Cane Corso Ultimate Guide: Pictures, Characteristics, & Facts

Are you looking for a large dog that is capable of protecting you just by its looks? Then you’ve come to the right place. The Cane Corso is an assertive and confident breed – making it an excellent guard dog. With its large size, alert expression, and muscles rippling beneath its short, stiff coat, the Cane Corso at a glance is an intimidating creature – a perfect companion to scare off possible intruders.


The Cane Corso is an old Italian breed that is believed to descend from Roman war dogs. The word “cane” is Latin for a dog that was derived from the word “canis”, and “corso” may come from “cohors” which means bodyguard, or from “corsus” – an old Italian word which means sturdy or robust.

This is one of many Mastiff-type dogs and is more lightly built than its cousin, the Neapolitan Mastiff.

In the early days, the mighty Cane Corso played a huge role in the military, and according to the AKC, “were used as dogs of conquest who earned their stripes as ‘pireferi,’ fearless dogs who charged enemy lines with buckets of flaming oil strapped to their backs.”

In more modern times, this dog was used to hunt wild boards, games, fuard properties, and be an all-around farm hand, although the breed declined as farming became more mechanized.

It wasn’t until 1988 that a man named Michael Sottile imported the first litter of Cane Corso to the U.S; and in 2010, the AKC officially recognized the breed.

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Large, sturdy, muscular, and somewhat majestic in appearance, the Cane Corso’s size and strength are among the reasons it’s a popular choice for a guard dog.

It is a medium to large size mastiff-like dog with a body longer than tall. Its gait is effortless and powerful. You’ll know the Cane Corso by its prominent broad chest, wide skull, and wrinkly forehead, and ears that are either cropped or not.

The Cane Corso’s short, double-layered coat can be black, gray, fawn, red, or brindle of any of those shades. The coat’s texture is coarse, thick, and sometimes tufted.

This breed’s almond-shaped eyes vary in color and can be different shades of brown, or even yellow or blue. Although, according to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard, those with blue and yellow eyes are ineligible to compete in an AKC competition.


The Cane Corso is a massive, muscular dog. Males stand between 25 to 27.5 inches at the withers, while females stand around 23.5 to 26 inches. Its weight is proportionate to height and typically ranges from 90 to 120 pounds.

Life Span

Generally, this breed is said to be healthy. Its life expectancy is between 9 to 12 years.
A 2017 study of 232 Cane Corso across 25 countries varies with different coat colors. The longest living were black brindle dogs (10.3 years) followed by brindle dogs (10.1 years), grey brindle dogs (9.8 years), fawn dogs (9.0 years), black dogs (9.0 years), grey dogs (9.0 years), and other color dogs (8.1 years).


When it comes to grooming, the Cane Corso’s undercoat will shed throughout the year, especially during the spring shedding season. To maintain its healthy and shiny coat, weekly brushing is recommended, with daily brushing suggested in the spring.


The Cane Corso’s history describes him as having a “vigorous temperament, ready to meet any challenge.” That type of temperament can be a double-edged sword. With a firm, responsible owner who provides good leadership and prevents the dog from being dominant, the Cane Corso can be an excellent family dog who is never inappropriately aggressive, but in the wrong hands, he can become aggressive and be a danger to the public.

They are suspicious of strangers and if not extensively socialized can be overly cautious and assertive, which means that they are not a good candidate for dog parks. However, if properly trained, their calm, sensitive, and collected personality makes them excellent guard dogs.


The Cane Corso is a highly intelligent dog. Combine it with its dominant personality, it will be easy for this dog to dominate the household without firm leadership and boundaries from its owner. Therefore, it is important to let the dog know what the rules are from the start.

The Cane Corso understands the tone of voice and responds well to praise and rewards when he has done something you like. The same thing goes for firm corrections of rules when you don’t like what he is doing. Remember, firm leadership does not mean hitting the dog, regardless of its breed. Consistency will allow him to relax and know you are in charge.


The Cane Corso is an energetic and highly athletic dog. Many of these breeds compete in agility, dock diving, obedience, protection sport, and tracking events. This breed is strong and agile and is neither overly bulky nor racy.


The Cane Corso is no couch potato. This breed was bred to work and is happiest when given a job to do. Because of its intelligence, physical exercise should be accompanied by mental stimulation, or else an undesirable behavior may develop.

This dog makes great companions on long walks, hikes, or bicycle rides. A long jog or a couple of high-energy play sessions such as tugging, fetching, or swimming is fine as well to maintain its muscular build.

The Cane Corso behaves best when its mind is occupied. If you do not offer an activity, it may find mischief on its own – like digging, running the fence, or chewing up your furniture.

Good employment for the Cane Corso includes herding livestock, learning new and fun tricks, practicing obedience skills, or being active in a dog sport.


This breed is generally easy to train. Despite its intimidating appearance, the Cane Corso is all heart, and responds better to positive reinforcements such as love and rewards, than harsh corrections and training methods.

Early socialization and puppy training is a must for a Cane Corso. Because this breed can be dominant and protective, socialization will help ensure that this dog grows into well-behaved adults. Without much experience in the world, he can easily become fearful or aggressive.

Good With Family

When raised, trained, and socialized properly, the Cane Corso will be loving and protective of its human family. It is for a person who is serious about having a dog as a companion and will provide him with the firm and loving guidance he needs to become a great, well-rounded dog.

However, don’t expect Cane Corso to buddy up with everyone he meets – he has no interest in other people but will show unconditional love and loyalty towards his family members.

The Cane Corso will get along with other animals if raised with them, but will likely view strange animals as prey and may show aggression towards them. That is why it is important to socialize them with various environments, people, and animals at an early age.

Apartment Living

The Cane Corso can live in an apartment, provided that you must take extra effort to provide your dog the adequate exercise it needs. Being highly athletic, this dog needs rigorous exercises to stay in shape. Daily exercises and short playtime should do the trick.
However, it would still be better if you have a securely fenced yard where your dog can play around to release its energy. If not given enough mental and physical stimulation it needs, your dog may become destructive.

Separation Anxiety

Despite its intimidating size, the Cane Corso is extremely affectionate, devoted to its owner, and eager to please. Like every other dog, this breed can also suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long, or when one of its pack members, such as a family member, moves out of the house or if another family pet dies.

Health Issues

The Cane Corso is generally considered a healthy breed. Still, there are a few health challenges to watch out for, including hip dysplasia, idiopathic epilepsy, Demodex mange, and eyelid abnormalities.

Because this dog is a large breed with a deep chest, Cane Corso are predisposed to experience bloating, which is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition where the stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off blood flow. According to the AKC, some studies have shown that if dogs eat multiple meals throughout the day, rather than one meal, it may help diminish the risk of bloat.


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