Italian Mastiffs 101: Everything You Need to Know

Italian MastiffThe Italian Mastiff, also known as the Cane Corso,is one of the most popular pets in Italy today, and furthermore, is one of the most popular Mastiff breeds generally; this is a massive contrast to the period after World War 2, wherein the breed neared extinction, owing to the effects of war on Italy’s rural population. Additionally, the breed’s recovery is a testament to its hardiness and widespread appeal. Cane Corso owners frequently commend their canine companions’ playfulness, loyalty, attentiveness, and of course, their impressive appearance.

However, there’s much more to the Cane Corso than an exemplary nature and solid build, and the following information will help anyone who’s interested in Italian Mastiffs—incidentally or because they’re considering adopting one—become an expert in no time at all.

Let’s take a look!


Where is the Italian Mastiff from?

As its name suggests, the Italian Mastiff originates from Italy. Scientists have indicated that today’s Cane Corso is the indirect descendant of the canines used by Roman military professionals during battle. In the interim, however, the dog was used predominantly by hunters, to safely retrieve downed animals, farmers (for similar purposes), and law enforcement professionals (and those of similar careers), for guarding purposes.

In short, Italians throughout the ages recognized the Cane Corso’s remarkable ability to loyally protect and serve, and the breed has evolved based on the expectations of owners since then.


What’s the Cane Corso’s temperament?

The Cane Corso, just like all other dog breeds, features a temperament that varies based upon the animal at-hand; certain genetic factors can cause one dog within the breed to act in a specific way, and another dog within the breed to act in a completely different way.

Generally speaking, however, the Cane Corso is stable, trainable, and reserved. In the face of danger or potential danger, the dog can be expected to stand-up for its owner(s)—possibly becoming aggressive in the process, but certainly not shying away from the threat.

With that said, the Cane Corso is able to discern between faux and genuine danger with relative accuracy, so its overreacting to non-emergency situations is uncommon. These near non-existent overreactions also occur most often in settings wherein danger appears likely to the animal—say, a large, crowded event hall as opposed to one’s home. Context is everything to the Cane Corso, which was once again historically used on the battlefield and the open farm.

Lastly, just as the dog fiercely defends its owner(s), it passionately displays affection to him, her, or them; the resulting friendliness and companionship are remarkable.


What does the Cane Corso look like; what are its physical characteristics?

The Cane Corso usually appears in one of seven different colors (or perhaps in a slight combination of more than one of these colors): black, blue, fawn, brindle, formentino, tigrato, and reverse blue brindle. The breed’s ears hang loose naturally, but are thin enough to allow all sorts of sounds and sensations to be recognized; furthermore, many owners take the initiative to crop their Cane Corso’s ears, so that they sit upwards indefinitely.

The Cane Corso has a large, wide head and a similarly sized tongue and nose; these physical characteristics allow the dog to recognize and gauge as many sights, sounds, and sensations as possible—a point which directly relates to their aforementioned history as security dogs. Its fur is short and smooth, and all but guarantees comfort in warm and cool temperatures alike.

Male Cane Corso dogs generally stand 24-28 inches off the ground, while females stand 23-26 inches tall, typically. Healthy adult males weigh somewhat more than females as well—99 to 120 pounds compared to 88 to 105 pounds. The average Italian Mastiff lives to be 10 to 12 years of age.


In short, the Cane Corso is a popular breed of dog that derived from the canines used by Roman warriors in ancient times. The dog is physically large, quick to defend its owner(s), and affectionate—provided it receives the required attention and care. An average Cane Corso weighs somewhere in the ballpark of 100 lbs. and will live for around a decade.


Thanks for reading, and here’s to the awesome Cane Corso breed!

The Spanish Mastiff Breed

Spanish MastiffClassification of the Spanish Mastiff

The Spanish Mastiff (Mastin Espanol, Spanish Mastin) is classified in the Working group of dog breeds. Within that group, it falls in the Molosser sub-group, and possibly the Mastiff subgroup, though according to some classification systems it is not a “true” mastiff, despite the name. It is a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) breed.

There are two main types of these dogs: the Heavy Mastiff (Mastin Pesado) and the Light Mastiff (Mastin Ligero). These are not themselves separate breeds, but are variants of the same breed.


The ancient Molosser shepherd dog existed as a breed and worked alongside nomadic herdsmen since the Neolithic era. Modern Molosser breeds are believed to have all descended from the original Molosser breed. The Spanish Mastiff likely descended from Molossers brought to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) by Phoenician tradesmen thousands of years ago.

Note that the breed was not bred to herd sheep and other livestock, but to protect them. The dogs accompany flocks, always on the lookout for predators. When confronted with an enemy—wolf, human, or otherwise—they typically do not attack, but growl and bark menacingly to scare off the threat, as well as to issue an alert to the herd of the presence of the threat. But if the enemy is not dissuaded and attempts to in any way harm or interfere with the herd, the dogs will fight fiercely, even to death. In Spain, when working to protect herds they have sometimes been outfitted with thick metal collars with spikes to make them more dangerous to wolves and other predators that they might tangle with.

This is an uncommon breed of dog around the world, except in Spain itself, where it is highly popular. There are tens of thousands of these dogs in Spain, making it the most common native Spanish dog breed in the country. In fact, it is the national dog breed of Spain.

Though the breed has existed for millennia, it was only formally recognized in the 20th Century. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), or World Canine Federation, issued its first standard for the breed in 1946.

Physical Description

The Spanish Mastiff is an enormous dog, with an enormous head. Adult height is 28 to 35 inches. Males of the breed generally weigh 185-220 pounds, though they can grow larger. Females tend to be 40-50 pounds lighter than males. This breed is the heaviest of all the LGDs.

It is a powerful, muscular, broad-chested, robust animal. The fringed tail is carried low. Its hind feet have double dewclaws. It has a deep muzzle, triangular drop ears, and a dewlap on its neck. It is a heavy drooler. Its eyes are watchful and vigilant, but the dog has a more confident, relaxed look to it than an excitable, frantic one.

Its semi-long coat is straight, with a heavy under-layer. Common colors are fawn-colored, black, reddish or reddish-brown, gray, brindle, or spotted. It sheds year round, especially heavily twice a year.

It has a loud, deep, low-pitched bark.

Breed Characteristics

Spanish Mastiffs are generally calm and not too demonstrative, though they will fiercely, courageously fight to protect the people or animals they feel responsible toward. They are intelligent and often described as dignified or aloof in their bearing. They are very loyal and loving dogs, but have a stubborn streak if not trained with firmness and consistency.

In addition to protecting livestock, by nature, these dogs are well suited to being guard dogs, being watchdogs, and working with the police or military.

Bred in Spain for both hot, desert conditions, and cold, snowy winters, they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They are more apt to struggle with high humidity heat than with dry heat.

The breed’s need for exercise is average. Its size renders it generally inappropriate for apartment living.

By temperament, these dogs tend to be good with children and other pets, especially if well-socialized when young. However, due to their sheer size, they can inadvertently injure young children, so caution is advised.

They are slower to reach full maturity than most breeds, growing until about age 3. Life expectancy is typically 10-11 years.

Understanding the English Mastiff Temperament

english mastiff temperamentOften described as gentle giants, English Mastiffs weigh in at around 220 pounds or more and stand between 28 and 36 inches tall. Though the English Mastiff temperament makes the breed extremely gentle and loving with family members, the massive size of these dogs makes them best for a more experienced dog owner. If you choose this breed, understand that you’ll need to start training and socializing your dog early so you can reliably direct 200-pounds of muscle with a single spoken command.

General English Mastiff Temperament

Patient and nurturing, these sweet dogs are terrific with children and happy to take a friendly romp with other family pets if raised with them. Mastiffs form fierce bonds with their humans and, as a result, make wonderful companion animals. Though massive in size, this breed is a lover and will often attempt to climb into your lap for some snuggle time, utterly oblivious to the fact that he is far too big to be a lapdog. If you or your family encounter a threat, you can expect your Mastiff to defend you. Though unlikely to attack without extreme provocation, a Mastiff will make it clear that his family is off limits and will hold intruders at bay until help arrives.


The English Mastiff temperament is one that takes well to training. Your puppy will want to please you and will do what he can to make you happy. Mastiffs are sensitive, however, and respond better to positive reinforcement than they do to scolding. While treats make good training rewards, your Mastiff may enjoy big hugs and heaps of praise more. The breed is very trainable, but these dogs need an owner who is consistent and firm. Strong leadership during training and beyond is a must given the massive size of the breed. You’re not likely to physically control or hold back such a large dog, so you must have the ability to do so using voice commands. As such, English Mastiffs are not recommended for first-time dog owners.


Although Mastiffs fall hard and fast for their family members and friends, the breed is often very wary of strangers. This can lead to some undesirable behaviors if a dog is not socialized early and often. Make sure your puppy meets lots of people both inside and outside his own home. Mastiffs are very protective of their territory and family members, so make sure your dog understands that guests are not a threat. If you have children, make sure your puppy has ample opportunity to see them playing with each other and with other kids. Children’s playtime sometimes gets a bit physical, and you’ll want your dog to understand the difference between playful roughhousing and genuinely threatening behavior.

Alone Time

Members of this breed absolutely adore their humans, making the English Mastiff temperament one that requires lots of family time. This is not a dog breed that can live outside in a doghouse or spend his days chained to a tree in the front yard. Although a Mastiff can tolerate being alone while you work and your children are in school, he’ll need lots of attention in the evening to keep him happy. There will be consequences if you leave your Mastiff alone for too long or allow him to get bored. Usually a lonely dog will resort to destructive chewing, but any number of unwanted behaviors can crop up in a bored dog. Do your best to never find out what it looks like when your dog acts out.

If you’re looking for a faithful companion and all around great family dog, it’s hard to beat the English Mastiff temperament. As is true of all dogs, however, some individuals within the breed may display unique personality traits that don’t fit the expected mold. Always do your homework before adopting a breed so you have some idea what to expect, but commit yourself to making sure your dog gets the support and training he needs no matter what quirks he may possess.

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