By Mike Ertaskiran
When looking at the Cane Corso your first impression is that he is an athlete, reminiscent of a Greco-Roman wrestler. He should be balanced with substantial bone and great muscularity. He should be alert, fearless and confident. The Cane Corso is a dog of function, he was developed to perform multiple tasks from combat to herding, and the Cane Corso should appear still capable of these tasks. The ideal Cane Corso should be free of defilement from other breeds. You should know instantly when looking at the dog that this is a Cane Corso and nothing else. Many Cane Corso's have influences from of other breeds such as the Rottwielers, Boxer, Bullmastiff and Neapolitan Mastiff; in Italy they even label certain Cane Corso's "Boxer type" or "Mastino type". It is important that you be able to identify certain traits as undesirable. Black & Tan and Blue & Tan are not listed as acceptable color patterns in the American or European standards and should not be considered in the selection of this breed, it is the equivalent to awarding points to a white Boxer. Cane Corso's that have "brindling" where a Rottwieler would have tan markings or points should also be penalized. Another color fault that should be mentioned is excessive white on a subject, while a small bit of white on the toes is acceptable you may see a Corso with white "socks" going up the hock or elbows and should be faulted. White on the muzzle and large blazes of white on his chest or chin are also to be faulted. Eye color should always be dark especially in the dark colored dogs. For example a black subject with yellow eyes should be considered a major fault. Nose color should also always be dark (black); the exception would be a blue/gray subject in which case the nose is self-coloring.
The Cane Corso should not resemble the Neapolitan Mastiff, he can have minimal wrinkle in the facial region. The Cane Corso can have a minimal dewlap but it should not be excessive. When he is moving you should not see a rippling of loose skin vibrating through his body, what you should see is taunt sinewy muscles being flexed with each movement. The Cane Corso is considered a medium to large sized dog. In America we prefer the larger sized dog, this means that all things being equal the larger dog is preferred. While there is no weight limit at this time on the American standard there is language that dictate’s what would be considered oversized. "While the larger size is preferred, it should not come at the expense of the dogs working ability or movement." If the dogs size inhibits his movement, stamina, or ability to perform the tasks for which he was bred then he is oversized. It is important to remember that until about 12 or 13 years ago this dog was used solely as a working dog. If a Cane Corso was not up to the tasks on the masseria, then he did not eat. Undersize should also be faulted, it is important to remember that this is a mastiff type breed. The smaller dog may move better, but that does not necessarily make it the best Cane Corso. This dogs history as a war dog; hunter of bear, boar and stag required that he be a dog of great substance and power. These dogs are depicted in paintings and sculptures attaching themselves to horses and pigs.
The head should be prominent, and should immediately draw your attention. It is powerful and large in relation to the rest of the body. The muzzle is always short, square, deep and wide. The axis of the skull is slightly convergent with a deep stop. The eyes should be almond shaped, dark a set in a sub frontal position. The teeth should align in a relatively straight line (not rounded like the Rottwielers) this is to accommodate the rather wide muzzle of the Cane Corso. The following excerpt should provide you with a good impression of the Cane Corso. This is taken from the Swiss naturalist Konrad von Gesner (1516-1565) in his "Historia Animalium", from the section "De Quadrupedibus", this chapter about the De Cane Venatico Robustus, Adversus Magnus aut fortes Feris describes a the Cane Corso and his ancient utilizations. "There are many ferocious canines, fearless in the chase and grip of every type of animal. One must choose those endowed with an impressive muzzle, large head, with the upper lip hanging atop the lower, with reddened eyes, with dilated nostrils that seem to throw fire, with sharp teeth, with a powerful neck and a large chest. They should pursue like lions, with large paws and nails spread, the claws are hard and curved in a way to better violently throw and hold his prey to the ground. With this type of dog, the hunters can better reach and capture the wild game. In Italy and especially Rome, it is said that one is best served by using Cane Corsos against wild boar and wild bulls."
"The molosser is of great size and a great biter, like the Cane Corso. I think that one considers him to be a great biter not because he bites without reason, but because he has an energetic grip and has difficulty releasing the bite he inflicts on a wild beast. Besides, I know that the Cane Corso, when he has struck his fangs into a wild boar or wild bull, he can not be separated from the prey without the intervention of the hunter to his locked mandible."
Cane Corso’s that have long and or narrow muzzles, round eyes, parallel axis of the skull, light bone or "leggy" construction are to be faulted as these traits are undesirable and are more reminisant of a herding dog than a Molosser. On the opposite spectrum, excessively convergent axis of the skull, which is generally accompanied by disturbingly undershot bite should be viewed as just as serious a fault. The Cane Corso’s bite should not exceed more than 1/2 cm undershot. If a scissor bite is presented it should be very tight, evidence of an overbite should be considered a severe fault.
When evaluating the Cane Corso character must also come into the equation. The Cane Corso should never be fearful. If a Corso is afraid of people how can he effectively perform his duties as a guard dog? Timid or scarce character should be severely faulted. A fear biter should not be considered for the selection of this breed. A Cane Corso that shows belligerence towards other dog’s should not be considered a fault (as long as he poses no threat to others) This breeds history as a combat dog predicates a somewhat belligerent attitude towards other dogs, particularly dogs of the same sex. He should never be overly agitated or figitty like the Boxer, he is always reserved and confident. The Cane Corso should be territorial, he should be in tune and aware of his surroundings and show a keen interest in them. The Cane Corso should never be fearful, and always ready to meet a challenge. You must not mistake indifference or standoffish behavior with fear or aggression. Most Cane Corso’s are not likely to look at you and wag there tail, some yes, but in most cases this will not be so. He should not be outwardly aggressive towards you; he must be under control at all times. The Cane Corso should be a very balanced animal mentally as well as physically, he should be confident, secure, vigilant. He should be a perfect blend of Combativeness, aggressiveness, docility, sociability, and curiosity. The firmness of his nerves represents the true mental strength of the breed. The Cane Corso requires a great deal of socialization at a young age, this is recommended to combat the breed’s natural aversion to strangers. We require all Cane Corso puppies attend puppy kindergarten. These class’ are an excellent environment to socialize your puppy with other dogs, people, children and stimuli they might not otherwise be exposed to (i.e. wheel chairs, walkers, strollers) they also are a great help with typical puppy problems such as housebreaking, destructive chewing and crate training. The Cane Corso will bond quickly to your family, particularly the children, however as mentioned he has a natural aversion to strangers, so it is best to supervise all your children’s house guest and keep the horse play to a minimum.