Cane Corso

AKC Working Group


Photo copyright © All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © All rights reserved.

The Cane Corso is a descendant of the ancient Molossus, which was used by the Romans in war and for fighting lions in the arenas. The Cane Corso also served as a protector of flocks and homesteads, and as a big game hunter, because it was bold and brave enough to handle difficult game, such as wild boar and bear. When hunting big game with dogs went into decline, the breed survived as an all-around farm guard, mainly on isolated farms in southern Italy. There they drove stock to market and protected their masters’ property.

By the end of World War II, the Cane Corso population had become dangerously small, but in the 1970s a group of Italian dog lovers dedicated themselves to establishing a controlled breeding program, rebuilding the breed and rescuing it from possible extinction. Today, the Cane Corso is gaining in popularity, and the breed was accepted into the AKC Working Group in 2010.

Cane Corsos are highly intelligent and trainable. In addition to their role as home guardian, Corsos have been used in police work, for search and rescue, and as therapy dogs, and have earned titles in obedience, tracking, Schutzhund, and agility.


The Cane Corso is a medium-large breed of the molossoid (mastiff) family. The body is rectangular, and the length should be slightly longer than the height at the withers. Overall, the dog should be well-muscled and agile. This breed tends to be lighter and more athletic than its cousins, the Neapolitan Mastiff and English Mastiff.

The head is large, its length a little more than a third the height at the withers, and the circumference of the head measured at the cheekbones is more than twice the head’s length. The planes of the skull and muzzle should converge slightly. The width of the skull should be equal to its length. The stop is well defined, and there is a prominent arch above the eyes. The muzzle is very broad and deep, with width almost equal to length. The top and bottom planes of the muzzle should be parallel, and the chin to nose is perpendicular to the top of the muzzle. The upper lips hang moderately and form an inverted U shape under the nose. The preferred bite is slightly undershot (but not more than 1/4 in.) or level, but a scissors bite is acceptable if the head is otherwise well-shaped.

The medium-sized almond-shaped eyes should not bulge. Eye color varies depending on the color of the muzzle. If the muzzle is black, the eyes should be dark brown. If the muzzle is gray, lighter eyes are acceptable. However, blue eyes, walleyes, and yellow bird-of-prey eyes are not permitted. The triangular ears can be cropped or left uncropped, though cropped ears are preferred in the United States. If uncropped, the ears hang to no lower than the jawbone. If cropped, they stand up in an equilateral triangle.

The ribcage extends to slightly below the elbow, approximately half the height of the dog. The tail is often docked at the fourth vertebrae, but the breed can be shown with a natural tail. If the tail is left natural, it should be a smooth extension of the line of the back, thick at the root, without much tapering. It should not be kinked, knotted, or curled. When at rest, the tail should be carried low. When in action, it is usually carried level with or slightly above the backline, but it should not curl over the back.

Key Facts

  • Height: 25 to 27.5 in. (male); 23.5 to 26 in. (female)
  • Size: Large
  • Weight: 95 to 110 lbs. (male); 85 to 100 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Difficult to find
  • Talents: Watchdog, guarding, hunting (boars and hogs), tracking, police, search and rescue, carting, weights, agility, obedience, Schutzhund, and performing tricks


This excellent guard is highly protective, but can tell friend from foe. The Corso can be frightening when necessary to protect his family and territory, but the ideal adult should be calm and discerning, aloof with strangers, and only aggressive when appropriate.

To protect the world from the Corso and the Corso from the world, a well-fenced yard is a must. If other dogs or unknown people wander into their territory, they will do what they are supposed to do and protect it.

The Cane Corso is a very dominant and powerful breed and will challenge owners for pack leadership. Owners must be able to handle these challenges so the humans wind up on top. The entire family unit needs to be confident and learn how to handle the dog. If one member of the household is dominant but another is not, the dog will ride herd on the less dominant human. Early, consistent, and ongoing obedience training is highly recommended to help keep the dog in its proper place in the family pack. That said, Cane Corsos are extremely devoted and almost desperately loving with their families. They often follow their owners through the house and can even develop separation anxiety if left alone too much. The breed is gentle, submissive, and tolerant with children.

Corsos are dominant with other dogs and tend to be somewhat dog-aggressive. Away from their territory, they do not generally go looking for a fight, but if challenged they will finish one. It is crucial to socialize puppies well with all kinds of people and other animals when young to develop a well-balanced temperament.


  • Children: Good with children only when raised with them from puppyhood
  • Friendliness: Very wary of strangers; highly protective
  • Trainability: Easy to train
  • Independence: Very dependent—needs people a lot
  • Dominance: Very high
  • Other Pets: Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness: Tends to be fairly dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Not much barking
  • Indoors: Very inactive indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Short coat
  • Shedding: Average shedder
  • Docking/Cropping: The ears are customarily cropped, and the tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise: Moderate exercise needed
  • Jogging: A good jogging companion
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with at least an average-size yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Short (less than 10 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Cane Corso Breed Standard

Cane Corso Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Cane Corso

Cane Corso Gifts