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Worldly Corsos

Massimo Inzoli reflects on his 2015 World Dog Show entry

  Massimo InzoliMassimo Inzoli of Italy had the privilege of judging Cane Corsos at the 2015 World Dog Show in Milan. In this interview conducted by Nicola Mille, Inzoli answers questions about the biggest problems facing the Corso, what breeders should be looking for, and what it’s like to judge this most Italian breed in its native land.

 

A direct question, for starters: What was the biggest challenge in judging an Italian breed in its country of origin, at an event so unique and important as the World Dog Show?

Definitely the time factor. All the judges were required to finish by 1:30 p.m. for organizational reasons. Judging an event of this importance with some 140 entries in four hours was no small feat, both mentally and physically.  

It’s difficult to judge and assess the virtues and faults of a dog in the three minutes prescribed by FCI rules, let alone in about half that time.

The day before, you judged bitches at a club show. In the past, you’ve judged four of these shows a year in Italy. At the club shows, you’ll agree, there are times when the judge doesn’t just give a placement, but makes a statement about breeding stock. It’s logical, then, to ask if there are differences in the kinds of dogs you put up at a club show versus an international all-breed show like the World Dog Show.

They are two different types of events. At the club shows, you are always more aware of the essential characteristics of type that, as in almost all the breeds, are focused mostly on the head. At the World shows, by contrast, the total dog is viewed with more attention – the balance, symmetry, movement and outline.  

At all-breed shows, it’s necessary to put up a dog who represents the breed in the Group ring, and not only focus on important characteristics of breed type. Certain choices, perhaps more extreme ones, therefore can’t be made in these competitions. At the club show I judged on the day before the World Show, I only judged the various classes, leaving the difficult job of deciding among them to my colleague who judged the males. This is no small thing, because in the final decision, sometimes this can influence the direction of the breed.  

 

2015 World Winner Multi-Ch. Brutus (“X-Man”). Breed winner under Massimo Inzoli of Italy (right) and Group winner under Ole Staunskjaer of Denmark (left).

 

What were the most important focuses in your judging, above all those that were decision makers? With respect to the other important traits, which ones did you give particular priority to in your judging at this show? 

A judge’s criteria vary at times, depending on how the breed is evolving and being bred, and the direction in which that is going. In this respect, the issue of ear cropping is what I consider a very delicate subject, which certainly will affect breeding in the coming decades. If with cropped ears we have given priority to certain characteristics of type, selecting and preferring dogs with heads that were relatively wide, in the coming years this will no longer be possible. To get correct head type whether or not a dog is cropped, one needs to give priority to those traits that unequivocally differentiate our breed from those related to it, without basing that solely on color.  

It will be necessary to pay attention to the following points:  

• A slight convergence of planes with the correct proportions, without producing muzzles that are too short in order to have wide jaws  

• Clean heads with as few wrinkles as possible, and with as little roundness as possible (remember that the Cane Corso head is angular)  

• Heads that are long as well as volumized  

 

Most of the heads that have been selected in the last few years have been short and heavy, belonging to other breeds related to the Cane Corso. In always trying to increase the traverse diameters of the head, there developed a tendency toward a general shortening of the head. Yes, the muzzles are 34 percent with respect to the head, but they are too short, precisely because the skulls that they are being compared against are short skulls.  

As a result, the proportion between the skull and muzzle is correct, but the muzzle is short in an absolute sense. I decided to prefer, if it was possible, the platforms of the vertical face of the muzzle, preferring a slight underbite, and penalizing it when it was exaggerated.

 

CORSO Head Shot
Head study of the 2015 World Winner.
 
 
The future of the Cane Corso must without question go toward clearly differentiating it from related breeds, not just by the color of the coat or the cropping of the ears, but rather by all those important characteristics that must unequivocally set the breed apart. I therefore considered it important to put the appropriate focus on what I have mentioned, this time even more than ever.  
 
The real risk is that, in 15 years, we will find ourselves distinguishing our breed only by its color. Molossers already exist that have traits and proportions that are similar to our Cane Corso. If we are not able to differentiate the Cane Corso from these similar breeds, it will suffer an inevitable decline and a loss of popularity over time.  
 
I’d also like to make a comment about the black masking in the gray dogs. The standard asks for a mask that fades as it reaches the eyes, as one saw in the dogs of a decade or so ago. These masks were not invasive, as we often see today. The blending of colors in the breeding stock has caused this problem, but I would like to encourage breeders to try and select for masks that are not so extended, so they do not creep up above the line of the eyes, as we see now.  
 
You have judged many of the more important assignments internationally. Some of the dogs presented at the World Dog Show are dogs that you have encountered on other occasions in the past. Did you discover that your past evaluations held? With the younger dogs, did you find a maturity in line with what might have been their expected growth pattern?
 
Creating expectations is always one of the first mistakes a new judge makes, imagining the dogs that one might have, or will have, in the ring. After many years, I don’t create those kinds of expectations. I have always looked to enter the ring with an open mind. The dogs are judged on the day, in those few minutes, in that competition and in that physical state. At the World Dog Show, in fact, I put up a dog who as a youngster I wasn’t totally sure of, but on this occasion he had matured nicely, and was shown in optimal form.  
 
Taking the long view of these two days of judging more than 200 dogs, what in your opinion were the biggest problems in the breed to watch out for in the future?  
 
I’ve already answered that. The main characteristics to pay attention to are precisely those that differentiate our breed from related ones, such as the Bullmastiff, Boxer and Dogo Canario.  
 
Years ago, when I was asked about the Boxer influence in the breed, I responded that the enemy of the Cane Corso was the Bullmastiff, not the Boxer. The latter breed has the proportions and outline that are rather different from the Corso, while the Bullmastiff is much closer to the Corso than it might seem. Because of this, in the future we must fight against all the traits that bring us closer to the Bullmastiff breed. So we must fault heads that are too heavy, with excessive wrinkling, that tend to be too short and too wide. We have to avoid planes in the front of the muzzle that are too tilted back, with jaws that are too well developed; instead, we should prefer heads without roundness, with the correct proportions and profiles – clean, sharp and long. I know I am being repetitive, but what you’re asking me is essential for the correct selection of the breed. Of course, the fundamental characteristics of a correct Cane Corso head remain the correct stop, a juncture of the lips that is an upside-down “U” and a wide jaw.   In this historic moment, however, it would be better to prioritize the features that are inherent in our breed and that make it unique compared to others.  
 
At the World Show, proposed additions by the Italian Kennel Club, or ENCI, to the FCI standard for the Cane Corso were presented at a conference. Do you think these changes reflect what you saw in the ring? I’m referring mainly to the limitation that the bite be undershot by no more than 5 millimeters, and of the detailed description of the union of the lips forming an upside-down “U,” which is an element of breed type.
 
The proposed additions were made during a revision of the standard to bring it in line with current legislation in Italy regarding the cropping of ears for aesthetic purposes. Practically speaking, the rather spare FCI standard has been augmented with descriptions of various points of breed type taken from the grass-roots description of the breed by the late and famous cynologist Dr. Antonio Morsiani.  
 
The new draft of the standard proposes to limit the undershot bite to 5 millimeters to avoid bites that are dramatically undershot, such as those of the bully breeds. The muzzle of the Cane Corso should also be deep, which results from a jaw that is strong and only slightly curved. Curved jaws that are very turned up belong to the bully breeds, including the Bullmastiff, Boxer and Bulldog. The Cane Corso has a different jaw, robust and strong but not too curved. You can see dogs that when they have their mouths open seem very undershot, and then when they close their jaws they get closer to the dental arches, reaching the required distance between the incisors. In this case they are undershot as permitted by the standard, although not in the ideal. I invite you all to reflect on this detail, which I myself had underestimated and that only over time was I able to appreciate and digest and research.  
 
What were your priorities as you selected Best of Breed?
 
Every World Champion is important on a global level, but the one proclaimed in Italy plays a key role in the advancement of the breed. That dog may be replaced only by the next World Champion chosen in our nation, presumably in the next 15 to 20 years. Therefore I wanted to choose a dog that, in my opinion, had the salient features for the Cane Corso in the new millennium. A reference model for years to come. A dog of good size, very robust, with a long, angular head, the right convergence of planes, and the correct slightly undershot bite. No dog can be perfect, but I wanted choose a dog that had breed type and was well built, to make the breed competitive in the Group 2 judging in the main ring.
 
The dog I chose won the Group; he was appreciated by colleagues around the world, and brought prestige and visibility to the breed. Therefore, in my opinion, the choice was made correctly, because the breed was given a high profile, and it was possible to show it to the dog world in all its beauty.                

 

 

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