What is Chestnut Brindle, Exactly?
Talking about color in the Cane Corso is a fraught subject: For a breed that has only two correct colors — black and fawn (which ranges from buff to red), as well as their corresponding blue dilutions, gray and formentino — and one acceptable pattern — brindle — the number of, er, interesting colors that pop up in the breed can be downright bewildering.
Compounding the problem is that the way the Corso community uses some terms is different from the rest of the dog fancy. And in some cases, it’s diametrically opposed.
But before we descend into Corso-speak, let’s get define what brindle actually is:
Over the years Corso breeders seem to have flipped the definition of brindle in their breed culture. But brindle is by definition black stripes on a lighter base coat of fawn, red or yellow. Brindle can be gray/blue or chocolate as a result of dilution, but those stripes are will still be black when those genetic modifiers are not present. There is no such thing as fawn-colored or red-colored brindling, though that is a common misconception in the Corso community.
In this article we’ll use the redundant term “black brindling” to remind that brindle is indeed black, and because so many Corso fanciers reflexively associate the word “brindle” with red or fawn stripes. And for simplicity’s sake, we’ll put the dilutions aside, dealing only with the undiluted colors of fawn, red and black brindle.
Let’s start with the term reverse brindle, which has its own convoluted definition among Corso fanciers. (More on that later.)
The commonly accepted definition of “reverse brindle” is brindling that is so heavy, it appears to be the base color of the dog. Again, brindle only appears on base coats of red, yellow or fawn. But sometimes, the black striping is so intense and profuse that it blocks out much of that underlying base color, giving the appearance of fawn or red striping.
While this puppy appears black, he is actually a fawn dog with heavily black brindling. Most of the dog world calls this reverse brindle. But not most Corso folks.
In fact, the opposite is true: No matter how much black striping is present — even to the point of the coat appearing to be solid black — any “stripe” of fawn or red is still the base coat, never the brindling.
In Corsos, reverse brindles are so common that, as we said earlier, many fanciers believe — incorrectly — that the base color is the brindling. This has led to some unique terms and definitions in the breed.
Chestnut brindle (above): The “chestnut” in “chestnut brindle” refers to the reddish “stripes” in the coat that evoke the color of that eponymous nut, a staple at Christmas celebrations across Italy. But this term gets things backward: Chestnut brindles are actually black-brindled dogs with red-fawn base coats. Though heavy black brindling may make it look as if the red coat color is the brindle, this is not the case: Unless the Corso has a red nose, red brindling is a genetic impossibility.
Black brindle (above): Corso enthusiasts use this term to refer to black-brindled dogs with light-fawn base coats. Again, because the black brindling is so profuse, the incorrect assumption is that the light undercoat is the striping.
Then there's the term reverse brindle itself: Because true reverse brindles are so common in the Cane Corso — again, we are talking about dogs whose black brindling covers almost their entire base coat, which is either fawn or red — Cane Corso fanciers use “reverse brindle” to mean dogs whose actual black stripes are distinct and identifiable.
In other words, their understanding of reverse brindle is the reverse of what is commonly understood to be reverse brindle. Or, just plain old brindle.
Finally, there's one color term that appears to be unique to Corso fanciers.
Carbonization comes from the Italian word carbone, which means carbon. It refers to shading in the coat, which makes it look as if the dog has been sprinkled with carbon dust. It's a poetic-sounding term for what the rest of the dog world calls sabling.