To begin my series on dog breeds I’m going to start with a powerful and noble breed with a very rich history: The Cane Corso- Guard Dog, War Dog, Hunter, Companion.
The Cane Corso has its origins in ancient Greece and stems from a now extinct breed called the Molossus (From the Molossis people of Northern Greece): This Molossus group contains breeds such as the: English Mastiff, St. Bernard, Great Pyrenees, Rottweiler, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Bernese Mountain Dog. The original Molossus breed was a shepherd, guard, and war dog. Known for it’s courage, fierceness, and loyalty. The modern name of the breed, “Cane Corso” means guard dog. “Cane” is dog in Italian and “Corso” derives from the Latin word, “Cohors” meaning guardian. The Romans often used them as war dogs and the Conquistadors, including Columbus, brought them as well as prototypes to the Irish wolf hound and Great Dane to the, “New World” and used them to conquer the new lands. The dogs absolutely terrified the natives along with the exotic and foreign horses they brought.
An account from Columbus reads as follows,
“One war dog caused absolute terror, so Columbus in his journal wrote that one dog was worth 10 soldiers against Indians. During the Haiti campaign, opposed by a huge native force, all 20 dogs fought at the Battle of Vega Real in March 1495. Alonso de Ojeda, who had fought with them against the Moors, commanded the dogs. He released the dogs shouting, “Tomalos!” (basically, “Sic ’em!”). An observer said that in one hour, each dog had torn apart at least a hundred natives. The island was taken largely by terror of the dogs. Later Conquistador’s including Ponce de Leon, Balboa, Velasquez, Cortes, De Soto, Toledo, Coronado, and Pizarro all used war dogs.”
While the history of the dog dates back thousands of years ago the modern breed has officially been around for only several decades. It nearly went extinct in the 1960’s and the current breed was derived from a relatively small batch of remaining dogs from Italy in the 1980’s. Though it has changed much since 3000 years ago it is still know for the same characteristics of loyalty, intelligence, trainability, and natural aggression/protectionism- though the general temperament of the dog is known to be calm and stable when not evoked or commanded otherwise. It has a remarkably athletic and muscular frame, smaller in size than the original breed but still quite large. The males stand between, 24-28 inches tall and 99-120lbs (But up to 150+!), while females average between 23-26 inches tall and 88-110lbs. The variation in size is due to intentional breeding for a larger dog. As with livestock it is a common practice to take the largest of a litter and breed it with the largest of another and continuing this process to obtain the desired size of the animal. The life expectancy is common for such size, 10-12 years. And they come in a variety of colors: Black, Fawn, Chestnut Brindle, Grey, Black Brindle, Red.
The Cane Corso is one of my favorite breeds, partly because of it’s rich history and partly because of it’s characteristics, both physical and mental. This dog is not for a novice nor the meek. High energy, strength, time and space (and money) is required to own this breed. Personally, I’m not quite there in meeting these criterias but one day I will be.