HISTORY OR THE CANE CORSO
The Cane Corso is a very rare, ancient Italian Molosser that has been derived from the now extinct “Canis Pugnax”. Authenticity of the Cane Corso breed can be proven with historical documents, poems, stories and sculptures. There are even drawings on military kennel walls which are said to date back to 1137, as well as several written proofs of their role as an early police canine.
Originally kept during Roman times and employed as a gladiator fighting lions, bears, and other wild animals in the coliseums and also as an “auxiliary warrior” or “Roman war dog” on the ancient battle fields.
With the fall of Rome came the decline of Canis Pugnax, however there was still need for a good versatile working dog. With the lean times most families could not justify an extra mouth to feed without it proving to be both hardy and versatile. Due to its versatility and strong territorial instincts the Cane Corso became common throughout Italy and utilised as courageous guard dog and to keep cattle in check. The corso was also a precious companion, a protection dog for wagon drivers and due to their more athletic build compared to other Mastiff breeds, an excellent choice for hunting.
Nobles and hunters utilised them in dangerous wild boar hunts that saw the continuation of the tradition trimming of the ears and tail known today as cropping and docking. This procedure essentially removed the handles from the corso and in this way its adversary, boar or otherwise, had less to grab. This procedure also proved beneficial as there was less infections and ear problems, as the ear was then open and able to breathe.
The Cane Corso was also used in hunting many other animals including the Badger that was prized for its meat, fur and most of all the fat, which was used as an effective cure for cough, as well as an antibacterial anti-inflammatory remedy.
With the modernisation of agriculture and the introduction of firearms there was a drastic decline in the need for such an animal. In later years, there were profound social, economical, cultural and political problems throughout southern Italy. This included World War II, but, above all else the progressive abandonment of countryside towns, farms caused the notable reduction in the breed, almost to the point of extension.
There were few students of the breed in the 1950's, however one such person was Vito Indiveri. Vito extensively travelled to places where the breed was still utilised. He took photos, collected and memorised information to gain an understanding of the differences from one family breeding to another. Around this time Professor Giovanni Bonatti published an article mentioning the need to save the cane corso as a breed.
In 1979 Stafano Gandolfi, President of the Society of the amateur Cane Corso, and the Malavasi brothers, breeders of champion German shepherds, contacted Dr. Paolo Breber and Dr. Giovanni Bonatti about their findings of the Cane Corso and decided to use part of the Malavasi kennel to start the recovery program and bring the breed back from near extinction. The first few dogs used to start the recovery program were chosen for there characteristics and type. Next they went out into the countryside to obtain more specimens, but this was no easy task as many dogs they came across had slightly contrasting appearances and temperaments, due to the various functions for which individual families had become specialised.
In 1981, two great fanciers of the breed entered the group, Giaantonio Sereni and Fernando Casolino who were from Southern Italy. These men remembered the Cane Corso very well from their childhood. They confirmed the specimens to be true Cane Corso's, thus confirming the continuation of the recovery-breeding program with tight breeding of the offspring. In 1983 for the first time the group of passionate fanciers of the dog began collaborating and developed a standard with the goal of bettering the breed (this standard wouldn't be approved by the Italian kennel club till 1987).
From 1986 to 1987, after numerous trips to southern Italy, approximately twenty new subjects were selected to infuse new blood into the breed reconstruction. This was achieved thanks to the research done by Vito Indiveri, who demonstrated that there were still good examples of the breed in Southern Italy.
In 1988 Vito Indiveri, through hardship, organised the first showing of rustic type specimens.
The dogs presented on that occasion were almost exclusively from the countryside and were strongly built working dogs, used to hard farm life. These dogs where as unfamiliar with the leash as they were with the dog show. This show propelled the corso breed into the spotlight facilitating three more expos across Italy. The Judges analysed around 50 individual subjects to develop a holistic understanding of corso characteristics, allowing them to develop the the new standard by which corsos will be measured. The judges began a log documenting the subjects and demonstrating correct conformation to standard, submitting the results to the ENCI (Ente Nazionale Cinofilia Italiana).
In 1990 the Italian Kennel club (ENCI) allowed an Open Book Certification for adults that were consistent with the standard. In order to be approved, the dogs had to be inspected by two ENCI certified judges, over 500 Cane Corsos were certified by ENCI approved judges. Pups born from two certified parents were eligible for registration. A year later the ENCI recognised the Cane Corso as the 14th Italian breed.
It wasn't until 1996 that the Cane Corso was presented to FCI and was recognised on an international level. In 2003 the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) officially recognised the Cane Corso as the 52nd pure breed of dog in Australia.