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Breed Spotlight: The Cane Corso

Updated: Apr 29

The Cane Corso (correct pronunciation is Kah-nay Kor-so, though an often accepted alternative is kain kor-so) was once distributed throughout much of the Italian peninsula, but in the recent past was found only in the southernmost tip of Italy. After the 1960s the dogs became quite rare. The modern breed derives from selective breeding from about 1980 of a few surviving individuals. The subsequent breed was recognized by the Italian Kennel Club in 1994; and just 13 years later in 2007 it received full acceptance. It was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010. In 2011 the number of annual registrations in the breeds homeland of Italy was at a minimum of 3000 dogs, making it one of the most populous canines in the Mediterranean.

The Cane Corso is usually kept as a companion dog or guard dog. It is also sometimes used to protect livestock. In the past in Italy it was used for hunting large game, and also to herd cattle.

Size is an important topic to touch on with the Cane Corso, and a hotly debated one. According to the AKC breed standard, males should stand between 25 - 27.5 inches tall at the withers, and bitches should be slightly smaller between 23.5 - 26 inches tall at the withers. And according to this standard, the weight should be proportionate to its height. More often than not, irresponsible breeders will breed either for a larger size, or breed without considering size and therefore create puppies that grow to be much larger than they should. Dogs over 110lbs are at a dramatically increased risk of deteriorating joints and erosion of cartilage, and eventual lameness to varying degrees and often progressively worsening. Great care should therefore be taken by any breeder to breed within the breed standard and not produce oversized dogs.

One might look at an adult Cane Corso, with that broad and thick-boned build, and assume they aren't very athletic, but nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy well-bred Cane Corso is very athletically capable, and they enjoy activities such as running, fetching, rally, etc. Getting their mind and body working on a regular basis is important, and may be the difference between an easy-to-manage happy dog and an unpleasant handful.

Ears are another hotly debated topic in this breed. Traditionally, the ears are cropped short and to a point that thrusts upward and forward. Many people, including otherwise very knowledgeable Cane Corso enthusiasts, believe this started and continues due to a desire to make the dog look more imposing. This is false. The ears of a Cane Corso are often hyper sensitive, and stand out as a weak point of an otherwise tank of a dog. When performing the task of guardian, the ears of the early Cane Corso would be frequently injured and often exploited to bring the Corso down in an altercation. The ears therefore began being trimmed to prevent this type of common injury and to give an ill-intentioned person less of a chance in taking on a protective Cane Corso and winning. Today, ear injuries are quite common in the breed among working individuals who are not cropped. If the ears are left long, care should be taken to protect them.

Cropping is often done by the breeder, but many breeders are willing to work with the future owners and if you prefer intact ears they may leave your soon-to-be puppy behind when the other puppies are getting theirs done. Ear cropping is typically done prior to 12 weeks, and sometimes as young as a few days old. The cartilage in the ear begins to harden at approximately 12-14 weeks, which is why it is done prior to this event. There are pros and cons to both intact and cropped ears, and the decision to crop should ideally be one made by the owner and breeder.

In Europe it is now illegal to crop ears and dock tails. Therefore, imported dogs will have long tails that lift above their rears when at attention, and the flopping ears.

The Cane Corso puppy is typically a very strong-willed one, often intentionally ignoring an owner's obvious commands. This strong will continues on into adulthood, but be prepared for a long puppyhood; they are puppies until they are about 2 years old. Early socialization is a must, and obedience training for the puppy and the owner is very important to long-term success with this breed. They require a consistent owner. An owner should never make exceptions to the rules lest they accidentally introduce the concept of "I only need to listen sometimes."

The Cane Corso is generally considered to be a healthy dog, and responsible breeders screen their breeding stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, idiopathic epilepsy, demodex mange, and eyelid abnormalities, which increases the health of the breed's population. Large and deep-chested breeds are sometimes susceptible to bloat, and awareness of this risk should be well-known by any potential owners. Cane Corso owners should learn what signs to look out for, and what to do should they occur.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation

  • Elbow Evaluation

  • Cardiac Exam



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