The large and impressive looking cane corso is a dog that can’t help but get attention wherever it goes. If the cane corso’s noble appearance has captured your interest, you may be wondering if this striking dog is the right pet for you.
This large guardian dog breed certainly has an intimidating appearance, but what about personality? Is the cane corso an aggressive breed or just a big mush?
As with most dogs, the answer to that question often depends more on training and socialization than the breed itself.
We’ll take an in-depth look at the cane corso, so you can decide if this ancient and majestic dog breed is the right choice for you.
What Is a Cane Corso?
A cane corso is a guarding breed, originally used to protect livestock. They are up to 27.5 inches tall and weigh up to 110 lbs. They live on average for just over nine years, and amazingly this can be linked to their color.
With its large head and jowly face, many people think of the cane corso as a mastiff.
Technically, the cane corso is what’s called a “molossus” dog (or “molosser”) and not a true mastiff.
The molossus is an ancient type of dog that is the ancestor of mastiffs and other large breeds like the St. Bernard and Bernese mountain dog.
Molossers often work as livestock and property guardian dogs.
Cane Corso History
The cane corso originated as a dog of war in Ancient Rome.
In the years after the Roman Empire, Italians used cani corsi for a variety of jobs, including hunting, guarding and livestock droving.
Always rare, the cane corso almost became extinct until some dedicated dog lovers worked to reestablish the breed. The first cane corsi arrived in the United States as recently as 1988.
The cane corso has a long and rich history, but what’s it like to actually live with one of these special dogs?
Let’s start with size. How big does a full-grown cane corso get?
Cane Corso Weight
The cane corso is a large breed dog. Males stand 25 to 27.5 inches tall at the shoulder; females stand 23.5 to 26 inches tall.
The American Kennel Club does not give a weight range in the cane corso breed standard.
The standard states that the weight should be proportionate to height.
What does that mean when it comes to pounds? Generally, an adult male Cane Corso will weigh between 99 and 110 pounds, while a female can weigh between 88 and 99 pounds.
Individual dogs can vary of course, so keep in mind that a cane corso is an athletic, large boned and muscular dog, with a weight that is proportionate to height.
Cane Corso Colors
What type of coat does the cane corso have?
The coat is short, dense and glossy.
While short, the breed does have an undercoat that will shed in warm weather.
You can expect to groom your dog regularly, but especially during shedding season, when one or more weekly brushings will be required.
The AKC recognized coat colors of the cane corso are black, light and dark gray, red, and light and dark fawn.
Cane Corso Patterns
Any of these colors can be brindled.
A brindle patterned coat is characterized by subtle darker stripes of color over a lighter base color.
Cani corsi can also have white patches on areas such as the chest, neck and feet.
A cane corso’s appearance is unmistakable, but what about its personality?
Cane Corso Temperament
Temperament is always a key consideration when deciding which large dog breed is right for you.
Certain large breeds are commonly referred to as “gentle giants”—the Newfoundland for example—but what about the cane corso, given that very intimidating appearance?
Breed experts describe the cane corso as extremely loyal and protective of its family, but not overly friendly with strangers.
The cane corso is a classic working dog breed, with a serious, intelligent nature; this dog is always happiest when it has a stimulating job to perform.
The cane corso personality is strong and somewhat dominant.
This means that as an owner, you need to be confident and assertive as well.
As a guardian dog, the Cane Coro can show aggression if it senses a threat to its home and family members.
Is a Cane Corso Likely to Bite Strangers?
Because the breed is quite rare, many dog attack studies don’t generally include the cane corso breed.
Studies often cite more popular breeds like the pit bull, German shepherd, Doberman, and rottweiler.
The cane corso dog has been involved in several high-profile attacks, some leading to fatalities, given the breed’s size and strength.
Some of these fatal attack incidents involved more than one dog.
A tendency toward aggression in any dog breed can be minimized by responsible breeding practices and by proper training and socialization.
For the cane corso, good training is a must.
Cane Corso Training
The official U.S. cane corso breed club states that proper professional training is a requirement for any cane corso, no matter how experienced an owner is with other dog breeds.
What are the most important elements of cane corso training?
Start training your cane corso puppy right away.
Early socialization is especially important for cane corso puppies.
This is because their basic nature is much more reserved than that of more friendly and outgoing breeds, so the more contact they have with people outside the family the better.
What about the cane corso with kids?
Older children (ages 8 and up) are better suited to large dogs like the cane corso than very young children.
While the cane corso is very loving and protective toward its human siblings, interactions with unfamiliar children should always be supervised.
Teach kids the basics about how to behave around dogs, such as how to pet them safely and not to disturb them while eating.
Your cane corso’s natural tendency toward dominance will require firm and steady training from puppyhood.
Be consistent in praising and reinforcing good behavior.
Despite that tough exterior, the cane corso is a sensitive and perceptive dog that is eager to please you and win your love.
Always use positive reinforcement training methods and consult a professional trainer experienced in working with dogs like the cane corso.
Cane Corso Health
What are some of the health issues that new owners might see in their cane corso?
Like most purebred dogs, the cane corso does have some inherited health problems.
Like many medium- to large-sized dogs, the cane corso can suffer from hip dysplasia.
One study of hip dysplasia among dog breeds in France found that 59.7 percent of cani corsi suffer from this painful joint condition.
The breed can also be prone to idiopathic epilepsy. Seizures can start in dogs as young as nine months.
The Cane Corso Association of America is working with the University of Missouri Canine Epilepsy Project on this serious health issue.
A skin condition called demodectic mange, which is caused by mites, can be common in the cane corso.
Dogs susceptible to this condition are thought to have an inherited immune system defect.
The wrinkled and droopy skin on the cane corso’s face can lead to three eye conditions common to dogs with this facial conformation.
Glandular hypertrophy is commonly called cherry eye.
This occurs when a dog’s third eyelid becomes inflamed.
Cani corsi can also suffer from eyelids that curl either inward (entropion) or outward (ectropion); both conditions cause irritation of the eye.
Like other large breed dogs, the cane corso can also be predisposed to gastric torsion, or “bloat.”
This is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent veterinary treatment.
Cane Corso Life Expectancy
Compared to some other large breed dogs, the cane corso has a relatively long lifespan.
Most dog experts put their lifespan at between nine and 11 years.
One interesting study on cane corso lifespan found a correlation between coat color and longevity.
While the median lifespan of all cani corsi studied was 9.29 years, the researchers found that black brindle cane corso dogs lived the longest (10.3 years).
Cane Corso Breeders
Choose your cane corso breeder carefully.
Remember that the cane corso is a guardian dog, not a fighting dog, so be wary of breeders who boast about the very large size or “toughness” of their dogs.
Aware of the breed’s growing popularity among people seeking a “macho” dog, the Cane Corso Association of America has created a series of guidelines on finding a reputable cane corso breeder.
They warn against buying a dog from a pet store or online ad.
Take the time to research reputable small-scale breeders and visit them in person.
Be sure to ask questions about the breeder’s knowledge and experience with the cane corso breed.
Given that the cane corso is a dominant dog and not for novice owners, your breeder should also ask you questions about your experience handling dogs like the cane corso.
Cane Corso Puppies
Cane corso puppies are adorable, but before you fall head over heels in love, it’s important to talk to breeders about health.
Because the cane corso dog can be predisposed to certain genetic health conditions, be sure to ask if your breeder health tests their breeding stock for hip dysplasia and other inherited health problems.
Ask to see the health records of your puppy’s parents.
You should also ask if the puppies are tested for temperament. Reputable breeders will work hard to ensure that your puppy is a good match for your home and family.
If you are interested in adopting a cane corso rescue dog, be sure to check out breed specific cane corso rescue organizations.
There are several groups dedicated to rescuing and placing surrendered cani corsi with the right adoptive families.
Experience rehabilitating poorly socialized dogs is a requirement for many cane corso rescues.
Cane Corso Price
Adoption fees for cane corso rescue dogs can vary, depending on the age of the dog and whether it is purebred or mixed breed.
Expect to pay in the $200-$500 range for a cane corso rescue.
What is the price of a purebred cane corso puppy from a reputable breeder?
This is an expensive breed.
Reputable breeders can charge anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on whether the dog is pet quality or show quality.
Beware of breeders that price cane corso puppies in the $500 range.
This could be a sign that your puppy comes from a mill or an inexperienced “backyard” breeder who lacks knowledge about health, temperament and socialization.
The cost of your cane corso goes beyond its price as a puppy.
Remember that large breed dogs eat more food than small dogs. Your dog may also require professional training, which can be costly.
Routine veterinary care for large dogs can also cost more than small dogs.
You should also factor in the possibility that your dog may develop a health condition that requires expensive ongoing treatment.
Is a Cane Corso the Right Dog for Me?
They can be a loving companion and devoted protector for the right family.
Not a traditional family dog like the Labrador or Golden Retrievers, the cane corso does best with experienced, confident owners and when given a job to perform.
The ideal cane corso owner is serious about proper training and socialization.
Your dog will require regular outdoor exercise that goes beyond walks and hanging out in the yard.
As a working dog, they need to engage in mentally stimulating activity with its owner.
References and Further Reading:
“Cane Corso,” American Kennel Club
“Common Diseases – Ophthalmology Related Articles,” American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists
Di Donato, S., Ricci, P., Panarese, F., et al., 2006, “Cane Corso Attack: Two Fatal Cases,” Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Dryden, M.W., DVM, Ph.D. DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, “Mange in Dogs and Cats,” Merck Veterinary Manual
“Gastric Dilation-Volvulus,” American College of Veterinary Surgeons
Genevois, J.P., Remy, D., Viguier, E., et al., 2008, “Prevalence of Hip Dysplasia According to Official Radiographic Screening Among 31 Breeds of Dog in France,” Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology
Korec, E., Chalupa, O., Hancl, M., et al., 2017, “Longevity of Cane Corso Italiano Dog Breed and Its Relationship with Hair Colour,” Open Veterinary Journal
O’Brien, D. “Understanding Your Pet’s Epilepsy,” University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine