Cane Corso Breed Guide: Characteristics, History & Care

by Kate Boatright, VMD
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Cane Corso Breed Guide: Characteristics, History & Care
Is a Cane Corso the right dog for your family? Learn more about this breed, including the Cane Corso temperament, care requirements, and more.

The Cane Corso is a large Italian breed with a muscular appearance. It is very loyal and protective but can often be difficult to handle due to its dominant nature. These powerful, athletic, and intelligent mastiff-type dogs are quite demanding and are best suited to experienced owners who have large fenced yards.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the Cane Corso and how to become a great pet parent to your new pup.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: If you have decided to welcome a Cane Corso into your family, you’ll want to find the right pet insurance for your new pet. It’s important to sign up your pup as soon as possible so that there are fewer pre-existing conditions that could affect your coverage.

Cane Corso breed history

The Cane Corso was developed in Italy and is believed to descend from Roman war dogs. This mastiff-type dog was originally bred to hunt game, be a farmhand, and guard property.

The breed’s name is derived from the Italian word cane, which means dog, and the Latin word cohors, which means guardian or protector.

The breed declined and was almost extinct as farming became more mechanized, but was revived during the 1970s. The first Cane Corsos arrived in the States in 1988 and the breed was fully recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 2010.

Cane Corso characteristics

Physical appearance

Cane Corsos are large dogs that stand between 23 to 27 inches in height. The average weight of a Cane Corso is around 110 pounds for males and 99 pounds for females.

These big, beautiful dogs have a broad chest, wide skull, wrinkly forehead, and floppy ears. Some owners decide to have the ears cropped, but this practice is purely for cosmetic reasons and doesn't have any health benefits for the dog.

The Cane Corso has a short, thick, double coat that comes in several different colors:

  • Black
  • Black Brindle
  • Gray
  • Gray Brindle
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Chestnut Brindle

Their eyes are almond-shaped and can also vary in color, ranging from shades of brown to blue and yellow.

Temperament and personality

The Cane Corso temperament is serious and sensitive. These working dogs are quite independent and if not trained properly, they will assert themselves as being dominant. Because of their size and build, Cane Corsos can easily overpower some animals or even people. However, despite their appearance, they are very kind. According to the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), 88.1% of the Cane Corso dogs passed the Temperament Test.

These big dogs need something to keep them active or they will become bored and easily agitated. On the other hand, Cane Corsos aren’t very social and tend to be comfortable only around their family. Early socialization is crucial to make them understand that not everyone is a threat.

While some members of the breed can get along well with other pets, Cane Corsos have a strong prey drive and will often chase other animals down. With children, early introduction when the dog is young is a must. Be sure to supervise your Cane Corso when they interact with children or other pets.

Due to their size and strength, Cane Corsos are a very popular choice for watching over their owners and property, but may not be a great choice for a young family.

Average lifespan

The average life expectancy for Cane Corsos is 10 to 11 years. Like other large breed dogs, this breed has a shorter lifespan than their smaller counterparts because they age faster and tend to develop some health problems.

However, you can extend the overall life expectancy of your Cane Corso if you provide them with a healthy lifestyle, proper diet, exercise, and regular veterinary visits for preventive care.

cane corso walking with toy

Cane Corso care tips

Training and exercise

Cane Corsos are intelligent, obedient, and eager to please, so they are generally easy to train. Early socialization and training are recommended for all dogs, but in the case of Cane Corsos, they are an absolute must. Socialization will help them grow into well-mannered and well-adjusted adults, while obedience training will help keep them from becoming dominant in the household. Cane Corsos respond best to positive training and rewards.

This athletic and muscular breed needs a great deal of exercise. Mile-long runs twice a day should be enough to keep them fit and healthy. Cane Corsos are working dogs and are happiest when they have a job to do.

They need both physical and intellectual stimulation in order to avoid destructive behavior. Consider providing enrichment toys, like treat puzzles, to keep your Cane Corso mentally entertained, especially if they are left alone for longer periods of time. Many Cane Corsos love participating in canine sports like obedience, agility, tracking events, and dock diving.

Diet and nutrition

Cane Corsos require large amounts of food. The exact amount per feeding will vary by the brand of food, but the best way to maintain a healthy weight is through meal-feeding, where a measured amount of food is given at regular intervals, most often twice a day. Having a regular feeding routine can also help to reduce the risk of stomach torsion or bloat. When choosing a dog food, consider your pet’s age, current weight, lifestyle, and other health conditions.

If you notice weight gain or have questions about the type and amount of food and feeding schedule, contact your vet.

Grooming requirements

Cane Corsos have a short, double-layered coat. The undercoat sheds throughout the entire year, especially during the spring. They require weekly brushing (daily during the shedding season), as well as occasional baths and nail trims.** **

Living with a Cane Corso

The members of this breed prefer spending time with their owners and don’t like being left alone for too long. The ideal owner for a Cane Corso would be an active person who is at home most of the day and who doesn’t mind clearing up the drool. These large dogs are also quite expensive to feed.

As mentioned earlier, the Cane Corso is an active and intelligent breed that thrives on activity and loves to have a job to do. Like any large breed, Cane Corsos would be happiest in a large, securely fenced yard, and having someone to walk them regularly. If they don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation, Cane Corsos can become destructive.

Due to their size and background, Cane Corsos are frequently the targets of breed-specific bans in housing, facing bans in cities in the following states:

  • Colorado
  • Arkansas
  • Kansas
  • Idaho
  • Oregon
  • Nebraska
  • Washington
  • South Dakota

If you live in one of these states, be sure to check local animal control regulations before you consider buying or adopting a Cane Corso.

cane corso with girl and grandma

Common Cane Corso health problems

Some health problems in dogs are more prevalent in certain breeds than others. Specifically for the Cane Corso, the most common health problems include:

  • Hip dysplasia, an inherited condition that can cause pain, lameness, and arthritis.
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus, or bloat, which is a potentially life-threatening condition where the dog’s stomach fills with air and flips, cutting off blood flow. Emergency surgery is required in these cases.
  • Eyelid abnormalities, like ectropion which causes the lower eyelids roll out or droop.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy, one of the leading causes of seizures in dogs. This is an inherited disorder but its exact cause is unknown.

Pro Tip: Whether you are getting a puppy or adopting an older dog, it’s important to consider some of the breed-specific health issues you might encounter when looking for Cane Corso pet insurance. These health risks increase as your pet gets older, which is why it is important to sign up for insurance as early as possible and save yourself from unpleasant surprises.

Adopting or buying a Cane Corso dog

If you are interested in adopting a Cane Corso, check with your rescue groups and shelters to see if there is a Cane Corso looking for a forever home. Organizations like Big Dogs Huge Paws Inc, Cane Corso Coalition, and Cane Corso Association of America might also have Cane Corsos dogs available to adopt.

Consider also looking into similar breeds, such as Mastiff, Bullmastiff, and Dogue de Bordeaux.


Key Takeaways

  • Protective and loyal, the Cane Corso can make a great pet and companion. However, these large and powerful dogs might be unsuitable for households with small children or multiple pets. They’re good watchdogs and require a large home with a securely fenced yard.
  • The Cane Corso can be dominant by nature, a trait that requires an experienced hand during training. They also tend to drool quite a lot and might suffer from separation anxiety.
  • Cane Corsos are generally healthy dogs but, like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, bloat, and some congenital eyelid disorders. Ensuring your pet lives his or her best life, invest in pet insurance early and establish a relationship with a regular veterinarian.

Kate Boatright, VMD

About the author

Kate Boatright, VMD

Associate Veterinarian, Freelance Speaker and Author - Penn-Ohio Veterinary Services and KMB Veterinary Media LLC

Dr. Kate Boatright, VMD, works as a small animal general practitioner, freelance speaker, and author in western Pennsylvania. Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with her veterinary degree in 2013, she has worked throughout Pennsylvania as both a general practice and emergency veterinarian. Both in the clinic and outside of it, Dr. Boatright enjoys building relationships with her clients and educating pet owners on how they can keep their pets as healthy as possible. She loves being a veterinarian and educating students and colleagues on wellness, communication, and the unique challenges facing recent graduates. Outside of the clinic, she is active in many veterinary organizations, enjoys running, watching movies, and playing games with her husband, son, and cats.

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