that the traditional way of training this type of dog is by using aversive methods. However, there is evidence to show that you will have a much better chance of training a Cane Corso using rewards. You do not want to instill fear into this dog since it can manifest as aggression. It may not be towards you, but it could be someone else.
You have to remember that the Corso is very suspicious of anyone that it is not familiar with. If you do not train it and socialize it early in its life, you may find that this dog is more than you can handle.
Training Corsi is crucial since this is a very dominant breed. It wouldn’t face the enemies of Rome if it was submissive and skittish. Cane Corsi can take down animals larger than itself like the bull. It would be very easy for it to take you down if you give it a chance. Sure, it may not tackle you, but your friend may be a tempting substitute.
Training should begin in earnest. Regardless of whether you have a puppy arriving at your house or a full-grown adult, training should start at once. A good training environment for any puppy is a puppy kindergarten class. This provides not only age-appropriate training, but also peer-relevant socialization.
Housebreaking and crate training are very important in keeping order in your home. If you neglect to train the Corso in this aspect, there’s a chance that it will be the hurricane that you don’t want messing up your life.
The Cane Corso is a muscular breed, like any other molosser type of canine. Hence, it requires a good amount of animal-based proteins that will continue to develop and maintain its muscles. In an ideal setting, it is best to feed Cane Corsi with raw food. However, given that there may be questions about the safety and quality of these food items, your next best choice is home-prepared meals. The problem with such an approach is that you may not give the Cane Corso a well-balanced nutrition.
One of the things that this breed is notorious for is bloat. It is best for such a dog to eat at least two times or up to three times a day. This reduces the amount of food served per meal, helping reduce the incidence of bloat.
Cane Corsi are also known for hip dysplasia. While this condition has a very strong genetic link, you can still help reduce the risk of the dog’s having arthritis. Giving dog food rich in glucosamine and chondroitin can be very beneficial for such a dog. Controlling its food portion sizes can also help.
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Grooming the Cane Corso is never difficult because its coat is shorter than a Labrador’s. However, it is important to recognize that this dog will still need every day brushing. It is a moderate shedder; not as heavy as a German Shepherd, but severe enough to leave loose hairs on your furniture.
Pet parents also need to take care of the dog’s teeth. If possible, brush the Cane Corso’s teeth everyday using only a toothpaste that’s formulated for dogs. Trim the nails every 2 to 3 weeks. Clean and inspect the Cane Corso’s ears every week.
Bathing the Cane Corso is not often necessary. However, if you do notice it to be dirty and soiled, then bathing it once every 2 to 3 months is enough. Frequent bathing can strip the dog’s skin of oils that serve as protection. Instead of helping your dog, you are exposing it to different skin health problems.
It is true that Cane Corsi are very powerful dogs. It is, therefore, surprising to learn that many do not last a decade in this world. Many of them suffer from hip dysplasia. And with the weight of their hulking bodies, you can imagine the strain it would put on the joints.
Cane Corsi are also prone to demodectic mange, a kind of skin disease caused by a species of mites. It is a very itchy infection that can prove very uncomfortable for the dog. In severe cases, secondary infections can develop because of the incessant scratching.
We mentioned that this dog is prone to bloat. It may sound benign, but what you’re guarding against is the development of gastric dilation volvulus. People call it gastric torsion whereby the stomach turns and twists into itself. When this occurs, it can cut off blood supply to other organs in the dog’s abdomen.
A true Cane Corso is always cheerful. It loves its family; however, it is never showy. It can develop a strong bond with its human family in an instant. What many do not realize is that underneath their intimidating presence is a dog that craves for the warmth and love of its human family. Reprimanding the Cane Corso is a no-no as this can send the large dog into a depressed mood.
Cane Corsi are also very courageous – it is a trait they’ve had since the ancient times. These dogs are never yappy. They are guard dogs; not watch dogs. And when it comes to protecting you, you can always rely on the Cane Corso.
Because of the very nature of these dogs, we recommend Cane Corsi only for those with the following characteristics.
- Have excellent knowledge of how to train dogs using positive reinforcement techniques
- Love the outdoors or at least lead a very active lifestyle
- Prefer a true guard dog, instead of purely a watch dog
- Can promise to exercise and play with the dog for at least an hour every day
- Families with large homes and backyards
- Households with older kids
- Dislikes extensive grooming
Likewise, we do not suggest the Cane Corso to the following folks.
- Individuals who lack self-confidence in handling large dogs
- Lazy people or individuals leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Families with members who may have allergies to pet dander
- Individuals who hate vacuuming or picking up loose pet hairs
Cane Corsi are excellent guard dogs for the family. Their loyalty and devotion is, first and foremost, to the family who it recognizes as its owners. Any person outside this circle may draw the suspiciousness and watchful nature of this Italian giant.