Loyal and devoted to its family, the Cane Corso is a majestic-looking Mastiff-type dog. It is intelligent, affectionate, and has a very strong work ethic that belies its funny and lovable character. It has an air of confidence and noble bearing that it owes from its Roman ancestors. Owning a Cane Corso is not easy, however. Find out more about this “bodyguard dog” before you start thinking about getting one.
History of the Cane Corso
Like many dogs of the Mastiff type, the Cane Corso has its origins in the Molloser dogs of ancient Greece. These are big-boned and giant guardian dogs that the people of Molossi used as guardians and protectors in the ancient Greek region of Epirus.
During the Third Macedonian War, the Molossians sided with the Greeks in fighting the Romans. The war ended with the annexation of the Epirus region into the Roman Republic. Returning Roman soldiers brought with them many of the giant Molloser dogs to Italy. Here they crossed the giant breeds with other large dogs that are native to their country.
Many of the puppies that resulted from this crossbreeding became the direct ancestors of two of Italy’s most prized canine treasures: the Neapolitan Mastiff and the Cane Corso. The Roman Legion used the Cane Corso as a “pireferi”. These are fearless dogs which the army fitted with buckets of flaming oil. The Corsi then charged into enemy front lines and brought chaos to the opposing army. Without a doubt, the ancestors of the modern Corsi were bigger.
By the 5th century, the “war dogs” were “unemployed” because of the dissolution of the Roman Empire. This meant that the Romans and Italians had to improvise work for these giant canines. As such, many of the Corsi worked as boar hunters, livestock drovers, and as cart pullers. Their most valuable contribution to the Roman way of life was the protection of henhouses and farmsteads.
Centuries of political upheaval, economic depression, and continued conflict in the Italian peninsula caused the dwindling in the numbers of these dogs. The introduction of mechanized farming was the single most important factor in the drastic reduction in their numbers. By the middle of the 20th century, very few of these dogs remained.
Of the Corsi that remained, most lived in the Italian countryside. Many of them lived in the Apulla, Basilicata, and Campania regions of Southern Italy. By the 1970s, fans of the breed banded together to revive the Cane Corso. In 1983, they formed the Society Amorati Cane Corso. It would take another decade before these dogs began gracing European dog shows. By 1994, the Ente Nazionale della Cinofillia Italiana recognized the Cane Corso as a breed. Three years after, the Federation Cynologique Internationale gave the breed a provisional status.
In 1988, the very first Cane Corso arrived in the US. However, it was only in 2010 when the American Kennel Club gave the dog its due recognition as a breed. The FCI gave the Cane Corso its full recognition as a breed in 2007.
As of 2018, Corsi ranks 37th in the AKC’s list of the most popular breeds, an improvement over its 40th place in 2016. Today, the breed is a guardian, a police dog, a tracker, and a protector.
Quick Facts about the Cane Corso
With a very colorful history, it is not surprising to learn many more interesting facts about this breed.
- A Large Breed
Smaller than its Neapolitan Mastiff cousin, the Cane Corso is still a large dog. The FCI says that males should be between 24 to 28 inches tall and weigh about 99 to 110 lbs. The international organization also says that female Corsi should be 23 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 88 and 99 lbs.
- It’s in the Head
The most important feature of the Corsi is its head. We all know that Mastiff types of dogs have a large head. The Corsi, however, has an imposing size. Its forehead is convergent to the dog’s muzzle, forming a flat surface. This means its muzzle is also flat. If you are viewing it from above, the forehead and the muzzle will form a rectangular shape. Its muzzle is as long as it is wide and occupies about a third of the total length of the dog’s head.
In the past, the ears of the Corsi were cropped to help prevent getting bitten by other dogs when it gets into a fight. Today, however, ear cropping is already considered illegal.
- A Playful and Fun Giant When Not at Work
It is true that the Corsi are very dedicated workers. They are always in a heightened state of alert whenever they are serving as watchdogs and guard dogs. They do not want anything to slip by their watch, including strangers.
What many do not know is that the Cane Corso has a very pleasant and fun-loving attitude when not at work. During off-days, this giant loves to play and have a good time with the kids of its owners. Be mindful, however, that the Corsi is a heavyweight. It is never a good idea to leave your young child alone playing with the Corsi. The dog won’t bite your kid but with its playful nature and heft, one mistake and your child can get pinned under this hulking breed.
Corsi love to roll on their back and then rock from side to side. They will present their belly to entice their owners to rub it for them. And with that adorable googly eyes of theirs, they are irresistible.
- Despite its Size, it is Agile and Fast
Mastiff breeds are not known for their agility and speed. Not the Cane Corso. While this belongs to the Molloser class of lumbering giants, the breed has a more athletic stance. It has more defined muscles than other mastiffs, allowing it to propel itself at great speeds. Of course, outrunning a Saluki or a Greyhound is out of the question but given its heft and size, the Corsi is fast and agile. It is a natural adaptation to allow the breed to perform its role as a guardian and protector.
- They Love to Learn and to Please their Owners
Corsi are an intelligent breed. It uses this innate intelligence to learn the skills that it needs to have in the performance of its job. Many law enforcement units around the world train Corsi to help them in their duties. And one of the characteristics of a good police dog is intelligence.
The breed loves to work. As such, it will do almost anything to please its owner for something that it can perform. Having said that, this dog hates doing nothing. If you’re a couch potato, then the Cane Corso is not for you.
- Some Countries have Very Strict Laws Regarding Cane Corso Ownership
Because of its natural tendency to become over-protective of its owners and their property, some countries have put restrictions on the ownership of the dog. In the US, there are certain municipalities with very strict laws regarding Cane Corso ownership. It would be wise to check your town or city if they have such restrictions.
You cannot own a Cane Corso if you are in the Bermuda Islands. In Ukraine, Corsi owners should have their pets microchipped and walked with a muzzle and a short leash. The government also requires mandatory civil liability insurance. In Belarus, no Corsi can walk with a muzzle, collar, and a hard leash if the person walking it is not at least 18 years old. All owners also need to show certificates of training courses on the breeding, caring, and maintenance of the Corsi.
Things You Should Know
Despite its fearsome reputation, the Cane Corso is an adorable breed. Unfortunately, not everyone can get the chance to own one because of its many unique characteristics. Here are a few other things every aspiring Corsi pet parent should know.
The Cane Corso shares many health conditions with other large and giant breeds. It does not live long, often living only up to 12 years. On the average, they live for about 9.3 years. It is also prone to hip dysplasia. Its weight can exacerbate the stress on its joints and lead to early arthritis. Skin problems like demodectic mange is also common in Corsi.
This breed can also have eye problems. Like most large canine breeds, the Corsi is also vulnerable to gastric torsion or gastric dilatation volvulus. This is a medical emergency that often requires the unknotting of the twisted stomach.
Corsi require good amounts of high-quality protein to help maintain their muscles. However, caution is necessary when giving food to puppies. One does not want these little giants to grow too fast. That is why it is important to discuss the unique nutritional needs of the breed with the veterinarian. Throughout its life stages, the Corsi will require different kinds of diet that meet its fundamental needs. Always go for high-quality dog food instead of cheaper versions. The latter may contain carbohydrate fillers that can make the dog obese.
It is also best to feed the Corsi at least two times a day. Feeding it once often means a single large meal. This can increase the risk of bloat. Splitting its meal into two or three equal portions can help reduce the risk of gastric torsion.
Exercise is very important for all Corsi. This is a dog with well-defined muscles. Without exercise, its muscles will atrophy because of disuse. It can pose a lot of problems, especially in terms of the dog’s mobility. Walks of up to 1.5 hours every day are sufficient exercise for Corsi. Giving it something to do also helps in keeping it mentally stimulated.
Socialization is also critical. One has to make sure that the puppy joins a puppy class to help hone its social skills. This is a breed with a very high prey drive. Once it grows, it will chase small animals like cats and other pets. The breed has a great distrust of strangers. Introducing the puppy to as many individuals as possible can help acclimatize the Corsi to people.
Veterinary visits are a must. Screening tests for eye problems and hip dysplasia are available. This allows for the early detection of clues that may point to the risk of these diseases. Vaccine shots, both mandatory and optional, are also part of the Corsi’s care. They do not live that long, but it does not mean you should already go easy on protecting them against certain diseases.
Flea and tick preventatives are also important. This is a breed that loves the outdoors. It can get fleas anytime. Preventatives for heartworm and intestinal parasites are also crucial in caring for the Corsi.
While the dog sheds all year round, grooming it is quite easy. It has a short coat. Do take note that it is double-layered. During times of heavy shedding, Corsi require everyday brushing. In the lean months, once a week brushing is enough.
Cleaning the ears once every 2 to 3 weeks is important. The same is true with clipping its nails. Brushing the teeth is an everyday routine. However, brushing the Corsi’s teeth once every 3 days is sufficient.
Corsi have very dominant personalities. They are strong-willed, too. These traits make the breed exceptional guardians and protectors of their respective families. It can also be headstrong, especially if its owners do not know how to train and socialize the breed.
Like all guardian dogs, the Cane Corso is aloof around strangers. Poorly-socialized Corsi can turn aggressive towards strangers and other animals. This is a natural trait owing to the dog’s history as a protector. However, it is an unacceptable behavior in today’s standards.
Despite their strong-willed personality, Corsi are very affectionate and loyal to their families. They will protect them at all cost, yet will always find time to have fun with the kids.
The Cane Corso has an imposing presence and a colorful origin to match. It is a dog that is best reserved for those who are natural-born leaders in the family. If not, the breed will not hesitate to take charge.