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Italian Mastiff Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Cane Corso Association of America

Native Country
Italy

Other Names
Perro Corso, Chien de Forte Race, Corso-Hund, Cane Corso, Cane di Macellaio, Sicilian Branchiero, Italian Molosso, Sicilianos Branchiero

Life Expectancy
Approximately 9-11 Years

Litter Size
Average 4-6 Puppies

Breed Group
Mastiff

General Description

The Cane Corso is a large Italian Molosser, which is closely related to the Neapolitan Mastiff. In name and form the Cane Corso predates its cousin the Neapolitan Mastiff. It is well muscled and less bulky than most other Mastiff breeds. The breed is known as a true and quite possibly the last of the coursing Mastiffs.

The head of the Cane Corso is arguably its most important feature. It is large and imposing. In general, it gives the appearance of regality. The forehead should be flat and convergent to the muzzle. The muzzle is flat, rectangular (when viewed from above), and generally as wide as it is long approximately 33% the total length of the skull. The eyes are almond in shape, set straight and when viewed from the front, set slightly above the line of the muzzle. Darker eyes are preferred, however, the color of the eyes tends to emulate the shade of brindling in the coat. Traditionally the ears are cropped in equilateral triangles that stand erect.


General Appearance: The Cane Corso is an ancient Italian breed, medium-large sized molossoid. Sturdy, with a strong skeleton, muscular and athletic. It moves with considerable ease and elegance. It has always been a property watchdog and hunter of difficult game such as the wild boar.
Size, Proportion, Substance: A muscular, balanced, large boned dog, rectangular in proportion. The length of the dog, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of buttock, is 11% percent greater than the height of the dog measured from the highest point of the shoulder to the ground.
Height: Dogs: 25 to 27.5 inches, Bitches: 23.5 to 26 inches.
Weight: Proportionate to height.
Head: Mollossoid, large, its total length reaches 36% of the height at the withers. Planes of the skull and muzzle are slightly convergent, they are not parallel. The circumference of the head measured at the cheek bones is more then twice the total length of the head; skin is firm and smooth.
Skull: Viewed from the front is wide and slightly curved, width is equal to the length. From the side a prominent arch begins above the eyes and then flattens backwards towards 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.
Expression: Very alert and attentive. Some wrinkling on forehead occurs when alert.
Eyes: Medium sized, almond shaped, not round or bulging, tight fitting rims preferred with only a minimal amount of haw being visible.
Eye Color: Dogs with black muzzles (black, fawn, red, and these colors brindled) dark brown eyes are preferred. Gray muzzles (gray, fawn, red and these colors brindled) lighter shades are acceptable. Pigmentation of the eye rims is complete, pigmentation of eye rim matches pigment color of dog. Disqualification: Yellow bird of prey, blue eyes. Wall eyed.
Ears: Set well above the cheekbones. May be cropped or uncropped, if cropped it is in an equilateral triangle. If uncropped, they are medium sized, triangular in shape, held tight to the cheeks, and not extending beyond the jawbone.
Nose: Large with well-opened nostrils, pigment color to match pigment color of the dog. Dogs with black pigment have black noses, gray pigmented dogs have gray noses, and pigmentation is complete. The nose is an extension of the topline of the muzzle and does not protrude beyond nor recede behind the front plane of the muzzle.
Muzzle: Very broad and deep, width is almost equal to its length which reaches 34% of the total length of the head; the depth of muzzle is more then 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. Muzzle is not narrow or snipey.
Lips: Rather firm. Upper lips moderately hanging, they join under the nostrils to form an inverted ?U?. Pigmentation matches color pigment of dog, Dogs with black pigment have black lips, gray pigmented dogs have gray lips.
Bite: Slightly undershot (no more then1/4 inch) and level preferred, scissor bite is acceptable if parameters of the head and muzzle are correct. The incisors are firmly placed on a straight line. Dentition is complete with no more then two missing teeth. Disqualification: More then 2 missing teeth, wry mouth. Pronounced and undershot more then inch.
Neck: Slightly arched, flowing smoothly into the shoulders with a small amount of dewlap. The length of the neck is 36% the height at the withers.
Body: Depth of the ribcage is equal to half the total height of the dog, descending slightly below the elbow. Ribs are long and well sprung.
Chest: Broad, well muscled, strong forefront.
Back: Wide, strong, muscular. Highest part of shoulder blade slightly rising above the strong, level back.
Loin: Well-muscled, and harmoniously joined to the back.
Croup: Long, wide, slightly sloping. Rump should be quite round due to muscular development.
Tail: Tail set is an extension of the backline. It is thick at the root with not much tapering at the tip. When not in action carried low, otherwise horizontal or slightly higher than back, not to be carried in a vertical position, it is docked at the 4th vertebrae. Natural tails are accepted, though not preferred. In the case of natural tails, the tip reaches the hock but not below. Carried low, it is neither broken nor kinked but supple. Hanging when the dog is in repose; generally carried level with the back or slightly above the level of the back when the dog is in action, without curving over the back or being curled. Disqualification: A natural tail that is atrophied or a natural tail that is knotted and laterally deviated or twisted.
Forequarters: Strong and muscular, well proportioned to the size of the dog. Straight when viewed from the front or side, height of the limb at the elbow is equal to 50% of the height at the withers.
Shoulders: Muscular, laid back.
Upper Arms: Strongly muscled, with good bone, powerful.
Elbows: Held parallel to the ribcage, turning neither in nor out.
Forelegs: straight and with good bone well muscled.
Pasterns: Almost straight, strong but flexible.
Feet: Round with well arched, toes (cat like).Lean hard dark pads and nails except in the case of white toes.
Hindquarters: As a whole, they are powerful and strong, in harmony with the forequarters.
Thighs: Long, wide, angulated and well muscled.
Stifle: Should be moderately angulated, strong.
Legs: Strong bone and muscle structure.
Hocks: Wide, thick and clean, let down and parallel when viewed from behind.
Rear Pastern: straight and parallel.
Rear Dewclaws: Any rear dewclaws are removed.
Hind Feet: Slightly more oval shaped and less arched toes than the front feet.
Coat: The coat is short, stiff, shiny, adherent and dense with a light undercoat that becomes thicker in cold weather.
Color: Acceptable colors are black, lighter and darker shades of gray, lighter and darker 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; it 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. Disqualification: Any color with marking pattern as seen in black and tan breeds.
Gait/Movement: The movement is free flowing, powerful yet effortless, with strong reach and drive. As the dog accelerates, the feet converge towards a center line of gravity in a near single track. When viewed from the side, the topline remains level, with minimal roll or bounce.

History

Their name derives from the Latin "cohors", which means "protector, guardian of the farm-yard", whereas Corso in Italian means "dog". Originating in the 1600s, the breed was a recreation of an older breed in Italy, the Cane di Macellaio. It was actually developed in Sicily, not the mainland of Italy. They were used by butchers to drove cattle, guard the farmland and hunt large predators. After World War II, like many other breeds, this breed almost died out. Thanks to fans in the 1980s, though, the breed made a comeback to a world which now holds them in high favor.

Behavior

This breed needs mental stimulation, in addition to regular training and exercise. Whether their job is greeting customers at a store, herding animals on a farm or helping you take care of your children daily, this breeds needs to do something. You cannot send them to a dog daycare type of facility and expect them to have their mental stimulation needs met there. Additionally, you cannot leave the dog in the yard for 8-10 hours a day while you go to work. If they do not get their mental stimulation needs met, they will find other ways to entertain themselves. This can manifest as fence fighting with a neighbor’s dog, digging holes and chewing on things they are not supposed to.

Cane Corsos thrive when they can think. They excel at agility, tracking, obedience, protection sports, dock diving and nosework. If you want a breed of dog to compete within a dog sport, a Cane Corso is an excellent choice. They are extremely motivated to please their owners and they enjoy training using positive reinforcement.

Basic obedience and household rules training is not optional for the Cane Corso. As an absolute minimum, you must teach him to reliably respond to commands to come, to lie down, to stay and to walk at your side, on or off leash, regardless of temptations. You must also teach him to respect your household rules: e.g., Is he allowed to get on the furniture? Is he allowed to beg at the table? What you allow or forbid is unimportant; but it is critical that you, not the dog, make these choices and that you enforce your rules consistently. You must commit yourself to attending an 8 to 10 week series of weekly lessons at a local obedience club or professional trainer and to doing one or two short (5 to 20 minutes) homework sessions per day. As commands are learned, they must be integrated into your daily life by being used whenever appropriate and enforced consistently.

Young Cane Corso puppies are relatively easy to train: they are eager to please, intelligent and calm-natured, with a relatively good attention span. Once they have learned something, he tends to retain it well. Your cute, sweet little Cane Corso puppy will grow up to be a large, powerful dog with a highly self-assertive personality and the determination to finish whatever he starts. If he has grown up respecting you and your rules, then all his physical and mental strength will work for you. But if he has grown up without rules and guidance from you, surely he will make his own rules, and his physical and mental powers will often act in opposition to your needs and desires. For example: he may tow you down the street as if competing in a weight pull trial; he may grab food off the table; he may forbid your guests entry to his home. This training cannot be delegated to someone else, e.g., by sending the dog away to "boarding school," because the relationship of respect and obedience is personal between the dog and the individual who does the training. This is true of all dogs to a greater or lesser degree, but definitely to a very great degree in the Cane Corso. While you may want the help of an experienced trainer to teach you how to train your dog, you yourself must actually train your Cane Corso. As each lesson is well learned, then the rest of the household (except young children) must also work with the dog, insisting he obey them as well.

Many of the Cane Corso's that are rescued from pounds and shelters show clearly that they have received little or no basic training, neither in obedience nor in the household department; yet these same dogs respond well to such training by the rescuer or the adopter. It seems likely that a failure to train the dog is a significant cause of Cane Corso abandonment. If you don't intend to educate your dog, preferably during puppyhood, you would be better off with a breed that is both small and socially submissive, e.g., a Shetland Sheepdog. Such a dog does require training, but a little bit goes further than with a Cane Corso. The Cane Corso can, with adequate training, excel at such working competitions as field trials and hunt tests, obedience, agility and tracking.

Dogs do not believe in social equality. They live in a social hierarchy led by a pack-leader (Alpha). The alpha dog is generally benevolent, affectionate and non-bullying towards his subordinates; but there is never any doubt in his mind or in theirs that the alpha is the boss and makes the rules. Whatever the breed, if you do not assume the leadership, the dog will do so sooner or later, and with more or less unpleasant consequences for the abdicating owner. Like the untrained dog, the pack leader dog makes his own rules and enforces them against other members of the household by means of a dominant physical posture and a hard-eyed stare, followed by a snarl, then a knockdown blow or a bite. Breeds differ in tendencies towards social dominance and individuals within a breed differ considerably.

The Cane Corso as a breed tends to be of a socially dominant personality. You really cannot afford to let a Cane Corso become your boss. You do not have to have the personality or mannerisms of a Marine boot camp Sergeant, but you do have to have the calm, quiet self-assurance and self-assertion of the successful parent ("Because I'm your mother, that's why.") or successful grade-school teacher. If you think you might have difficulty asserting yourself calmly and confidently to exercise leadership, then choose a breed known for its socially subordinate disposition, such as a Golden Retriever or a Shetland Sheepdog, and be sure to ask the breeder to select one of the more submissive pups in the litter for you. If the whole idea of "being the boss" frightens or repels you, don't get a dog at all. Cats don't expect leadership. A caged bird or hamster or fish doesn't need leadership or household rules. Leadership and training are inextricably intertwined: leadership personality enables you to train your dog and being trained by you reinforces your dog's perception of you as the alpha.

Most Cane Corsos have an assertive and confident personality. When confronted with a threat, a proper Cane Corso will be somewhat more ready to fight than to flee. Thus he may respond aggressively in situations where many other breeds back down. Most Cane Corsos have some inclination to act aggressively to repel intruders on their territory (i.e., your home) and to counteract assaults upon their pack mates (you and your family). Without training and leadership from you to guide him, the dog cannot judge correctly whom to repel and whom to tolerate. Without training and leadership, sooner or later he may injure an innocent person who will successfully sue you for more than you own. With good training and leadership from you, he can be profoundly valuable as a defender of your home and family.

Cane Corsos were bred to share in the work of the family and to spend most of their waking hours working with the family. They thrive on companionship and they want to be wherever you are. They are happiest living with you in your house and going with you when you go out. While they usually tolerate being left at home by themselves, they should not be relegated to the backyard or a kennel. A puppy exiled from the house is likely to grow up to be unsociable (fearful and/or unprovokedly aggressive), unruly, and unhappy. He may well develop pastimes, such as digging or barking, that will displease you and/or your neighbors. An adult so exiled will be miserable too. If you don't strongly prefer to have your dog's companionship as much as possible, enjoying having him sleep in your bedroom at night and sharing many of your activities by day, you should choose a breed less oriented to human companionship. Likewise if your job or other obligations prevent you from spending much time with your dog. No dog is really happy without companionship, but the pack hounds are more tolerant of being kenneled or yarded so long as it is in groups of 2 or more.

A Cane Corso becomes deeply attached and devoted to his own family, but he doesn't "wear his heart on his sleeve." Some are noticeably reserved, others are more outgoing, but few adults are usually exuberantly demonstrative of their affection. They make remarkable eye contact with their favorite people. They like to be near you, usually in the same room, preferably on a comfortable pad or cushion in a corner or under a table, just "keeping you company." They enjoy conversation, petting and cuddling when you offer it, but they are moderate and not overbearing in coming to you to demand much attention. They are emotionally sensitive to their favorite people: when you are joyful, proud, angry or grief-stricken, your Cane Corso will immediately perceive it and will believe himself to be the cause. The relationship can be one of great mellowness, depth and subtlety; it is a relation on an adult-to-adult level, although certainly not one devoid of playfulness – the Cane Corso is famous for vocalization with its people (the "roo-roo-roos" and the snorts). As puppies, of course, they will be more dependent, more playful and more demonstrative. In summary, Cane Corsos tend to be sober and thoughtful, rather than giddy clowns or sycophants. A number of breeds retain into adulthood a more puppyish and playful disposition, e.g., Australian Shepherds, Malamutes and others. Quite a few are far more dramatically demonstrative and/or more clingingly dependent, e.g., the Golden Retriever.

Although it is technically true that Cane Corsos do not shed long coats and do not require professional grooming, they do "blow coat" at least twice a year and your house will be full of "dust bunnies" tumble weeding their way about your house. I don't mean to imply that you must be a slob or slattern to live happily with a Cane Corso, but you do have to have the attitude that your dog's company means more to you than does neatness and you do have to be comfortable with a less than immaculate house. All dogs, like all children, create a greater or lesser degree of household mess. The Basenji is perhaps the cleanest, due to its cat-like habits; but cats are cleaner yet and goldfish hardly ever mess up the house.

Cane Corsos need exercise to maintain the health of heart and lungs and to maintain muscle tone. An adult Cane Corso should have a morning outing of a mile or more, as you walk briskly, jog or bicycle beside him, and a similar evening outing. For puppies, shorter and slower walks, several times a day are preferred for exercise and housebreaking. But, more than just walks, you need to "work" your Cane Corso. The Cane Corso was bred to work hard and the modern dogs still thrive on work. Anyone who owns one should be able to devote at least 20 minutes a day working, training, retrieving or playing with them. Cane Corsos that are not worked - both physically and mentally - are prone to mischief and will not "think." These active, intelligent dogs need jobs and responsibilities - it is best if you designate what these jobs are - you might not agree with what your Cane Corso decides is important!

All dogs need daily exercise of greater or lesser length and vigor. If providing this exercise and work is beyond you, physically or temperamentally, then choose one of the many small and energetic breeds that can exercise itself within your fenced yard. Most of the Toys and Terriers fit this description, but don't be surprised if a Terrier is inclined to dig in the earth since digging out critters is the job that they were bred to do. Cats can be exercised indoors with mouse-on-a-string toys. Hamsters will exercise themselves on a wire wheel. Houseplants don't need exercise.

Whether you live in town or country, no dog can safely be left to run "free" outside your fenced property and without your direct supervision and control. The price of such "freedom" is inevitably injury or death: from dogfights, from automobiles, from the Pound or from justifiably irate neighbors. Even though Cane Corsos are home loving and less inclined to roam than most breeds, an unfenced Cane Corso is destined for disaster. A thoroughly obedience-trained Cane Corso can enjoy the limited and supervised freedom of off-leash walks with you in appropriately chosen environments. If you don't want the responsibility of confining and supervising your pet, then no breed of dog is suitable for you. A neutered cat will survive such irresponsibly given "freedom" somewhat longer than a dog, but will eventually come to grief. A better answer for those who crave a "free" pet is to set out feeding stations for some of the indigenous wildlife, such as raccoons, which will visit for handouts and which may eventually tolerate your close observation.

Cane Corsos are not a cheap breed to buy, as running a careful breeding program with due regard for temperament, trainability and physical soundness (hips and eyes especially) cannot be done cheaply. The time the breeder should put into each puppy's "pre-school" and socialization is also costly. The "bargain" puppy from a "back-yard breeder" who unselectively mates any two Cane Corsos who happen to be of opposite sex may well prove to be extremely costly in terms of bad temperament, bad health and lack of essential socialization. In contrast, the occasional adult or older pup is available at modest price from a disenchanted owner or from a breeder, shelter or rescuer to whom the dog was abandoned; most of these "used" s are capable of becoming marvelous dogs for you if you can provide training, leadership and understanding. Whatever the initial cost of your Cane Corso, the upkeep will not be cheap.

Being large dogs, Cane Corsos eat relatively large meals; need I add that what goes in one end must eventually come out the other? Large dogs tend to have larger veterinary bills, as the amount of anesthesia and of most medications is proportional to body weight. Spaying or neutering, which costs more for larger dogs, is an essential expense for virtually all pets Cane Corsos, as it "takes the worry out of being close," prevents serious health problems in later life and makes the dog a more pleasant companion. Cane Corsos are subject to hip dysplasia, which can be costly to treat. Your best insurance against dysplasia is to buy only from a litter bred from OFA-certified parents and (if possible), grandparents. Yes, this generally means paying more. Finally, the modest fee for participation in a series of basic obedience training classes is an essential investment in harmonious living with your dog; such fees are the same for all breeds, although conceivably you will need to travel a bit further from home to find a training class teacher who is competent with the more formidable breeds, such as the Cane Corso. The modest annual outlays for immunizations and for local licensing are generally the same for all breeds, although some counties have a lower license fee for spayed/neutered dogs. All dogs, of whatever breed and however cheaply acquired, require significant upkeep costs and all are subject to highly expensive veterinary emergencies. Likewise all cats.

No dog deserves to be cast out because his owners want to move to a no-pet apartment or because he is no longer a cute puppy or didn't grow up to be a beauty contest winner or because his owners through lack of leadership and training have allowed him to become an unruly juvenile delinquent with a repertoire of undesirable behaviors. The prospects of a responsible and affectionate second home for a "used" dog are never very bright, but they are especially dim for a large, poorly mannered dog. A Cane Corso dumped into a Pound or Shelter has almost no chance of survival unless he has the great good fortune to be spotted by someone dedicated to Cane Corso Rescue. The prospects for adoption for a youngish, well-trained Cane Corso whose owner seeks the assistance of the nearest Cane Corso Club or Rescue group are fairly good; but an older Cane Corso has diminishing prospects. Be sure to contact your breeder, breed organization or Rescue group if you are diagnosed as terminally ill or have other equally valid reason for seeking an adoptive home. Be sure to contact your breeder or rescuer if you are beginning to have difficulties in training your Cane Corso, so these can be resolved. Be sure to make arrangements in your will or with your family to ensure continued care or adoptive home for your Cane Corso if you should pre-decease him.

The life span of a Cane Corso is between 10 and 12 years. If that seems too long a time for you to give an unequivocal loyalty to your Cane Corso, then please do not get one! Indeed, as most dogs have a life expectancy that is as long or longer, please do not get any dog!

If buying a puppy, be sure to shop carefully for a responsible and knowledgeable breeder who places high priority on breeding for sound temperament and trainability and good health in all pairings. Such a breeder will interrogate and educate potential buyers carefully. Such a breeder will continue to be available for advice and consultation for the rest of the puppy's life and will insist on receiving the dog back if ever you are unable to keep it. However, as an alternative to buying a Cane Corso puppy, you may want to give some serious consideration to adopting a rescued Cane Corso. Despite the irresponsibility of their previous owner, rescued Cane Corsos have proven to be rehabilitated so as to become superb family companions for responsible and affectionate adopters. Many rescuers are skilled trainers who evaluate temperament and provide remedial training before offering dogs for placement and who offer continued advisory support afterwards. Please visit CaneCorsoRescue.org to view available dogs and fill out an adoption application.

Copied (from the "Cane Corso Association Of America"), revised and submitted by Matt Bryant(FCN) and Alexia Rodriguez from an article by Pam Green "Don't Buy a Bouvier”

Function

Gaurd Dog, Pet.

Health

This is a healthy breed with typical bone and joint problems of the giant breeds.


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