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Take Note ... of the Cane Corso

Breeder-judge Shauna DeMoss shares her thoughts on the AKC Cane Corso standard

CORSO Shauna de MossIn this Modern Molosser feature, we ask accomplished fanciers to sit down with “their” breed standard and “take note” about where they think judges and breeders often go astray. This issue looks at the AKC Cane Corso standard.  Our comments are by Shauna DeMoss (left) of CastleGuard Cane Corsos in Cedaredge, Colo., has been devoted to the Cane Corso since 1995. The breed’s first AKC breeder-judge, DeMoss has been a board member of the Cane Corso Association of America since 2001 and run the parent club’s breed education since 2007.  DeMoss bred the number-one Corso in 2009 and 2010, as well as a national-specialty winner and two Corso Working Dogs of the Year.  

Parts of the standard under discussion are underlined, followed by DeMoss's comments in yellow highlight:

Cane Corso American Kennel Club Standard

General Appearance: The Cane Corso is an ancient Italian breed, medium-large sized molossoid. Sturdy, with a strong skeleton, muscular and athletic. It moves with considerable ease and elegance. Ease and elegance should not be confused with refinement. The Corso is a powerful, efficient mover. He possesses the perfect combination of mass and agility. It has always been a property watchdog and hunter of difficult game such as the wild boar.


Black Cane Corso

Size, Proportion, Substance: A muscular, balanced, large boned dog, rectangular in proportion. This is a very important phrase and should not be overlooked.  The Corso should not be square and should have ample length of torso. The length of the dog, measured from the point of the shoulder to the point of buttock, is approximately 10% percent greater than the height of the dog measured from the highest point of the shoulder to the ground. Height: Dogs: 25 to 27.5 inches, Bitches: 23.5 to 26 inches. Weight: Proportionate to height.  

Head: The headpiece is the defining mark of the breed. It must be correct before any other aspect can be considered. Mollossoid, large, its total length reaches approximately one third of the height at the withers.

Planes of the skull and muzzle are slightly convergent, "Lift of head" is very important. There should be a distinct raise from stop to occiput. they are not parallel. The circumference of the head measured at the cheek bones is more then twice the total length of the head; skin is firm and smooth.  

Skull: Viewed from the front is wide and slightly curved, width is equal to the length. From the side a prominent arch begins above the eyes and then flattens backwards towards the occiput, viewed from the top it has a square appearance due to the zygomatic arches and powerful muscles swathing it. Stop: Well defined due to developed and bulging frontal sinuses and prominent arch above the eyes. Not only should the stop be well defined, but one should actually be able to put a thumb in the depression between the wide-set eyes.  Expression: Very alert and attentive. Some wrinkling on forehead occurs when alert. Eyes: Medium sized, almond shaped, not round or bulging, tight fitting rims preferred with only a minimal amount of haw being visible. Eye color: The eyes are self coloring and match the lightest part of the coat. Light eyes are common and correct for Corsos that are gray, fawn or fawn/red brindle. Dogs with black muzzles (black, fawn, red, and these colors brindled) dark brown eyes are preferred. Gray muzzles (gray, fawn, red and these colors brindled) lighter shades are acceptable. Pigmentation of the eye rims is complete, pigmentation of eye rim matches pigment color of dog. Ears: Set well above the cheekbones. May be cropped or uncropped, if cropped it is in an equilateral triangle. If uncropped, they are medium sized, triangular in shape, held tight to the cheeks, and not extending beyond the jaw bone. Nose: Large with well-opened nostrils, pigment color to match pigment color of the dog. Dogs with black pigment have black noses, gray pigmented dogs have gray noses, and pigmentation is complete. The nose is an extension of the topline of the muzzle and does not protrude beyond nor recede behind the front plane of the muzzle. This statement is critical to type. The nose should be flush with the anterior face of the muzzle. We see an abundance of both pushed-in "Pug" noses and pointy Hound noses in the Corso; neither is correct.

Muzzle: Very broad and deep, width is almost equal to its length which reaches approximately one third of the total length of the head; the depth of muzzle is more then 50% of the length of the muzzle. The top and bottom muzzle planes are parallel and the nose and chin form a perpendicular line. Viewed from the front the anterior face should look flat and form a trapezoid, wider at the bottom. Muzzle is not narrow or snipey. When looking down on a Corso's muzzle, it should not look like a "Dixie cup." It should remind one of a square, one-third the length of the head. 
Lips: Rather firm. Upper lips moderately hanging, they join under the nostrils to form an inverted “U.” Pigmentation matches color pigment of dog, Dogs with black pigment have black lips, gray pigmented dogs have gray lips.  

Bite: Up to a 1/4 inch undershot means there can be as much space as the width of a pencil between the upper and lower incisors. Often that space appears greater than it is. Rarely does a Corso with a scissors bite possess a correct muzzle. However, at this stage of the breed's evolution, subjects with level and scissors bites are necessary in breeding programs. Undershot is a progressive characteristic, and the level and scissors bites help keep it in check. Slightly undershot (no more than 1/4 inch) and level preferred, scissor bite is acceptable if parameters of the head and muzzle are correct. The incisors are firmly placed on a straight line. Dentition is complete with no more than two missing teeth.   Cane Corso Puppies Silhouette

Neck, Back and Body: Neck: Slightly arched, flowing smoothly into the shoulders with a small amount of dewlap. The length of the neck is approximately one third the height at the withers. Body: Depth of the ribcage is equal to half the total height of the dog, descending slightly below the elbow. It's important that the floor of the ribcage, when viewed from the side, sit close to the elbow. If too far above, the dog is leggy, top heavy and lacks mass. Too far below, and the front is overdone and is not balanced with the rear, compromising agility. Ribs are long and well sprung. Moderate tuck up. Chest: Broad, well muscled, strong forefront. Back: Wide, strong, muscular. Highest part of shoulder blade slightly rising above the strong, level back. Loin: Well-muscled, and harmoniously joined to the back. Croup: Long, wide, slightly sloping. Rump should be quite round due to muscling. Tail: Tail set is an extension of the backline. All too often in the Corso we see tail sets that are not an extension of the backline, but appear to come out from the rear, three inches below the back. This is an indication that the pelvis is titled too steeply and therefore drastically inhibits the back reach.  It is thick at the root with not much tapering at the tip. When not in action carried low, otherwise horizontal or slightly higher than back, not to be carried in a vertical position, it is docked at the 4th vertebrae. Natural tails are accepted, though not preferred.  In the case of natural tails, the tip reaches the hock but not below. Carried low, it is neither broken nor kinked but supple. Hanging when the dog is in repose; generally carried level with the back or slightly above the level of the back when the dog is in action, without curving over the back or being curled.

  Cane Corso fawn


Forequarters: Strong and muscular, well proportioned to the size of the dog. Straight when viewed from the front or side, height of the limb at the elbow is equal to 50% of the height at the withers. Shoulders: Muscular, laid back. Laid-back shoulders are very important, allowing the forearm to extend for good reach. Unfortunately we see far too many straight shoulders, forcing the dog to take short steps and causing a "prancing pony" gait -- not the correct, elongated trot. Upper arms: Strongly muscled, with good bone, powerful. Elbows: Held parallel to the ribcage, turning neither in nor out. Forelegs: straight and with good bone well muscled.  

Pasterns: Almost straight, strong but flexible. Feet: Round with well arched, toes (cat like).Lean hard dark pads and nails except in the case of white toes. Front dewclaws: Can remain or be removed, if left intact should only be a single dewclaw on each leg.   Hindquarters: As a whole, they are powerful and strong, in harmony with the forequarters. Thighs: Long, wide, angulated and well muscled. Stifle: Should be moderately angulated, The best way to determine correct (moderate) angulation is to place the hock so it forms a 90-degree angle with the ground and extend the tail (which is docked at the fourth vertebra). There should be a plumb line from tip of tail down through the hock to the back of the foot.  strong. Legs: Strong bone and muscle structure. Hocks: wide set, thick and clean, let down and parallel when viewed from behind. Rear pastern: straight and parallel. Rear dewclaws: Any rear dewclaws are removed. Hind feet: Slightly more oval shaped and less arched toes than the front feet.  

Coat: The coat is short, stiff, shiny, adherent and dense with a light undercoat that becomes thicker in cold weather.  

Color: No color is preferred over another. Each has historical and functional significance. Acceptable colors are black, lighter and darker shades of gray, lighter and darker shades of fawn, and red. Brindling is allowed on all of these colors. Solid fawn and red, including lighter and darker shades have a black or gray mask; it does not go beyond the eyes. There may be a white patch on the chest, throat, chin, backs of the pasterns, and on the toes.  

Gait/Movement: The movement is free flowing, powerful yet effortless, with strong reach and drive. As the dog accelerates, the feet converge towards a center line of gravity in a near single track. When viewed from the side, with minimal roll and bounce.  


CORSO Movement 2   


Temperament: The Cane Corso as a protector of his property and owners is unequaled. Intelligent he is easily trained. Noble, majestic and powerful his presence is impressive. He is docile and affectionate to his owner, loving with children and family.  

Disqualifications: It is my opinion that the fancy should concentrate on what a Correct Corso is, not what it isn't. Too much emphasis placed on te DQs alone will not create a good Corso, only a dog without those traits.
More then 2 missing teeth, wry mouth.
Undershot bite more then ¼inch
Yellow bird of prey, blue eyes. Wall eyed.
Any color with marking pattern as seen in black and tan breeds.
A natural atrophied tail or a natural tail that is knotted and laterally deviated or twisted.


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