Cane Corso
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Chewy EditorialBehavior / Breed Lists

Cane Corso Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament and Care Info

Imposing in appearance and protective by nature, Cane Corso dogs are known to exhibit fierce loyalty to their family members. With proper socialization beginning in puppyhood, they can become beloved and trusted companions.

Cane Corso Facts

The Cane Corso (pronounced KAH-neh KOR-soh; plural, Cane Corsi) is a medium-large breed that has a variety of fur colors. Here are the stats on this striking, well-muscled dog.

  • Breed Group: Working
  • Height: Males, 25-27.5 inches; females, 23.5-26 inches
  • Weight: Males, 100-110 pounds; females, 88-100 pounds
  • Life Span: 9-12 years
  • Coat: Short, stiff, dense and shiny, with a light undercoat that thickens in colder weather
  • Color: Black, black brindle, gray, gray brindle, fawn and red. Fawn and red dogs also have a black or gray mask.

Cane Corso Characteristics

Cane Corso

Cane Corso History: An Ancient Italian Lineage

The Cane Corso can trace their lineage to ancient Italy with a group of Mastiff-type working dogs called mollosers. During the rise of the Roman Empire, Italian army brigades that had occupied Greece returned home with the dogs, where they crossed them with native breeds. The resulting offspring became the ancestor of today’s Cane Corso dog breed. Roman troops used the original Cane Corso—thought to have been larger than today’s dogs—to intimidate their enemies.

After the Western Roman Empire’s fall during the 5th century, soldiers no longer needed the dogs for their conquests. During the next several centuries, Cane Corso dogs were assigned to new roles. Most notably, they were trusted farmstead guardians, but also served as wild boar hunters and livestock drivers. When Italy’s economic and political landscape evolved (as a result of events like repeated invasions and automated farming), the Cane Corso dog became endangered, then nearly extinct by the mid-20th century.

Italian dog enthusiasts worked to revitalize the breed in the 1970s, eventually forming the Society of Cane Corso Lovers in 1983. The United States welcomed its first Corso dogs in 1988, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 2010.

In addition to maintaining their traditional role as watch dogs, today’s Cane Corso dogs are used for police and tracking work. Despite their intimidating presence, these loyal and intelligent animals can be quite affectionate and gentle family dogs. Of the AKC’s registered 195 breeds, the Cane Corso currently ranks as the 32nd most popular.

With more than 140 AKC-registered Cane Corso breeders, prices for pups typically range between about $1,800 to $3,000, although they can go higher. You may also want to consider adopting the breed through a Cane Corso rescue, such as Cane Corso Rescue, Inc., or by keeping an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

What Does a Cane Corso Look Like?

This pup is a powerful, medium-large breed, but exactly how big does the Cane Corso get? On average, the breed weighs between 88 and 110 pounds and stands 23.5 to 27.5 inches high. Males typically are larger and taller than females. While these dogs have an unmistakable dramatic presence, breed enthusiasts also describe them as graceful, elegant and noble.

These are strongly built dogs with lean, muscular features, which includes the neck, chest, rump and legs. Despite being a robust breed, the Cane Corso is fast and agile, moving with a graceful and effortless trot. These pups carry their thick tails either low, level to the body or slightly higher than the back.

The breed has a distinctively large and square head, flat forehead, broad and square muzzle, and large jaws. In their natural state, the Cane Corso’s medium-sized triangular ears rest close to the cheeks, and their oval eyes behold an expression of attentiveness.

The coat is short, stiff and thick, with a light undercoat that becomes denser in cold weather. Cane Corso colors and color combinations include black, black brindle, gray, gray brindle, fawn and red. Red and solid fawn Cane Corso dogs can have either a black or gray facial mask that extends to the eyes. Some dogs have white patches located on the throat, chin, chest and toes.

Cane Corso

Cane Corso Temperament

The Cane Corso is an assertive, confident dog breed that is may not be a good choice for first-time dog parents, but they can be wonderful pets for training-savvy, responsible people.

Described as one of the most active and agile of the mastiff breeds, the Cane Corso’s personality is affectionate and highly intelligent, but can come off quite intimidating to strangers. Properly bred dogs are protective, yet calm. As adults, these pups are known to check out every situation, assess it for potential danger and only act when a threat is perceived. Young dogs can be awkward, clumsy and active, and they need limited, structured exercise to prevent damaging growing bones and joints. The dogs snort, grunt and snore, so be warned if you’re a light sleeper!

Breeders stress the importance of properly socializing and training Cane Corso puppies to prevent aggression and unwanted behavior that can become a problem in adulthood. Many Cane Corso dogs dislike and act aggressively toward dogs of the same sex (or either sex) and may also target cats and other small pets. Because of these issues, be aware that having a Cane Corso may open you up to liability: Some insurance companies may decline to cover households with the breed and some communities may ban this breed.

Keeping Cane Corso Dogs Healthy: 4 Issues to Watch Out For

Generally known to be healthy, there are some Cane Corso health issues to be aware of and avoided. The best way to avoid health problems is to purchase puppies from responsible breeders who certify their dogs to be free of disease. If you opt for adoption, be sure to get as much health history on the dog as the rescue organization is able to provide. And of course, pet parents should seek regular preventive and wellness care from their veterinarian.

With the proper care, the average Cane Corso life expectancy can reach nine to 12 years.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia has been reported in Cane Corsi. This developmental joint disease can lead to early onset osteoarthritis. Avoid hip dysplasia by feeding young dogs a complete and balanced large-breed puppy food, such as Royal Canin Giant Junior dry dog food, exercising puppies appropriately and only purchasing dogs from breeders that certify their dogs to be free of hip dysplasia via PennHip studies or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals certification.

Learn more about hip dysplasia in dogs here.

Ectropion

Ectropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls outward, causing irritation, dryness and damage to the eyeball and conjunctiva (the tissues surrounding the eye). Treatment is surgical.

Cherry Eye

Cherry eye, otherwise known as prolapsed third eyelid gland, is named for the appearance of the condition. In cherry eye, the tear gland in the third eye prolapses out, resulting in a red lump that sticks out on the inner corner of the eye and causes irritation and excessive tearing. Treatment is surgical replacement of the gland within the third eyelid. You can lessen your dog’s likelihood of developing the condition by choosing a breeder who certifies that their dogs are free of disease via a complete ophthalmological exam with a veterinary specialist.

Learn more about cherry eye in dogs here.

Bloat

The most common life-threatening condition in Cane Corsi is bloat, otherwise known as gastric torsion. In this painful disease, the stomach twists, cutting off the blood supply. This is an emergency condition that can kill a dog very quickly and requires immediate treatment. Signs of bloat include enlarged stomach, vomiting, pale gums and weakness. Treatment usually requires surgery and hospitalization. Bloat can be prevented by stomach tacking surgery early in life. This procedure can be done at the same time as a spay or neuter.

Learn more the signs and symptoms of bloat here.

Caring for Your Cane Corso Dog

To become the best good boy or girl they can be, Cane Corsi require special attention and care.

Like all dogs, Cane Corsi benefit immensely from early socialization. They also require a securely enclosed space to run (although due to their possible dislike of other canines, they may not be great dogs for the dog park) and consistent mental and physical stimulation.

Grooming

Does the Cane Corso shed? Even though Cane Corsi have short coats, they will still shed some hair year-round. Generally, their haircoat is easy to care for and will look its best with weekly brushing with a brush like JW Pet Gripsoft Bristle Brush.

Nutrition

Complete and balanced nutrition is a key part to the health and longevity of any Cane Corso. The best food for the Cane Corso is a complete and balanced large- or giant-breed dog food, such as Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Adult Dry Dog Food or Purina Pro Plan Focus Adult Giant Breed Formula Dry Dog Food.

In order for Cane Corso puppies to grow healthy joints and bones, it is crucial to not overfeed them, because puppyhood obesity can predispose dogs to health problems, including bone and joint diseases. In addition, giant breeds have different nutritional requirements for calcium and phosphorus than small- or medium-breed dogs, so make sure to feed your Cane Corso a food that is formulated for large-breed dogs and puppies and discuss their diet with your vet.

Obesity typically is not a problem in this breed; however, it is still a good idea to also ask your veterinarian what is a healthy weight for your dog.

Exercise

Cane Corsi are smart and active dogs who require a lot of daily exercise, both physical and mental. If they don’t have enough to do, Cane Corsi can become destructive or develop behavioral problems. At least 45 minutes of vigorous walking or running, playing games and/or training every day is a must for adult dogs. Chewing is another important behavior that reduces stress and dental disease, making KONG Extreme dog toys a good choice for this breed. Cane Corso puppies require less-strenuous exercise than adults in order to grow properly, so talk with your veterinarian for exercise recommendations for your puppy.

Training Your Cane Corso

Cane Corso training takes skill. A well-bred Cane Corso is eager to please, confident and intensely loyal. The breed also is territorial, assertive and willful, which means treating these dogs with respect and care, especially during puppyhood. Because of their strong will, the temptation to use coercive or punishment-based training techniques may strike. These likely will backfire, creating a dog who is either fearful and shy or pushy and aggressive. The Cane Corso requires an experienced, confident trainer who uses consistency and positive, reward-based techniques.

For example, teach your puppy to ask for the door to open with a “sit.” The door only opens when they plant their tail, and closes immediately if they get up too soon. No treat is needed; the reward comes from access through the door. Be consistent, so your dog knows you can’t be bullied or begged into giving in.

Begin training your Cane Corso with socialization that exposes them to many different people, places and experiences in positive, non-threatening ways. The more your dog learns about safe, happy strangers, experiences and situations, the more well-adjusted and receptive they will be. Under-socialized dogs become defensive and can turn into fearful and shy dogs with fear-aggression issues, which poses the potential for dangerous attacks.


The Cane Corso is a larger, imposing breed that’s loyal and protective of their family. With proper socialization and care beginning early in life, pet parents can expect a loving and confident member of the family. Working with a knowledgeable animal shelter or responsible breeder is essential to success.

By: Dr. Sarah Wooten, DVM, CVJ; Amy Shojai, CABC; Paula Fitzsimmons

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