Weighing more than 100 pounds in adulthood, the cane corso portrays an intimidating appearance, to say the least. Many people may not be familiar with the square-muzzled, noble, cane corso breed, but this Mastiff-type dog has been a loyal human companion for centuries. Compared to all Mastiff breeds, it is of medium size. These are working dogs to their core. They not only need a constant flow of mental stimulation, but a designated purpose within their human family to be the stable and dependable guardian its originators bred them to be.
The cane corso is an excellent family dog, companion, and home guardian. Although it tends to have a relaxed demeanor, its protective side will quickly take over in situations that it feels is dangerous to its human family. These highly intelligent dogs are able to hone in on human emotions and detect when something isn’t right. Even as puppies, they are easy to train and socialize.
Corsos require a calm, steady owner who has the patience and assertiveness to provide firm, but loving guidance. This isn’t the best breed choice for those who are first-time dog owners or those who have never owned a confident dog breed, such as bullies or mastiffs. The cane corso’s confident, sober personality can lead to bossy and even overbearing behavior with both humans and other pets in the household if the owner isn’t assertive.
The cane corso has a double coat that is not only short, but dense, coarse, and stiff. Its undercoat changes in thickness and length according to its environment. Coros require less grooming than dogs with longer coats. Expect shedding year-round with heavier shedding in the spring. Weekly brushings help keep the coat healthy and prevent large quantities of hair ending up on clothing, floors, and furniture. Bathing every three months, regular nail clipping, and ear cleanings keep them healthy.
Most of these dogs have black or red coats, or varying shades of gray or fawn. There are also those with black, chestnut, or gray brindle coats as well. Some have a white patch on the chest, throat, chin, toes, or the backs of the lower leg. As a rule, the lighter the coat, the lighter the eye color. The cane corso also has a mask that is either black or gray. Breed experts warn against buying dogs with “rare coats.” Recessive genes sometimes produce unusual markings or coats. They don’t affect the dog’s temperament or overall quality, but it isn’t uncommon for people to demand a higher price for these dogs.
Hip dysplasia is a problem for many breeds, including the cane corso. Dogs predisposed to the disease are more apt to develop hip dysplasia if they are obese, don’t get enough exercise, or receive improper nutrition. Some corsos develop idiopathic epilepsy between the ages of 2 and 5 years. Owners should also keep a close eye out for eyelid abnormalities. The most common are entropion, where the eyelid rolls inward, ectropion, where the lower eyelid rolls outward, and glandular hypertrophy, also known as “cherry eye.”
This is a dog that thrives on close companionship. They are at their best when they are thinking and using their brains, but daily physical exercise is also crucial for their health. Many owners find that agility, tracking, and obedience games are excellent ways to combine these two needs. In fact, the cane corso excels at most competitive canine sports including nosework, protection sports, and dock diving. They love long walks, hikes, and running alongside their owners.
These dogs have deeply embedded protective instincts. They also have a strong prey drive, so keep that in mind if you have small pets, including cats. While some corsos do well with other dogs, they tend to be more aggressive toward canines of the same sex. Raising them with other animals from a young age often works well, but you will likely see your cane corso attempting dominance over other pets.
Bully breeds, mastiffs, and most breeds bred from them are molossers, one of the oldest companion canine groups in human history. An ancient Greek tribe called the Molossians originally created these large-statured, broad-chested, muscular-legged dogs to be fierce and agile protectors. The modern cane corso breed dates back to Italian breeders around 600 AD, yet the Italian Kennel Club didn’t officially recognize it until 1994. The American Kennel Club listed cane corso as an official breed in 2010.
The Italian word for dog is “cane,” or “kah-nay.” Historians believe the breed’s name originates in early Italy. Translations differ, but many say the closest meanings are “the dog of the main courtyard” in Italian or the “dog guarding enclosed estates” in Latin. When speaking about more than one cane corso, the proper plural is “cani corsi,” but "corsos" is acceptable, too.
This was once a rare dog on the verge of extinction despite its many positive attributes. Few dog lovers outside of southern Italy had even heard of them until the 1970s when a party of cane corso enthusiasts worked together to revive the breed. Today, the AKC lists the cane corso as the 30th most popular dog breed in the U.S.
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