Cane corsos are an intelligent and dignified breed with an independent nature. The breed has a deep history of being bred to be a multi-purpose dog that's active, alert and keeps a watchful eye over their family. Because the adorable, wrinkly, and smart cane corso puppy can grow to be a 110-pound energetic adult, it's important to appropriately socialize this breed and teach them basic skills so they learn important behaviors they need to be successful in adulthood.
Jami-Lyn Derse, DVM, founder of Veterinary Housecall Care, says prospective owners should spend ample time planning and preparing before purchasing any dog, including a cane corso. This ancient Italian breed is a relatively recent addition to households in the U.S., and they seem best suited for having a working life, including jobs in law enforcement, tracking, and in the military. She adds that the best owner for a cane corso is one that's experienced and willing to put in ample time training their dog. This breed isn't an ideal fit for a first-time dog owner.
Large, muscular, and somewhat majestic in appearance, the cane corso's size and strength are his dominating features—and, of course, among the reasons he's a popular choice for watching over his owners and property. "They're these big, beautiful, mastiff-type [breed]," Derse says. A full-grown cane corso female generally weighs 88–99 pounds, while a male cane corso can weigh as much as 110 pounds.
You'll know him by his broad chest, wide skull, and wrinkly forehead. You'll often see them with cropped ears, though this practice is controversial—it's purely for cosmetic reasons, and doesn't have any proven health benefits for the animal. And besides, their floppy ears give them a particularly cute look.
When it comes to cane corso colors, the dog's short, double-layered coat could be black, gray, fawn, red, or brindle. The texture of the coat is coarse, thick, and sometimes tufted—and some even compare it to the coat of a cow. The dog's almond-shaped eyes vary in color, and can be different shades of brown, or even a striking yellow or blue.
With a deep lineage as working dogs, the cane corso temperament can be sensitive and serious. Due to their breeding, cane corsi—the plural of cane corso—might not appreciate unfamiliar people surprising him as he's patrolling his yard. As with all dogs, early socialization with new people, new situations, and other dogs is important so he can be healthy, happy, and thrive.
Derse says the cane corso isn't a dog for everyone. "For me, personally, and all the other hospitals I've ever been in, if a cane corso walks in the door, everybody is particularly diligent," she says. However, she says there are cane corsos who "would lick your face and are very friendly."
While some cane corsi can get along well with other pets and with children, the breed is known to have a strong prey drive, meaning any fast, unexpected movements from smaller animals and pets (or kiddos) might be enticing enough to chase. For harmonious relationships with other animals and children, an early introduction when the dog is young is necessary. Make sure to supervise your cane corso whenever he interacts with children or other pets, and teach children how to properly interact with dogs.
The cane corso is no couch potato. This intelligent working breed thrives on activity—and having a job to do. "Like any large dog breed, the cane corso would benefit from having a big, fenced-in yard, someone able to walk them frequently to kind of get out their energy and focus it on something they enjoy," Derse says. Adept at agility training, skills training, dock diving, and other activities, the cane corso is happiest when his mind is enriched. If the owner doesn't offer up an activity, the dog may find mischief of his own—like digging. This isn't a dog that enjoys being left alone for long; he prefers to be within view of his owner.
Because cane corsi grow to be so large and strong, training with positive reinforcement is especially important, Derse says, and it should begin when they're puppies. "You just have to be so careful with them," she says. "They're huge—they're just like solid muscle."
As with any dog, patience, consistency, and lots of opportunities for rewards are the keys to success. These dogs need plenty of daily chances to learn alongside you and build skills and behaviors that are helpful in everyday life.
"These are tall, heavy, and fast dogs," says Haylee Bergeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, RBT, editor of pet health and behavior at Daily Paws. "Like all giant breeds, they can accidentally knock over small children or unexpectedly injure dog playmates that are smaller than them, especially in their adolescent years when their bodies are still in the awkward growth phase. A cane corso dog parent needs to understand this and make sure their dog has lots of great outlets that are suitable for their size and activity level. Quick walks around the block or trips to the dog park are not sufficient for this breed."
Daily exercise is a must for this working dog, and walking, hiking, or running in the morning and in the evening can maintain his muscular build. When it comes to grooming, a cane corso's undercoat will shed throughout the year—especially during spring shedding season. To maintain his shiny coat, an occasional bath and weekly brushing is recommended, with daily brushing suggested in the spring.
This breed is generally healthy, and the cane corso lifespan is 9–12 years. Still, as with every dog breed, there are a few health challenges to look out for. Specifically for the cane corso, potential health issues include hip dysplasia, idiopathic epilepsy, demodex mange, and eyelid abnormalities, according to the Cane Corso Association of America.
Because they're a large dog breed with a deep chest, cane corsi are predisposed to experience gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex, or bloat, which is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off blood flow. Though there are some theories on what causes bloat—such as eating one big meal in place of multiple, smaller meals—a definitive link hasn't been proven.
Cane corso owners should talk to their veterinarian about bloat and other health issues for advice on how to care for their dog. Before bringing home a dog, make sure the breeder has completed the OFA's recommended tests to ensure your cane corso puppy is healthy.
In the days of the Roman Empire, Romans took such a liking to a big-boned, Greek working breed called Molossus dogs that they brought them home from the Greek islands to breed with Italian canines. That dog is the ancestor to the cane corso. In the early days, the mighty cane corso played a role in the military, and, according to the AKC, "were used as dogs of conquest who earned their stripes as 'pireferi,' fearless dogs who charged enemy lines with buckets of flaming oil strapped to their backs."
In more modern times, they took on "tamer" roles in Italy, such as hunting wild boar, driving livestock, and guarding farms. In the mid-to-late 1900s, the breed was facing extinction as life changed in the Italian countryside, and a group of Italians came together to focus on breeding efforts. It wasn't until 1988 that the cane corso arrived in the U.S. and, in 2010, the AKC officially recognized the breed.