Cane Corso Unleashed: What to Know

Discover the Cane Corso breed and its ancient origins, lifespan, coat color options, temperament, and more. Why is this Italian breed such a beloved companion?

Dec 14, 2023By Natasha Elder
cane corso unleashed what to know

Are you ready to meet the magnificent Cane Corso? With its muscular build, imposing size, and striking features, it’s no wonder why this majestic Italian dog breed has become the chosen companion for people and households around the world. In this breed profile, you’ll discover the history, temperament, and characteristics of the beautiful Cane Corso.

1. The Cane Corso is an Ancient Breed

cane corso face profile close up
Image credit:agutti from Pixabay

The history of the Cane Corso is nothing short of incredible. The Cane Corso is a type of mastiff breed that originated in Italy. The breed traces back to the ferocious Molossus war dog, which was an ancient dog breed from Greece that has frequently appeared in the writings of legendary poets and philosophers. These war dogs were brought from ancient Greece to Rome. Soon, the breed as we know it evolved into what it is today.

The Cane Corso, which is also known as the Italian Mastiff, was the result of years of breeding. For decades, Cani Corsi (which is the proper plural term for more than one Cane Corso) were used as Roman fighting dogs and many were piriferi (fire-bearer) on the battlefield. When Rome fell, so did the need for massive dogs that were tasked with charging across enemy lines.

But this remarkable breed had acquired so many skills from wartime and was so easy to train that they were soon put to use on farms instead.

cane corso old pic
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

It was here, on Italian farms, that Cani Corsi served as guards, hunters, herders, and general farmhands. The breed became a huge part of Italian culture and remained so for hundreds of years before changes in farming practices and two world wars saw a severe drop in the number of Cani Corsi. Today, their numbers are back up, and they are popular once more – this time all around the world.

2. The Cane Corso Hails from Italy

cane corso swimming river water
Image credit: agutti from Pixabay

As you now know, the Cane Corso is an Italian dog breed. Thanks to its staggering popularity, the breed is owned and loved by people all over the world. It is one of the most popular and most searched dog breeds.

The Cane Corso is one of 15 Italian dog breeds that is officially recognized by the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale.) Several other dog breeds are in the process of being recognized by the institution, as well as a handful of local breeds that are not recognized.

The Cane Corso is an immensely popular and well-known Italian breed, but you may recognize some of the other breeds that come from Italy. The fifteen officially recognized native Italian dogs are:

  • Bolognese
  • Bracco Italiano
  • Cane Corso
  • Bergamasco Shepherd Dog
  • Maremmano-Abruzzese Sheepdog
  • Cirneco dell’Etna
  • Lagotto Romagnolo
  • Maltese
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Neapolitan Mastiff
  • Segugio Italiano a Pelo Forte
  • Segugio Italiano a Pelo Raso
  • Segugio Maremmano
  • Spinone Italiano
  • Volpino Italiano

3. Cani Corsi Need Two Hours of Exercise Per Day

black cane corso exercising water frisbee
Image credit: Christiane from Pixabay

A true and proper working breed, a Cane Corso needs plenty of exercise to keep themselves physically and mentally fit. This is a very active breed. For them to be happy and healthy, they ideally need around two hours of exercise per day. At a bare minimum, a Cane Corso needs to be exercised for 45 minutes each day, but any less than this, and the dog is all but guaranteed to act out.

Cani Corsi will thrive when they work, so it’s a good idea to give them a job to keep them stimulated and driven. After all, they were bred to work. If they feel like they aren’t getting enough exercise or that they don’t have a purpose, Cani Corsi will dig holes in gardens, chew things they aren’t supposed to, try to escape, and exhibit other common behavioral issues in dogs.

fox versus cane corso
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Long walks, intensive hikes, and playing fetch are all great exercise ideas to keep a Cane Corso on their toes. If you live on a farm, let them help herd the livestock. Keep them mentally stimulated by teaching them new tricks – plenty of Cani Corsi end up as competition dogs in dog shows because they’re so trainable.

4. The Cane Corso has a Complex Temperament

cane corso outdoors gravel
Image credit: Tommy from Pixabay

Over the years, the Cane Corso has proven itself to be one heck of a dog. Once you look past their gigantic appearance, you’ll see that what this dog is like on the inside is even more impressive than what they’re like on the outside. That’s certainly saying something!

The Cane Corso is majestic and has a real presence. On the one hand, they’re formidable protectors. On the other, they’re chilled, calm, and always up for a cuddle. The temperament of a Cane Corso is described as:

  • Affectionate
  • Alert
  • Assertive
  • Calm
  • Docile
  • Even-tempered
  • Fearless
  • Loyal
  • Powerful
  • Protective
  • Reserved
  • High level of intelligence

Many of the traits listed above mean that this incredible breed makes a wonderful family dog. When properly socialized from a young age, Cani Corsi make great dogs for families with children – especially older kids who know how to play properly and handle the dog appropriately.

5. Cane Corso Coats Come in Many Colors

brindle cane corso dog italian mastiff
Image credit: akiragiulia from Pixabay

The Cane Corso has a short double-layered coat that is covered in a smooth layer of hair. The official breed standard describes this coat as “short, stiff, shiny, adherent, and dense.” Black is the most common coat color. The American Kennel Club lays out the accepted breed standard colors as:

  • Black
  • Gray
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Black and brindle (a brownish color with streaks of other color)
  • Gray and brindle
  • Chestnut and brindle

The coat colors mentioned above are the breed standard colors, but there are a few other coat colors out there. However, despite what an unscrupulous or perhaps inexperienced breeder may have you believe, coat colors that aren’t part of the breed standard aren’t rare or valuable – they’re simply caused by recessive genes. These colors are outlined as chocolate, liver, Isbella fawn, and straw.

6. Cani Corsi Make Great Guard Dogs

cane corso attack training guard dog
Image credit: Outlaw Cane Corsos

Just by looking at this impressive breed, you can tell that a Cane Corso will make a fantastic guard dog. The official breed standard says, “the Cane Corso as a protector of his property and owners is unequalled,” and that statement is completely true. At times, the Cane Corso is a gentle giant, but at others, they are a fierce protector who will defend their home and those in it.

For starters, the appearance of a Cane Corso is usually enough of a deterrent to keep threats at bay. Their muscular build, large size, and almost menacingly confident gait make them come across as a formidable defender. Would-be criminals or attackers are likely to be intimidated by the look of the Cane Corso alone. But what if they are brave (read foolish) enough to try to enter the property?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Cani Corsi are territorial creatures. They are hyper-alert and aware of strangers and possible threats. This breed is known for being very vocal, and they will bark when they feel that they should. Many have been bred for bite work too, and although they are not naturally quick to bite, the Cane Corso has one of the highest bite force measurements of all canines. This makes it a banned dog breed in many areas.

7. Cani Corsi Live for Nine to 12 Years

cane corso puppy litter young pups
Image credit: agutti from Pixabay

Let’s take a closer look at the lifespan of this breed. Interestingly, the color of a Cane Corso coat is thought to be linked to its lifespan. A 2007 study investigating the relationship between the dog’s hair color and longevity revealed that solid black Cani Corsi typically live much longer than those with gray or red coats.

The Cane Corso has an average lifespan of nine to 12 years, which is about right for their size. When you compare the lifespan of a Cane Corso to that of a Great Dane or a Bernese Mountain Dog, it is one of the longest-living big dog breeds.

Of course, there are several steps you can take to prolong the life of your Cane Corso, like ensuring they are fed a high-quality diet and get sufficient exercise and pre-emptive veterinary care. But still, it is unlikely that they will live past the age of 12. The average life span of a Cane Corso is 9.3 years.

8. Several Health Conditions Impact the Cane Corso

cane corso close up cherry eye condition
Image credit:Wikipedia

As is the case with all purebred breeds, the Cane Corso comes with a few health conditions that owners need to keep an eye out for. Like all giant dog breeds, the Cane Corso is particularly susceptible to developing hip dysplasia. This condition, while genetic, is brought about by the immense pressure put on their joints by their heavy weight. If untreated or detected too late, this hip dysplasia can turn into osteoarthritis.

Another genetic condition that the Cane Corso is predisposed to is canine epilepsy. The specific type of epilepsy that this breed experiences is known as idiopathic epilepsy, which means that nobody is sure what causes it. Thankfully, even though the cause is unknown, medication is available. If a Cane Corso has idiopathic epilepsy, it will present itself in the first two to five years of its life.

cherry eye dog
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Eye issues are also common in Cani Corsi. Cherry eye and an eyelid condition called entropion in particular are known to affect this breed. Again, both conditions are treatable and can be corrected with surgery. Due to its deep chest and large size, the Cane Corso also stands a greater chance of developing bloat––a condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership