The Cane Corso, also known as the Italian Mastiff, has a signature look that is backed by incredible physical abilities.
With a strong, sturdy skeleton and a muscular build this breed can accomplish just about anything. Beyond their sheer strength, a Cane Corso is very athletic, agile, and elegant. Their powerful and long muscles allow for ease of movement and endurance.
It’s no wonder that Cani Corsi make excellent property watchdogs and skilled hunters of difficult game.
Keeping in mind the Cane Corso is a medium-large size Molossus dog; there are certain features that must be displayed.
Overall, a Cane Corso should show a sturdy strong skeleton of a large-boned dog. Proportionally, the breed is a rectangle shape with the length(point of the shoulder to the point of buttock) being about 10% more than its height (highest point of the shoulder to ground) .
Expectant heights for a dog are 25 to 27.5 inches or 23.5 to 26 inches for a bitch. While the weight is proportional to the height, most range from 90 to 120lbs.
The Cane Corso has a large brachycephalic head, with firm smooth skin. Like many dog breeds, the Cane Corso is all about proportions. The Cane Corso breed has a head that is one-third its total height (measured from ground to withers). The bizygomatic length must same as the skull’s length and the height is half of the skull’s height. The overall circumference, measured at the cheekbones, of the head is double the length of the head.
Skull: Viewed from the front, the skull is wide and slightly curved; width is equal to the length.
From the side, a prominent arch begins in the sub-region of the forehead and then flattens backward toward the occiput.
Viewed from the top, it has a square appearance due to the zygomatic arches and powerful muscles swathing it.
Stop: Well-defined due to developed and bulging frontal sinuses and prominent arch above the eyes with a visible median furrow.
Expression: The Cane Corso’s expression matches its alert ability. When actively being attentive there will be some wrinkling just above the eyes.
Eyes: Breed standards are medium in size, almond-shaped and tight fitting rims. The eyes should not be round or bulging with only a minimal amount of haw being visible.
Eye Color: Dark brown eyes are preferred with black muzzles (coat colors of black, fawn or red, and these colors brindled). Lighter shades are preferred with gray muzzles (coat colors of gray, fawn or red and these colors brindled). Regardless of color, pigmentation of the eye rims is complete and matches pigment color of the Cane Corso.
Ears: Set well above the cheekbones and can be both cropped or uncropped. If cropped, it is in an equilateral triangle. If uncropped, they are medium size, triangular in shape, held tight to the cheeks, and not extending beyond the jawbone.
Nose: Large with well-opened nostrils, pigment color is complete and must match pigment color of the Cane Corso. The nose is an extension of the top line of the muzzle; meaning, the Cane Corso’s nose does not protrude beyond nor recede behind the front plane of the muzzle.
Muzzle: The Cane Corso has a brachycephalic head with a very broad and deep muzzle. Its width is almost equal to its length (one-third of the total length of the head). The depth of muzzle is greater than 50% of the length of the muzzle. The top and bottom muzzle plains are parallel, and the nose and chin form a perpendicular line. Viewed from the front, the anterior face should look flat and form a trapezoid. The muzzle is not overly narrow or snipey.
Lips: Much like the rest of Cane Corso’s head, the lips’ skin will be rather firm. Upper lips moderately hang to form an inverted “U” below the nostrils. Pigmentation matches the color pigment of the Cane Corso.
Bite: The Cane Corso’s bite will be undershot by no more than ¼ inch and level preferred. Scissor bite is acceptable if parameters of the head and muzzle are correct. As for the teeth, there should be no more than two missing, dentition is complete, and incisors are in a straight line.
Neck: The length of the neck is approximately one-third the height at the withers, is slightly arched, and smoothly flows into the shoulders with a small amount of dewlap.
Ribcage: The ribcage depth is equal to half the total height of the dog, it descends slightly below the elbow, and is made up of long and well-sprung ribs with moderate tuck up.
Chest: The Cane Corso Chest is broad, well-muscled, and has a strong forefront.
Back: The Cane Corso back is wide, strong, and muscular. The highest part of the shoulder blade slightly rises above back level.
Loin: The Cane Corso loin is well-muscled and evenly joined to the back.
Croup: The Cane Corso croup is long, wide, slightly sloping. With its muscling, the rump should be quite round.
Tail: The tail set is an extension of the backline and docked at the fourth vertebrae. It is thick at the root with not much tapering at the tip. When not in action, it is carried low, otherwise horizontal or slightly higher than back, not to be carried in a vertical position. In the rare case of natural tails, the tip reaches the hock but not below. Carried low, it is supple without being broken nor kinked. When in repose, the tail is generally carried level with the back or slightly above the level of the back when the dog is in action. The natural tail should never curve over the back.
The Forequarters of a Cane Corso are strong, muscular, and well-proportioned to the size of the dog. They are straight when viewed from the front or side. The height of the limb at the elbow is equal to 50% of the height at the withers.
Shoulders: Cane Corso shoulders are muscular and laid back.
Upper arms: Cane Corso upper arms are strongly muscled, powerful, and with good bones.
Elbows: Cane Corso elbows are held parallel to the ribcage without turning in or out.
Forelegs: Cane Corso forelegs are straight, well-muscled, and with good bones..
Pasterns: Cane Corso pasterns are nearly straight and strong but remain flexible.
Feet: Cane Corso feet are catlike with round with well-arched toes, lean, and hard. Pigmentation includes dark pads and nails—except in the case of white toes.
Front dewclaws: Cane Corso dewclaws can remain or be removed. If left intact, they should only be a single dewclaw on each leg.
As a whole, Cane Corso hindquarters are powerful, strong, and in harmony with the forequarters. They are straight when viewed from the rear or front.
Thighs: Cane Corso thighs are long, wide, angulated, and well-muscled.
Stifle: Cane Corso stifle should be moderately angulated and strong.
Legs: Cane Corso legs are strong in bone and muscle structure.
Hocks: Cane Corso hocks are wide-set, thick and clean, and are well let down. When viewed from behind, the hocks are parallel.
Rear pastern: The rear pastern of a Cane Corso is both straight and parallel.
Rear dewclaws: Any rear dewclaws should be removed from a Cane Corso.
Hind feet: Unlike the others, the Cane Corso hind feet are slightly more oval-shaped and less-arched toes.
Coat: The coat is short, stiff, shiny, and adherent. It is dense with a light undercoat that becomes thicker in cold weather. Acceptable coat colors are black, shades of gray, shades of fawn, and red. Brindling is allowed on all of these colors. Solid fawn and red, including lighter and darker shades, have a black or gray mask that does not go beyond the eyes. There may be a white patch on the chest, throat, chin, backs of the pasterns, and on the toes.
The movement is elegant. It is described as free-flowing, powerful, effortless, and with strong reach and drive. As the dog accelerates, the feet converge toward a centerline of gravity in a near-single track. When viewed from the side, the topline remains level, with minimal roll or bounce.
The Cane Corso breed has a strong pack mentality. When Cane Corso’s noble, majestic, and powerful demeanor is pared with its physical and mental abilities, they become unrivaled as a protector of both his property and owners. Although they have a commanding and dominant presence, their intelligence and eagerness to please their owners, make them fairly easy to train. Finally, they are docile and affectionate to their owners, loving with children, and loyal to their families.
Eye disqualifications include yellow bird of prey or blue eye color. Disqualification of the bite will occur with more than two missing teeth (wry mouth) or an undershot that exceeds 1/4 inch. Disqualifications of the tail include a natural tail that is atrophied, knotted, and/or laterally deviated or twisted. Finally, coat disqualifications occur because of coloring with tan pattern markings as seen in black-and-tan breeds.
History of the Cane Corso
Unfortunately, this race, saved in the last few years from what seemed an inexorable and fatal decline, reaches us with a scanty but still significant historical and iconographic background from which a few enthusiasts have tried to reconstruct the origins of this race. The etymology of the name Corso is still uncertain. The most credible hypothesis are those which indicate Greek origins: KORTOS = wall and from the Latin: COHORS = guard of the courtyard. Until recently the oldest documentation citing the name of the Cane Corso consisted of a few poems and some prose dating from 1500. In 1998 the A.I.C.C. or Associazione Italiana Cane Corso published a study on the race which brought to light the military use of the Cane Corso, in 1137 in Monopoli di Sabina (near Rome), the finding of kennels from the period and the close links between the race and Roman history. All of this allows us to consider the Cane Corso, as the principal evidence of an ancestral race which has maintained particular characteristics over the centuries, which take us back in time, not just to the period tied to agricultural economy immediately prior to the industrial revolution, but even further backlinking dog fanciers with the great civilizations of the past; the rise and fall of the Roman empire, the middle ages and modern times. The Cane Corso has maintained through natural selection over the centuries, the closest possible contact with the environment and the roles which man has asked this precious companion to play. We are talking about hard times when the success and survival of a race depended exclusively on their ability to render work, so the choice of raising and keeping a dog was a purely economic one. Responsibility is taken which had to correspond to the acquisition of a good or service, nothing superfluous was allowed. The Cane Corso, which we can admire today is the best evidence of the theory which sustains that when a race exhibits certain morphological and behavioral characteristics relating to the work it is required to do, then that race shows the harmony of form and balanced character. The past of the Cane Corso is not only largely present and alive but also extraordinarily current, as if time had just slipped away. The Corso has conserved from its ancestors the Molossi of Epiro and the pugnaces of Rome, used in war and for fighting in the circus, the aggressive and combative nature necessary for successfully reaching its goal, with no hesitation and with surprising potential force. Through contact with man in social situations, he has learned to react only when necessary, becoming an excellent interpreter of human gestures. With these characteristics, the Cane Corso has survived until today. In small settlements in the south of Italy where they have maintained an archaic system of agriculture and a multi-purpose dog is an essential partner. The modernization of agriculture and systems of breeding, in particular, the disappearance of breeding in the wild and semi-wild state. The disappearance of wild game and the use of firearms with the consequently different techniques of hunting have reduced the traditional uses of the Cane Corso. It is for this reason that the diffusion of the Corso has suffered drastic reduction since the Second World War. The situation at the beginning of the 1970s was worrying for the very survival of the race, then reduced to a modest number of examples and no longer considered by in official dog-fancying circles despite the efforts of individuals like the Count Bonatti and Professor Ballotta. It was in 1976 that an enthusiastic dog lover and researcher of the rural traditions of Italy, Doctor Breber, brought the Cane Corso, to the attention of the public and official dog fancying circles in an article published in a number of the ENCI (Italian Kennel Club) magazine. He followed this first step with the setting up of a rescue mission carried out by a group of enthusiasts who had made contact with Dr. Breber in the meantime. In October of 1983, these enthusiasts formed the S.A.C.C. (Società Amatori Cane Corso). The common intentions of rescuing the race were the basis for the forming of the SACC, which suffered its first shock in 1986 when Dr. Breber abandoned the society. This fact has little resonance at the time as the group was not well known and lived on the edges of dog-fancying officialdom. This was a determining e commitment of serious dog lovers. Factor in the future direction of the race as was the contribution of the man who was among the first to contribute to the new interest in the race and who provided the dogs for the first litter: Basir the model for the standard of the race was the son of Dauno and Tipsi, two dogs chosen by Dr. Breber. When Dr. Breber left the SACC centered itself around the kennels in Mantova run by Giancarlo Malavasi with the entire breeding program of the race and the running of the SACC in the hands of Stefano Gandolfi, Gianantonio Sereni and Ferdinando Casolino. The need to move the breeding program forward at all costs become the justification for centralized running of the association which was not very democratic and often object of not positive chattering. For these reasons the SACC, two vice-presidents from different times stand out, Mr. Oreste Savoia and Dr. Flavio Bruno. In this period it must be highlighted that the activities of the SACC for the recognition of the Cane Corso were carried out with energy and appreciable results. Unfortunately the same cannot be said from the dog fanciers point of view because the level of quality of the litter thrown by Basir in 1980 were never repeated and the subjects produced, appeared and today still appear distant from the desired model and show considerable variation. In that period the SACC successfully organized dog fanciers meetings with the scope of making the race known and allow the judges of the ENCI to carry out tests and measurements. This activity produced an official standard document edited by Dr. Antonio Morsiani ratified by the judging committee of the ENCI in 1987. In the same edition of the standard, perhaps because of the need to differentiate the Cane Corso as much as possible from the other Italian Molosso hounds, the Neapolitan Mastiff, for the purposes of recognition, some inaccuracies were allowed which led to considerable discussion. The most important regards the closure of the teeth in that the standard requires a slight prognathism. The level bite is only tolerated, however being just as common in the Corso. This is shown not only in the many positions taken by enthusiastic breeders (including Breber) but also in the official records of the first convention, Convegno nazionale di Civitella Affadena, June 16th 1990. In 1992 in order to better follow the evolution of the Race the ENCI decided to record the births of Corsi born of parents verified by the judges and as such considered heads of bloodlines, in an unofficial book called the Libro Apperto or open book. The data contained in this book was transferred into the official books when the race was officially recognized on January 20th 1994. The enthusiasm for this race, the curiosity and the knowledge that a greater number of dogs and a greater interest in the race would have helped in the push for recognition, lead to an uncontrolled increase in the production of litters with a consequent reduction in the average quality of the offspring. In this phase the SACC, not only omitted take any action to inhibit this phenomenon, but rather took every opportunity to publicize the race and themselves as its saviors. Under this pressure the number of Corsi produced jumped from a few tens of animals at the beginning to the current 2500 annual registrations. Given the lack of improvement in the quality of the animals produced the success of the race was vaunted in terms of numerical increase. This choice penalizing the zootechnical aspects paid of in terms of political ratification. On May 22nd 1996 at Arese the best Cane Corso were gathered. CH Boris was used as the model for the presentation of the characteristics of the race at the upper levels of the F.C.I. A few months later in November 1996, the Cane Corso was recognized at an international level. This seemed a positive result but it lead to further worsening of the system because many enthusiasts from outside of Italy, inspired by the novelty of the situation bought the Corso without due care or consideration. Often their choice was based on lack of information, ready availability, color or the price of the puppies. What has been revealed in the last few years is the total lack of a serious information service and management of the race at an international level. In the general confusion, those few who have tried to organize the Cane Corso enthusiasts in their own country have found difficulty in opening communication with the SACC which has often hid its obvious shortcomings behind a veneer of arrogance. In July of 1999, after years of superficial management and repeated appeals against the controlling bodies, the Enci finally relieved the SACC of recognition as the official club for the race of the Cane Corso». In an attempt to obviate the situation some enthusiasts have founded the A.I.C.C.If the second millennium closes under a cloud of uncertainty for the Cane Corso, the third millennium opens with a great hope; the presidents of several national associations, Mr. Renzo Carosio for the Italian AICC, Mr. Micheal Ertaskiran for the American ICCF and Mr. Erik de Vries for the Dutch CCNL have decided to work together towards an international coordination of the race based on the commitment of serious dog lovers.