Few dogs are as visually striking as the Cane Corso (if your Italian is a bit rusty, that’s “KAH-nay KOR-so”). The first thing you’ll notice about the Cane Corso dog breed is that it’s absolutely ripped. Bred for hard work, these dogs excel at hunting, herding, and guarding the home.
They also have a sweet streak a mile wide. Corsos guard their homes with loving hearts and form remarkably strong bonds with their families. Although the American Kennel Club did not recognize it until 2010, the Cane Corso currently ranks as the 25th most popular breed in the nation, according to the club. Wonder why? Just keep reading.
About the Cane Corso
The Cane Corso, also known as the Cane Corso Italiano, Cane Di Macellaio, or Italian Mastiff, is a large breed dog with roots in ancient Rome. It is an eye-catching breed, tall and muscular with a broad head and square muzzle. The Corso is often described as dignified, maintaining a stoic demeanor in keeping with its guard dog heritage.
Here’s how the Cane Corso sets itself apart from other breeds:
- “Cane Corso” roughly translates from Latin as “bodyguard dog.”
- It is an ancient breed, dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
- The Corso is a working breed. Historically, they served as guard dogs, farmhands, and even soldiers.
- The Cane Corso is an athletic breed that excels at dog sports.
- They are a large breed, frequently topping 100 pounds.
- Corsos often have cropped ears and a docked tail.
- They are a very intelligent breed that needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation.
- The Cane Corso is a breed for experienced pet parents. They need intensive training, hours of exercise, and a confident, authoritative owner to serve as an “alpha” figure in their life.
Cane Corso History
The Cane Corso descends from an ancient Greek dog breed called the Molossus. During their conquest of the Greek islands, Roman soldiers encountered the Mollosus, brought a number of them home, and bred them with native Italian breeds to create the Cane Corso. Corsos were used as Roman war dogs, called pireferi, who wore custom armor and charged into battle with flaming buckets of oil strapped to their sides. Away from the battlefield, Cane Corsos could be found battling gladiators alongside other powerful animals like lions and bears.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Cane Corso settled into a gentler country lifestyle. They found jobs guarding farms and herding livestock. Cane Corsos have also been used for hunting big game like deer and wild boar.
The 20th century was a difficult time for the Cane Corso. World War II brought great turmoil to the Italian countryside, leaving many farms abandoned. When work resumed after the war, most Cane Corsos lost their jobs to mechanical farm equipment.
These dogs were all but extinct by the 1970s when a group of Italian Cane Corso lovers banded together to revive the breed. They tracked down Cane Corsos throughout southern Italy and organized a selective breeding effort that restored the dogs to abundance. Corsos were eventually brought to the United States in 1988, and in 2010, the breed was officially recognized by the AKC.
Cane Corso Size
The Cane Corso is a large dog with an impressive muscular frame. Males range in height from 25-27.5 inches, while females come in at 23.5-26 inches. Each dog’s weight is proportionate to its height, usually falling between 90 and 120 pounds.
Cane Corso Personality
The Cane Corso temperament largely depends on the care and training they receive. These dogs are assertive and confident. They should be gentle and affectionate family members in the right hands, but if left with an inexperienced owner, the Cane Corso can become aggressive.
Cane Corsos have a pack mentality, forming deep bonds with the members of their household while taking a more cautious approach with strangers. Corsos typically have a reserved personality, and although they enjoy attention, they will not seek it out.
The Corso’s love language is quality time. If it were up to them, they would spend every waking minute by their owner’s side, just keeping them company. Cane Corsos like to have their owners close by, ideally in the same room. Consider placing dog beds in the rooms where you spend the most time and let them share your bedroom at night.
Cane Corso Care
The Cane Corso needs a lot of time and attention. Owners must be able to commit a few hours each day for training, exercising, and socializing their Cane Corso. Some people might find the Cane Corso overbearing or clingy, but the fact of the matter is that Corsos are ruled by the deep affection they have for their families. They want their owners to share every moment of their lives.
There are a few key things to consider if you want to get a Cane Corso. Tending to these issues assures that your Cane Corso puppy will grow into a mature and affectionate adult dog. If you have the time and resources to devote to a Cane Corso, you will be rewarded with undying love and loyalty.
It should come as no surprise that big dogs need big spaces. A Cane Corso will grow restless if confined to a small space, so they are not a good fit for apartment dwellers. Ideally, you will be able to provide your Cane Corso with a large yard to play in. Just be sure you have a sturdy fence, 6 feet tall or higher, or they might chase other animals around the neighborhood.
Cane Corso owners will be the first to tell you that obedience training is an absolute necessity for these dogs. Without it, they are likely to become aggressive and destructive. Fortunately, the Corso is a highly intelligent breed that responds well to commands. Cane Corso puppies are fast learners, but if they don’t receive training early, they can grow up to be headstrong and unwilling to learn.
Because of their pack mentality, Cane Corsos need to have an “alpha” presence to keep them in line. Their owners must have a confident personality and the ability to assert themselves without using force. Corsos respond very well to positive reinforcement in the form of treats, and they are quick to learn basic commands.
You cannot simply drop a Corso off at puppy kindergarten while you’re away at work. You must take the lead in training your dog so that you become the alpha in their life. A professional trainer can offer guidance, but if you leave your Corso in a trainer’s hands, they will come to see that person as their alpha instead of you. The Corso must feel the presence of an alpha figure in the home, or they will assert their dominance, which can manifest as aggressive behavior like growling, biting, and mounting people.
Cane Corsos were bred for action. Some dogs might be satisfied with one leisurely walk per day, but not the Corso. They should get a brisk walk, at least a mile long, in the morning and an equally long walk in the evening. In this way, Corsos encourage their owners to stay fit with them. It’s the perfect hiking companion!
It takes more than long walks to satisfy the Cane Corso. In addition to taking their pet on daily outings, Cane Corso owners need to spend time “working” the dog. This doesn’t mean you have to give it a job herding sheep (although the Cane Corso would be delighted to do so), but you do need to devote at least 20 minutes a day to training and playing with your Corso.
These are intelligent dogs who require lots of mental stimulation, so let them try various activities. A bored Cane Corso will find ways to entertain themself like digging up your yard, chewing your belongings, or chasing other animals. Here are some activities you can try with your Corso:
- Weight Pulling
- Puzzle Toys
Early socialization is a must for every Cane Corso puppy. Remember that these are guard dogs, so it is in their instinct to be distrusting. Corsos need to spend time with people and other dogs outside the household in order to accept them as safe and normal. Otherwise, they may assume that any stranger is a threat.
Children and Other Pets
It is best for a Cane Corso to be the only pet in the household. This breed has a strong prey drive and loves to chase other animals, including small dogs, cats, and even kids. Understandably, the Corso is not a good fit for families with young children who might antagonize the dog by pulling its tail or ears, petting it roughly, or making loud noises. However, Cane Corsos get along quite well with mature kids who know to treat them gently.
Cane Corso Feeding
Large dogs have big appetites, and the Cane Corso is no exception. Fully-grown Corsos need 4-5 cups of protein-rich dog food each day. Divide their food into two separate meals, one in the morning and one in the evening.
Obesity is one of the most common health issues for Cane Corsos. The appropriate weight for one of these dogs will depend on their height and gender, but you can use a simple eyeball test to determine if your dog is obese. First, look at their body from above – you should be able to see a clearly defined waist. Then, place your thumbs on either side of the dog’s spine and reach down with your fingers. You should be able to feel their ribs without pressing hard.
If you cannot feel your dog’s ribs or see a defined waist, they may be overweight. On the flip side, if you can see the shape of your dog’s ribs beneath their skin, they are probably underweight. In either case, you should take your dog to the vet, who can recommend a change to their diet or exercise routine.
Diet and Nutrition
A nutritious diet is essential for the Cane Corso’s growth and preventing obesity. Treat your Corso to a high-protein, low-fat diet. The first ingredient on the nutrition label should be some kind of meat, like chicken or beef.
Growing Corsos have big appetites, so portion control is key. 4-5 cups of food per day are generally enough, but it depends on how many calories are in the food you buy. A good rule of thumb is to provide 20 calories per pound of body weight. For big Cane Corso, that could mean as much as 2,4000 calories per day! When choosing snacks opt for high-quality treats with supplemental additives.
Cane Corso Coat Color and Grooming
The Cane Corso has a short, stiff coat that may be black, gray, light or dark fawn, or red. They sometimes have a brindle pattern, like subtle tiger stripes. The coat is easy to maintain with weekly brushing. Corso’s shed heavily twice a year, around spring and fall, so keep a good vacuum cleaner handy.
It would be best if you brushed your Cane Corso’s teeth at least twice a week, but ideally once a day. This prevents plaque buildup, bacteria, gum disease, and bad breath. Speaking of bad smells, check their ears weekly for funky odors and redness that can be the signs of an ear infection. Lastly, listen for the sound of your dog’s nails clicking on the floor. This means their nails are too long and need to be trimmed before they get torn or ingrown.
Cane Corso Common Health Problems
The Cane Corso is generally a healthy and robust dog breed, but there are a few common canine health issues to watch out for.
Cane Corsos are particularly susceptible to a pair of eye conditions called ectropion and entropion.
- Ectropion is a condition in which the lower eyelid rolls outward, exposing the conjunctiva (the inner lining of the eyelids). This can lead to conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, as well as long-term vision problems.
- Entropion occurs when the eyelids fold inwards. This causes the hair on the dog’s eyelids to rub against the surface of their eyes, causing painful irritation.
Both ectropion and entropion can be treated with simple surgical procedures. The outcome is almost always good, though the dog may need long-term treatment with medicated eye drops or artificial tears.
Hip dysplasia is a common issue for large dog breeds like the Cane Corso. Dysplasia occurs when the two parts of the hip joint (the ball and the socket) grow at different rates. This results in loose joints and mobility issues.
Vets routinely check for hip dysplasia. Comprehensive treatment plans may include medications, nutritional supplements, and physical therapy.
Mange is a type of skin disease caused by parasitic mites that causes redness and hair loss. Cane Corsos are particularly susceptible to demodectic mange, which is caused by Demodex mites. This mite species lives on the skin of all dogs and is transferred to puppies through their mother. Usually, the mites cause no harm, but some dogs with weaker immune systems will suffer rashes and hair loss.
Demodectic mange is usually managed with a topical treatment prescribed by a vet. Demodectic mange is not contagious, except to other dogs with weakened immune systems.
Related: Best Home Remedies For Dog Mange
Bloat is a common term for gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). This condition primarily affects large dog breeds with deep chests, like the Cane Corso. Bloating occurs when the dog’s stomach fills with gas. The bloated stomach can get twisted in severe cases, blocking anything from entering or exiting the stomach. This is a very serious condition that requires immediate surgery from a vet.
Signs of bloat include a swollen abdomen, dry-heaving, shortness of breath, and lethargy. There are a couple of things you can do to reduce your Cane Corso’s risk of bloat. Divide their food into 2-3 meals, spaced throughout the day, and don’t let them exercise right after eating. Wait to exercise them until at least two hours after eating.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Cane Corso
If you have your heart set on a Cane Corso, you have two options: purchasing from a breeder or adopting from a rescue. But, before you do either, you must take a couple of things into consideration:
Cane Corso Legality
While a well-trained Cane Corso is affectionate and even-tempered, Corsos that have not received proper training can misread people or situations as threatening, triggering their attack instinct. Unfortunately, this has led to Cane Corsos and other mastiff breeds being banned in certain regions.
Corsos are federally legal in the United States. However, they have been banned or restricted in cities in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington. Check for breed-specific legislation laws (BSL) in your area before you get a Corso.
Cane Corso Cost
Before you get a Cane Corso, you should consider the cost. These dogs tend to be quite expensive. A Cane Corso puppy from a reputable breeder cost, on average, $1,500-$2,500. However, a show-quality Corsos with superior pedigree can cost anywhere from $3,000-$8,500.
The purchasing price is just the beginning. Giant breeds are expensive to care for. For starters, they require a lot of food. Veterinary care is more expensive for large breed dogs because they need larger quantities of medications. And of course, you must be able to afford a generous enough living space for the Cane Corso, ideally with a yard.
Cane Corso rescue groups take in dogs that have been abandoned or whose owners can no longer care for them. These groups foster Cane Corsos throughout the United States:
Cane Corso Rescue, Inc.
Must Love Corsos Rescue
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A breed club is a perfect place to meet other Cane Corso lovers and learn more about the bread. The national breed club in the United States is the Cane Corso Association of America. They host dog shows on a regional and national level.
Both the Cane Corso Association and the International Cane Corso Federation keep lists of reputable breeders. If you choose to get a Corso from a breeder, make sure they have screened all of their dogs for genetic health problems and that the puppy has received all the necessary vaccinations. Starting on the right foot puts you and your Corso on the path to health and happiness.