The Cane Corso is an Italian breed with a lengthy history. Cani Corsi are descended from ancient Roman dogs and they haven't forgotten their guardian instincts. They are massive, energetic dogs who benefit from plenty of socialization and training. Though often docile with family members, the Cane Corso never takes time off from what they see as their most important duty—protecting the home and their people. Even if he's napping on the couch, he is still alert. Cani Corsi aren't for the fainthearted—the strong-willed breed needs an owner who will not give in to pressure.
The Cane Corso is also called Italian Mastiff, Italian Corso, Corso, and Cane Corso Italiano. The plural form of 'Cane Corso' is 'Cani Corsi,' often incorrectly written as 'Cane Corsi.'
Cani Corsi possess a waterproof coat that is short, thick, and coarse. An undercoat thickens as winter approaches to provide protection against cold weather. The coat may be a shade of black, grey, fawn, or red with brindle allowed. A darker mask is present on red or fawn Cani Corsi without brindle coloring.
Average Height: 23.5-27.5 inches
Average Weight: 80-110 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Cane Corso is sturdy, athletic, and large-boned, yet balanced with rectangular proportions. The skull is curved with a width equal to the length of the head. Ears may be cropped to a triangle, or left uncropped. The expression should be one of alertness. The broad and deep muzzle is approximately one-third the length of the head. A muscular build extends through the broad chest and legs. The tail should be docked at the fourth vertebrae, but may be left natural if no kinks or deformities are present. The Cane Corso is intelligent and noble, a protector by nature and affectionate with family. – AKC Breed Standards
The Cane Corso is an Italian-bred mastiff-type dog descended from Roman war dogs called 'Canis Pugnax.' The name 'Cane Corso' comes from the Italian 'cane,' meaning dog and 'cohors' meaning guardian or protector.
Cani Corsi were 'catch dogs,' used to hunt wild boar and cattle. Their job was to catch the animal and force it to the ground. Once subdued, Cani Corsi would hold their catch in place until the hunter was able to dispatch the game.
They were used throughout Italy to manage livestock and protect both animals and home. Populations declined, and the breed nearly went extinct. Fans of the breed worked to rebuild the population and by the late 1970s it had grown. The Italian Kennel Club recognized Cani Corsi in 1994.
The Cane Corso was first brought to America in 1988 when Michael Sottile imported a litter from Italy. The AKC recognized the breed in 2010.
AKC Breed Category
While the Cane Corso is loving and affectionate with family members, they are reserved and aloof with strangers. They may be suspicious of strangers, but should not be aggressive—socialization is of utmost importance with this breed. They display an assertive confidence and are always alert. They may be territorial and dominant so they require an experienced handler to offer continued training.
Are Cani Corsi Good with Kids? While generally affectionate with children in the family, they do not appreciate rough play and may display protective behaviors in response to horseplay between children. The breed bonds well with family, but care should be taken when introducing the Cane Corso to new children. They are large and may unintentionally knock over small children.
Though the breed is large and sturdy, children should never be allowed to climb or ride on a Cane Corso or any other breed as it may injure the dog or instigate a bite.
Are Cani Corsi Good with Other Pets? The Cane Corso may do well with other dogs, but they may be aggressive with dogs of the same sex. Early socialization with other dogs is important to prevent territorial behaviors while walking or at the dog park. If raised with other animals from puppyhood, they can live with other animals, but will likely attempt to win dominance over the other pets in the home. A home with cats or small dogs is not often suitable for the Cane Corso due to its high prey drive.
Cani Corsi were bred to guard homes, families, and livestock, and the alert, protective manner of their progenitors remains today. They are suspicious of strangers by nature and will bark to alert owners of their approach. While the Cane Corso offers great ability as a fearless watchdog, they are more likely to use their large size to corner an intruder than to bite—but the potential for bites does exist. Proper socialization from an early age is imperative to prevent incidents with service personnel, delivery drivers, and visitors to the home.
The high-energy, active Cane Corso needs plenty of exercise to prevent destructive, rambunctious behavior and for long-term health.
- Not ideal for first-time dog owners
- Strong, dominant personality
- Potential for aggression with other animals
- Can be rowdy and jumpy, especially as a puppy
- Needs early, continued socialization and training
- Destructive behaviors may present if bored or not suitably trained
- Large, heavy breed takes up a lot of space and tends to sit or lean on people
Though the Cane Corso is a large dog with a high level of energy, adult dogs are often easygoing indoor companions if provided with enough exercise. They are large and take up an excess of space, so the breed is not often recommended for apartment living though they may be suitable in an apartment with proper socialization and a place to exercise outdoors. Without socialization and enough exercise they may develop behavioral problems. They are watchdogs by nature and may be suspicious of the noises and comings and goings of neighbors.
While Cani Corsi need plenty of exercise outside, they should not be expected to stay outdoors alone. The breed is meant to be a companion and prefers to be with its family. A fenced yard is important as the breed is dominant and has a high prey drive—they may chase or injure animals wandering near the yard. The short coat of the Cane Corso repels dirt and stands against cold weather, but they are prone to overheating.
The Cane Corso is a high-energy dog who requires at least 30 minutes of exercise per day as an adult. Running, fetch, and other outdoor games will help prevent boredom and keep Cani Corsi fit and healthy. Exercise for puppies should be limited as growing bones and joints may be damaged. High-impact exercise should be reserved for well-conditioned, fully-grown Cani Corsi.
Athletic and agile Cani Corsi have plenty of endurance to keep up with an active owner. The breed loves to run and play—chasing a disc or playing fetch are games that Cani Corsi will play for hours if allowed, but care should be taken to prevent overheating in hot, humid weather.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: A Cane Corso in good health may be able to run between three and five miles if well-conditioned, but the breed overheats easily in hot weather. Cani Corsi may benefit from a routine that includes intervals of both walking and jogging to prevent overheating. Large dogs under the age of two should not be expected to run long distances as their bones and joints can suffer painful damage.
- Hiking Miles: An adult Cane Corso in good health may be able to hike between six and eight miles, but should be allowed to rest as necessary along the way.
The Cane Corso is food motivated and responds well to treats during training sessions. The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed is four to five cups per day, more for larger examples of the breed. This amount should be split between two or three meals to prevent bloat.
Cani Corsi are a protective breed and care should be taken to discourage food guarding behaviors. Children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
Cani Corsi are affectionate with family and will grow attached to their owners. They may be left alone for four to eight during the day if plenty of attention and exercise are provided each day. The Cane Corso requires plenty of exercise throughout the day and may become destructive or display unwanted behaviors without enough physical and mental stimulation. Crate training should begin right away as it may become more difficult as the dog ages.
Health and Grooming
The Cane Corso has a short, light-shedding coat. Grooming is low maintenance, but brushing a few times per week is recommended. The coat is self-cleaning and will release dirt and debris as it dries or when brushed. Bathing is required only occasionally as necessary. Many Cani Corsi have cropped ears, in part to help prevent ear infections that come with long, hanging ears; cleaning them regularly is necessary. Early introduction to nail trimming is necessary and regular trimming will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail.
Common Health Issues
The Cane Corso may be prone to a number of health conditions including:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Heart disease
- Gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat)
- Bone and joint problems or injury
- Eye diseases
- Ear infections in uncropped ears
- Short lifespan
While large breed dogs have an increased risk for a number of health concerns, you can minimize serious health concerns in a Cane Corso by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
The eager-to-please, ready-to-learn Cane Corso takes to basic obedience with ease, but as they get older they may become stubborn or dominant. A firm handler is necessary to prevent the willful Cane Corso from trying to assert dominance. Early socialization is essential as Cani Corsi tend to be wary of strangers. Without early, continued socialization, the potential for aggression with people and other animals exists.
Cani Corsi need a job to do, and advanced training may fill that requirement. The Cane Corso has a desire to please and enjoys learning. They have a competitive streak and do well at agility, advanced obedience, and tricks training. They may also enjoy tracking and nosework activities or competition.
Sporting Dog Training
The use of Cani Corsi in hunting is becoming popular among fans of the breed. The Cane Corso was historically used as a catch dog, and the breed retains its high prey drive. They may be taught to flush birds or track game.
While there is only one AKC-recognized type, the Cane Corso may be referred to as American, Italian, or Corso Pugliese by breeders and fanciers to distinguish bloodline. Cani Corsi bred in Italy may have a smaller build and slightly different temperament than those bred in America. Corso Pugliese is the name given to Canadian-bred Cani Corsi. American and Canadian-bred Cani Corsi originally came from Italian bloodlines.
Cane Corso is pronounced KAH-nay KOR-so.
Puppies of all breeds go through stages referred to as 'fear impact periods.' Alert, protective breeds such as the Cane Corso tend to be more affected by these stages than non-protective breeds. During these fear imprint periods, new sounds, experiences, and items may startle puppies when they did not before, and may present an increase in flight instinct. While you should continue socialization and positive training methods during these fear periods, you should stay within the puppy's comfort zone. They will watch for your reaction to stimuli, so it is best to ignore things that shouldn't be scary. If you don't react, the puppy will learn that the blender or a knock at the door isn't a cause for concern.