Cane Corso 6

Cane Corso 3The Cane Corso originates from Italy and is a descendant of the Roman Molossian, likely mixed with the ancient British Mastiffs (pugnaces Britanniae). The latter were used for bear- and bull-baiting, and by British soldiers in war as early as 55 B.C. The Romans were so impressed by the aggression of the English mastiffs that they considered them superior to their own Roman war dogs.

Grattius wrote of them in 8 AD: “ Although the British dogs are distinguished neither by colour nor good anatomy, I could not find any particular faults with them. When grim work must be done, when special pluck is needed when Mars summons us to battle most extreme, then the powerful Molossus will please you less and the Athamanen dog cannot measure up to the skill of the British dog either. ” 1

Both the Roman and the English ancestors of the Cane Corso were bred for hunting large game, to battle in warfare, as a guard dog, and for arena blood ‘sports’.  As a hunting dog they were selectively bred to attack game such as wild boar or cougars. One ancient writer described them thus: “not speedy but impetuous, a fighter of great courage and incredible strength, to be employed against bulls and wild boar, undaunted even when confronted with a lion.” They were called canis pugnaces because of their willingness to fight to the death and their function of attacking wild animals.  As guard dogs, they were always chained and never had the run of the property, because they were too dangerous.  In the arena, they were used in spectacles that involved three or four of these pugnaces / molosser types mauling a bear, a horse or a lion to death slowly, though until the fall of the Roman Empire the victim could also be human (a slave or prisoner)2,3

old cane corsoThe Cane Corso once was popular throughout Italy as a guard dog and fighting dog, but now is most common in Southern Italy. These dogs were just another regional variation of the generic fighting molosser type, sharing its ancestry with the pit bull types and other fighting molossers. In later days, this local Italian fighting molosser was back-crossed to the English fighting pit bull types to improve its performance as a fighting dog and to get its present day appearance – as were most of the various regional molosser types across the world. In 2008, the Cane Corso was accepted into the AKC’s miscellaneous class and declared an official ‘breed’. It remains in fact a molosser – pit bull mix.

Cane Corsos are, as adults, very calm house companions. They like to be near their family, but they aren’t fond of cuddling nor demanding about attention. They can react to many things as if they perceive a threat. It is essential to get a puppy from a breeder that keeps the pups inside the home from birth, so they are socialized from birth to understand what is and isn’t a threat in normal household activities. The same intense exposure is necessary to out-of-home things such as pedestrians on the street, people getting in and out of cars, people coming in and out of shops, so the dog will understand that these things are normal and also no threat. That said, there is no amount of socialization that will make the Cane Corso friendly to strangers inside or outside the home. They may do well with some strangers if properly introduced, but the owner must be present at all times for close supervision.

CaneCorso 2Training must begin early in life, must be intensive, and must be maintained for the life of the dog. The training should be without violence, but it should be constant. The Cane Corso pup must be asked to obey a command for everything he gets, from a treat or a toy to his dinner to the opening of a door for a walk. This must continue throughout the dog’s life.

Due to their history as a guard dog, Cane Corsos are very protective of their families and territory. Proper fencing at least six feet in height and structurally sound is necessary to ensure they cannot leave the property to handle perceived threats. The fencing is also needed to prevent other animals (or unfamiliar children) from invading the dog’s territory and being attacked. Electric fences are never appropriate containment for this breed – Cane Corsos have no issue enduring the brief electric shock when they are alerted, and electric fencing doesn’t keep children out4.

Cane Corso 1If raised with other animals, they can sometimes get along well with them. They usually will not accept dogs that they are not raised with. You should not to try to keep them with a dog of the same sex. They are known for killing cats and small dogs, as well as larger dogs that annoy them or even approach them.  The Cane Corso must be walked on-leash when outside the owner’s fenced property by someone big and heavy enough to control the dog. It does not belong at any dog park. Playgrounds should be avoided in case unfamiliar children approach the leashed Cane Corso.

The Cane Corso is a large and powerful dog when it is fully mature, and it is important for owners to maintain control at all times. These dogs do best with experienced owners who are confident, firm, and consistent. They need clear limits established. Even with training and socialization, the dog may still exhibit unwanted behaviors or aggression. Because of the breed’s history and genetics, its original tasks, its tendency to react to perceived threats with aggression, and because of its size, we do not recommend the Cane Corso for families with children of any age.

Cane Corsos are very athletic and enjoy regular exercise. They love long daily walks and are well suited to engage in activities such as jogging. Proper exercise needs to be part of a regular daily routine. Cane Corsos love the outdoors and prefer spending time outside. Even when not exercising, they enjoy relaxing outside – on a leash or in their securely fenced yard.

The Cane Corso is known to drool and slobber excessively, especially after drinking. They require minimal grooming and are light shedders. They may need occasional brushing to remove dead hair. They are prone to medical issues that are common for giant breed dogs, such as bone and joint issues.  They can weigh between 88-120 lbs and typically live between 10-11 years.

In North America, from 1982-2015, Cane Corsos have seriously attacked 24 humans that resulted in 15 maimings and 2 fatalities.  In addition, a Cane Corso/Pit Bull mix attacked 1 person that resulted in a fatality.


1.  Cynegeticon, in J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff, Volume I of the Loeb Classical Library’s Minor Latin Poets, pp141‑20. English translation of the Latin text available at:*.html (accessed February 2014), p 169.

2. History and Origin, Dedicated to the Mastiff (accessed March 2014)

3. Corso di Munteanu, History of the Cane Corso (accessed March 2014).

4. , passim (accessed March 2014)

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6 thoughts on “Cane Corso

  • Miles

    Our Cane Corso was a phenomenal dog.
    I do believe every dog and every experience may vary so dont take to heart others opinions.
    I only had one is with him, he didnt like being rubbed or patted from the neck up even myself.
    Other than that he was nonchalant and very kid friendly

  • Mary

    I am curious, how many actual Cane Corso have you met to write and article that has glaring errors about the breed? There are far to much correct information in this article to even start to cite where it is wrong. To those that might read this an believe this is how a corso is or behaves, please do further research and actually get out and meet the breed and you will see easily enough for yourself the false information provided in this article.

    • Daxtons Friends Post author

      If Daxton’s Friends for Canine Education and Awareness has incorrect information we will efficiently correct or retract statements. There must be substantial evidence that there has been an error in order for corrections to be made. Please e-mail all corrections or concerns to us at [email protected].

      • Mary

        As a start:

        1. I have never heard from any of the sites that give accurate information nor the books owned on the breed that these dogs were always chained as too dangerous to have loose. They were used to guard livestock and hunt large game in many cases, considered the more agile of the Italian mastiff breeds while the Neapolitan Mastiffs were considered to be the estate guardians being much heavier and less agile. The website you have referenced does give the accurate information but that is not portrayed accurately in your depiction of our breed.

        2. There were many breeds that were used to help with the recovery of our breed, which can be evident in some of the dogs that can be seen today but they are not however considered Pitbull mixes by anyone that knows the history of the breed. They also received full recognition in 2010 to the working group of the AKC and are widely show in the US and Europe, being able to be registered as foundation stock with AKC since 2006.

        3. Cane Corso are deeply bonded with their family, most times having no interest in outside attention but always being aware of where their family members are when they are with them. I haven’t yet met a corso that doesn’t like to cuddle and spend time with their owners, often always staying close enough to touch them in someway, even if it is just a paw on your foot.

        4. It is also untrue that Cane Corso are not friendly to strangers, a well-bred and correct corso might not seek the attention of strangers but often times have no trouble submitting to a quick pat before returning to their owners side to remain vigilant to threats. While the breed is always aware of their surrounds they should remain un-reactive unless they perceive a threat.

        5. The generalization that these dogs can not accepting other dogs they have not grown up with is not accurate, this is purely based on the individual dog, and the home in which the dog is being brought into. The same applies with dogs of the same sex, it is entirely based on individual dog and home and should be heavily researched before being brought into a new household.

        6. The breed is not known for killing small dogs or cats, often sharing households with both without issue. The breed also doesn’t need to be owned by someone who is big and strong, but someone who is confident and able to be a firm and fair leader ensuring that they are keeping their dog safe.

        These are just a few points off-hand that are incorrect in your article. Simple research into the breed while talking to owners/breeders would have netted you far more accurate information. This is a working, guardian breed that isn’t for everyone. It requires an assertive personality that can be a firm but fair, consistent leader it is not a lab and should not be looked into by those that wish a lab personalty in a regal and majestic looking breed. I suspect that the individual that wrote this article likely has never even met the breed, so an article like this is a disservice to the breed that many of us love and promote correct and responsible ownership of.

        • Mek

          Mary, Daxton is obviously an idiot. He described Dogo Argentino as a fire breathing dragon that attacks everything on site. Corso that I met so far were goofy but somewhat serious, I think that is the best description that I can give. They are loving creatures with lot to offer.