Choosing a Cane Corso

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The cane corso is an intimidating dog that looks like a mastiff but does not have the typical loose skin of other mastiff breeds. This dog is a powerful and effective guard dog.

The cane corso is a member of the American Kennel Club's miscellaneous class in the Foundation Stock Service (FSS). The FSS is the AKC's record-keeping system for rare breeds which are not yet fully AKC recognized.

History and Origin

The cane corso, also known as the Italian mastiff, is thought to be an ancient breed able to trace its history back to the Molossus dog of Romans. Another breed thought to originate from the Molossus is the Neapolitan mastiff, a smaller and darker dog than the cane corso. Of the two, the cane corso is quicker and more agile. The Neapolitan mastiff is known for strength.

In addition to being a descendent of the Roman Molossus, the cane corso is also thought to be a re-creation of the old Italian herding dog, also known as the Cane di Macellaio, a dog that originally thrived in Sicily. It is thought that the name cane corso is a derivation of the word cohors, meaning guard of the courtyard.

During medieval times, the cane corso was used as a big game hunter and powerful gladiator. As their use in hunting declined, the cane corse was used as drovers, dogs that would move animals to market. As a worker on the farm, the cane corso is a highly effective protector of livestock and his family.

The cane corso did not reach the United States until 1987 when the first dogs arrived in New Jersey. Over time, their popularity has grown but this breed is still considered rare and is not recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Appearance and Size

The cane corso is a massive breed that does not have the loose skin that is characteristic of other mastiffs. The cane corso has a large, broad head with ears that are either cropped or left to hang as small triangles close to the head. The cane corso has medium-sized, round eyes set wide apart upon the head. Dark eyes are preferred in this breed, but the color of the eyes corresponds to the coat color from black to hazel. The coat is short and dense coming in black, black red, chestnut, fawn, blue and brindle with white marks appearing on the chest, neck, chin and tips of the toes. The tail of the cane corso is typically docked to one-third of its natural length. The adult cane corso stands 22 to 28 inches at the shoulders and weighs from 80 to 140 pounds.


The cane corso has a dominant personality and can be aggressive toward strangers. Early socialization is strongly encouraged. This breed should be handled by experienced dog owners and is not for the person who cannot control a large strong dog. The cane corso is very intelligent and loyal to their family.

Home and Family Relations

A well-trained and socialized cane corso makes a wonderful companion. They are excellent housedogs, despite their size. The cane corso is quiet around the house until disturbed by unwanted strangers. They make great watchdogs and love their family. The cane corso gets along with children they know and can become gentle and protective around them.


The cane corso is a highly trainable breed. They are intelligent and energetic dogs, thriving on pleasing their owners. They need firm and sensible handling and early socialization by their owners. Properly raised and trained the cane corso is a loving, gentle giant. Without training, the cane corso has the potential to be an aggressive and threatening dog, which is a characteristic of most mastiffs. This breed is a natural protector and guard dog.


The short, dense coat of the cane corso does not require a great deal of grooming to keep it clean and shiny. Periodic brushing is sufficient.

Special Concerns

An untrained, unsocialized cane corso can be difficult to handle. Regardless of his training, the cane corso should not be allowed to roam freely and should be leashed when in public.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Gastric torsion (bloat) is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.

The average life span of the cane corso is 9 to 11 years.

We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.