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About the breed
Cane Corso appeared in ancient times, its origin is connected with the traditions of rural areas of Southern Italy and especially Pulia. This breed, forgotten for long, which now is revived owing to some experienced dog-breeders who worked with great patience and enthusiasm and managed to find and recreate the most typical individuals.
Those dogs are strong, rather enduring and somewhat wild; they combine in themselves strength, harmony of forms with good mobility. There is nothing excessive in them, and all parts of body are of good proportions. Having escaped the risk of extinction, this breed now is not merely saved but started to spread widely, and not in Italy only. These dogs are especially needed as fine guards and protectors of property, however it is necessary to get to know them better to appreciate them even more, breed and train in the best way.
Cane Corso means "the dog guarding enclosed estates". Really, Corso, in other words, "belonging to fence, yard", is a word telling about the chief function of our dog, and by analogy about the function of an eager and brave guard of estates as well.
The word corso appeared in written sources in the beginning of XVI century, and from the very beginning it is closely connected with the destination for hunting and protection. It was used Theofilo Folengo (1491-1544) described in a general way Cane Corso in deadly fight with a bear or with a lion wounded by a hunter, in this latter case Cane Corso was compared in a rather interesting way with Molosso ("canes inter seu corsos sive molossus", which means in Latin: dog, either Corso, or Molosso). Some cynologists consider that the name should be connected with the ancient Celt or Provencal matrix, which would mean "strong", as it is proved by the preserved English adjective “coarse”, in other words, "rough, plain" (opposable to the word fine - "small, delicate").
Another hypothesis proposes to take as a basis the Latin noun cohors, or Roman "coorte" - Praetorian cohort; which would be an evidence of the ancient function of a bodyguard, which our dog was entrusted with among others.
Different hypotheses lead us, naturally, to morphological and, especially, functional subjects, to which are reduced, after all, the historical reasons of dogs’ presence in different human communities. Therefore, any similar guess-work results in people to admit one them for the sake of at least partial truth.
To tell, even in short, about the origin of Cane Corso means inevitably to go deep into cynological notions. Puzzling out a trace in the path of times, you see as centuries are uncoiled like clews of wool, as memory is being obliterated, and records contain the lesser amount of details and repeat each other.
The following point should be pointed out. The modern notion of breed did not exist in the whole history of dogs, until the very end of the last century at least and does not exist in rural areas even now. Any typological differences always depended of the functions and, consequently, selection served for using dogs in different types of work.
Corso preserved certain features of the dog of our ancestors, protecting deity, "owing to co whom the universe is yet alive", as it was boldly declared twenty six centuries ago by Zarathustra (Iran, VII century B.C.). The archetypes, from Tibetan to Assyrian and Babylonian, may be seen in its severe glance. Its family includes also Canis pugnax (which means in Latin “fighting dog”), about which it was said in "De re rustica" (which means in Latin “About country life”) Licius Junius Moderat Columella (I-II centuries B.C.), who moved in 168 B.C. to Rome from crushed Macedonia, he praised also certain noble branches, among which are pugnaces Britanniae (fighting British ones) brought from Tyre and Sidon to distant England by ships of courageous Phoenicians.
Perhaps, not everything took place in such a way, and in some cases – in a quite different way. Evidently, we should consider with certain distrust the direction of researches of some natural scientists, which lead us, without fail, through Macedonia to Mesopotamia and until Pamirs, Caracorum and the Indus valley. It is worth-while to ask ourselves the question, whether the Molosso type dog really originates from the East or the theory guided by the evidences of writers (from Aristotle to Herodotus and Pliny), which are possibly week and for sure exaggerated or more trustworthy pictures on the plates with inscriptions and bas-reliefs, statues and gravestones, refer the detected traces of material culture to the East with superfluous inflexibility.
But here we enter to the mine-strewn territory of the old dispute, which sets out cynologists into rows of irreconcilable antagonists opposing each other. Its obvious responses may be heard, for example, in the quoted already quoted work by Mario Zzacchi, when, seeing the larger mass (and, so, "genuine classic form") of Mastino Napoletano, give contemptuous names ("inferior breed") to Molossoides with the lesser mass of body. However, we’ll do our best to leave quickly that dangerous territory.
We’ll do that without a shadow of criticism, since maintenance of an enormous size is always valued and hard-hitting result, as it is evidenced by Oppian of Syria (III century B.C.) in his recommendations to preserve in the course of inter-breeding the most impressive sizes. Let us recollect the way of exaggeration suggestive for a writer, which is repeated by inclination of amateurs who are carried away too far on the wings of enthusiasm. How huge ("inusitatae magnitudinis") were two dogs presented to Alexander the Great by King Paurava, about whom Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) tells us in his "Naturalis historia"! One of them managed – according to his words – to throw down lion and fight with an elephant! Strabon, a Greek who moved to Rome circa 45 B.C., gives us more realistic information and states that it is required to have four Molossoes to overpower a lion. Marko Polo (1254-1324) in tells in his Book about the existence in Tibet of "dogs, who are as large as a donkey". From the point of view of dexterity, quickness of running and endurance, the words told after that are also important: those huge dogs "are dexterous in catching wild beasts".
A written evidence may be like a large scale photograph, although without any possibility to compare and, may be, with distorted or distorting perspective. In any case, we have to bear in mind the dog’s functions, which themselves may suggest us its proportions and, besides, it would be a good thing to escape the unsolvable dispute about primogeniture, since there is always the risk that it will turn into in well-known dispute about the hen and the egg.