The Cane Corso

The Cane Corso dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Cane Corso is a medium to large dog, a type of Mastiff that originates out of Italy. Thanks to certain dog lovers, this breed was rescued from extinction in the 1970s and set on a path of expansion. The breed is now found in homes in Europe, the United States and other regions around the world. The Corso can be difficult to deal with, but with the right training, and socialization, you will find a fine family dog that is fiercely loyal and protective, and does everything to please.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityBelow Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingHigh
All Around FriendlinessBelow Average
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Working Dogs
Height:1 foot, 11 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulders
Weight:Generally 90 – 120 pounds
Life Span:10 to 12 years

The Cane corso is quite a family dog and remains just that. He is a loyal guard dog and takes this responsibility very seriously. This means he is not a dog that is friendly in any way to outsiders, even with socialization. This breed needs to be socialized from early puppy stage so he can be able to distinguish normal behavior.

You can expose him to different sounds and sites by taking him to the mall, introducing him to friends and neighbors, and taking him to puppy kindergarten class. It is always a good idea also that you work with a trainer who understands the mindset of this breed and will take the dog in basic obedience lessons.

It is recommended that you purchase a Corso that has been socialized in a house and that socialization continues throughout the dog’s life.The Cane Corso is of the Mastiff breed originating out of Italy. It is a giant breed of dogs, well-muscled and strong, and historically was created to hunt large game.

The Corso is a very good guardian dog and you can have a very loyal subject in him. Although quite a cheerful dog, the Corso is not for the first time owner or for those who have had soft tempered breeds before such as spaniels, toy breeds and retrievers. The Corso can be headstrong and needs someone who will exhibit leadership and be able to handle and guide him into developing acceptable behaviors.

This dog breed is not one to sit around the house all day. He is a moderately active dog and frequently needs something to do. Giving him his daily walks, and engaging him in training activities will help to satisfy the Corso’s working dog needs. A jog of a mile or more each day will be quite satisfying.

A Cane corso that is not engaged will become destructive. Instinctively, they are great chewers and it is said that a bored Cane corso is a destructive Corso. For this reason also you cannot allow them to have free reign of the house until they have reached a level where they are mature enough to act responsibly. If on a farm, the Corso will help in managing the livestock. Otherwise involve him in sporting activities such as agility and obedience training, dock diving, nose work, and tracking.

Cane corsos have a strong instinct to prey on other animals. Of such dog owners are required to take action to prevent their dog from harming neighbors’ cats and smaller dogs. The corso will need high and strong fencing to keep him in the boundaries of his property.

Main Highlights
  • The Cane corso is also called Italian Mastiff, Corso, Cane Corz and Cane Di Macellaio.
  • He is a strong-willed dog and you will have to assert yourself as the leader of the pack or he will do everything to break the rules.
  • The Corso is a working dog and as such requires a good deal of exercise and work to do. If he is not appropriately engaged he will involve himself in inappropriate behaviors such as chewing and digging holes.
  • The dog is best at agility and obedience training, playing games of fetch, and other dog sporting competitions.
  • If they are properly socialized, Corsos can become a stable and reliable family pet. He is best suited for children in the higher age group rather than with younger ones.
  • This dog breed lives an average of 10 – 12 years.
Breed History

The Corso is of the mastiff breed and its origins can be traced back to Italian society when they were used in Roman Wars of the first century. In battles against the enemies, these war dogs were fitted with spiked collars around the neck and ankles. The dogs were made more vicious by starving them and unleashing them unto the unsuspecting enemies. The dogs were considered to have been important in the spread of the Roman Empire.

After the fall of the empire, the dog was used to guard and protect property, flock and cattle, and to hunt large game. As a farmhand they were used to drive cattle to the market and slaughter house. They were favored for their agility, strength, tracking ability and courage especially in the face of wild boars, bears and stags. The name is derived from the Latin word “Cohor” that means Guardian or Protector.

The Cane corso breed almost went into extinction as a result of World Wars 1 and 2, and also the effects of industrialization. Up to the late twentieth century, only a few of these dogs could be found in the southern regions of Italy. Giovanni Bonetto, however, did not forget his childhood experience with the Corso and referred their case to Dr. Paolo Breber who in the 1970s successfully revived the breed. In the 1990s the breed was recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale.


The dog is of the large dog breed. The male of the Corso stands at 24 inches to 27 inches tall at the shoulder. The female stands just a wee bit smaller at 23 inches to 25 inches tall. The dog is quite muscular and weighs between 80 and 120 pounds.

Personality and Character

Here is a breed that can make you a wonderful family dog. Enthusiasts find them to be affectionate, polite and loyal. He makes an unwavering watchdog that is always protective of the family. He is a very smart dog, learns fast and always aims to please. However, this dog is strong-willed and will want to take charge. As the dog owner, you have to assert yourself as the leader of the pack and let him understand that this is so.

Health and Potential Problems

Cane corsos are generally healthy dogs. There are however some diseases that are associated with the breed. Most of the health problems that affect giant dog breeds are also found in the Cane corso. These are most often hereditary.

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia: Orthopedic diseases present the greatest danger to the health of Cane corsos. Hip dysplasia has been found to be the most rampant, seen in 39% of some dogs who’s X-Rays were evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation of America, and 58% of other Corsos studied by the Cane Corso Coalition.  Elbow dysplasia is a less common occurrence with 22% of the breed having the problem (Welton, 2015). One must be mindful also that other orthopedic problems have also shown up, including panosteitis, osteochondritis, luxating patella, cruciate ligament rupture, and Wobbler’s syndrome.
  • Eye diseases: About a third of dogs get an eye disease of some type. Cherry eye, one of the most common of these disorders is a bulging of the tear gland in the corner of the eye. Entropian is usually found in young adult dogs and is a condition where the eye lashes and eyelids roll inwards greatly irritating the eye and causing excessive tearing. Ectropian, on the other hand occurs when the bottom eyelids grow outward leaving a gap between the eye and the eyelid. This causes excessive tearing and may need surgery to correct the problem.
  • Heart disease: Conditions especially caused by cardiomyopathy and mitral valve disease have been seen in 18% of corsos studied by the Cane Corso Coalition.
  • Gastric torsion: Otherwise called “Dog Bloat”, or “Twisted Stomach”, gastric torsion seems to affect the Corso more than other breeds. The condition is a life-threatening one caused from a build-up of gas, food and liquid in the stomach, causing bloating. In the process, the stomach is dislodged from the rib cage and rotates. Blockage in the digestive system prevents anything from passing out at either end through the mouth or the anus. When this occurs the dog has to make an emergency visit to the vet.
  • Demodectic mange: Skin disorders are common in the corso and one that is seen occasionally is demodecosis or mange. Welton points to the fact that 37% of the dogs in the Coalitions Cane corso study were found with demodecosis. This is caused by tiny mites that live in the hair follicle and oil glands of the skin.
Care Features

Exercise is of utmost importance to the Corso. The adult dog needs the activity to keep in shape while puppies need to burn the extra energy that makes them the rambunctious and active dogs they are. Care must be taken with young dogs, however, that they are not given too much exercise to pressure their legs, bones and joints which continue to grow till they are 18 months. Puppies should only be made to do short and less vigorous walks.

The Corso loves to be mentally engaged. Involve him in dog sporting activities, obedience training and dog tricks. Ensure that you give the dog respect and provide him firm leadership. As a working dog, he will enjoy doing some herding of livestock. One thing that you should know is that a bored Corso is a destructive Corso. He will find work to do if not given one.

It will be worthwhile for you to keep your dog inside your property with a solid and secure fence. You don’t want him to be let loose so he can harm neighbors’ pets or come to harm himself.

Feeding Schedule

Recommended daily amount: An adult Cane Corso can be fed 4 – 5 cups of high quality dry food per day.

When feeding, treat your dog just as you would a person. The amount of food you feed him will depend on his build, size, metabolism, and level of activities he is involved in. Be mindful also that the better the quality of the food you feed the dog may mean that it will go further in nourishing the animal and the less he will need.

Protein and calcium play a key role in the growth of Cane corso puppies. You will need to exercise care, however, in the amount of protein and calcium content you feed the young dogs since too much can make them grow too fast, therefore placing pressure on still growing joints and bones.

Stick to a schedule in feeding your Corso. Divide the food and feed him twice a day and do not develop the practice to leave food in his bowl for the day.  Remember your best advice in feeding your dog will certainly be from the vet.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Cane corso sports a short double coat; a soft light underneath, and a short, shiny and coarse outer covering. The lighter under-covering gets thicker in cold weather and grooming may require a bit more time. You will find the corso in colors that are truly his – black, gray, red, fawn, brindle, blue and chestnut.

Because of his short hair coat, the corso does not need extravagant grooming. All that he may require is to use a soft, damp cloth to wipe down his coat once weekly, and an occasional brush to maintain a sleek shiny coat. The corso sheds twice a year, and his coat gets thicker at these times. So be prepared to do a bit more brushing at these times.

Clean the dog’s teeth two to three times a week to prevent tartar build up from the dry food that he eats. It is recommended that you start the teeth cleaning from early in the puppy stage so that he gets used to the process. Trim toenails once per month if they do not wear down naturally. If you are hearing clicking sounds when the dog walks, it means that his nails are too long. Again, get the dog used to the process from a little puppy.

Give your dog a weekly ear check to identify any discharge and odor which will suggest the presence of an infection. Use a veterinary approved swab to clean the ears.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Children in the family can find a loyal and protective friend in the Cane corso. However, this will only happen if he is trained and socialized in how to interact with kids from a puppy. Even in this instance the dog should not be allowed to chase kids, and on the other hand kids should refrain from making shrilly sounds in his presence. Strangers will not find a friend in the dog and having young friends over can stir the protective instinct in the dog.

The Corso is not a good fit for young children and all should be taught how to interact with the dog. For more harmonious relationships, it is recommended that dog owners teach their kids certain responsible behaviors when dealing with any dog breed.

Children should refrain from pulling at the tail of the dog. Importantly you should teach your child how to approach and touch a dog, ensuring that they know that they should never go near when the dog is sleeping, or try to take his food when he is eating. The guiding principle is that children should never be left unsupervised in the company of a dog.

Unless the Cane corso is raised, socialized and trained properly, they are not tolerant of other animals including dogs of the same sex. Their natural instincts cause them to view them as preys and will treat them as such by injuring or killing them. It becomes important therefore that dog owners do everything to protect their neighbors’ animals from their Cane corsos. Corsos should be taught from early as a puppy to remain calm when in the company of other animals.

The Cane corso has a personality that makes him a corso, and sets him apart from other breeds. Give him the opportunity to lead and he takes charge of the whole affair which can be disastrous. He is not very friendly, especially to strangers. Neither is he to be left without an engaging exercise routine.

He gets bored easily and will engage in inappropriate behaviors. One thing can be said of the corso, however and that is, he will make you a very fine pet if he is properly socialized from puppy stage, and is placed under the guidance of a good trainer.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.