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Travels through Italy

Because the Cane Corso originates in Italy, I have visited Italy many times through the years, to watch the dogs on show and at breeders' homes. At the breeders' homes, there is much more to see and learn than on shows only. On the shows we see only the best show dogs. And what is a good showdog? That depends on the taste of the judge. And there are many differences between the judges' taste and opinions. And I did not even mention the political decisions yet, where some judges obviously not prefer the type of dog, but who the handler, owner and/or breeder is. Go to enough shows through Europe (or the US) and the judges get to know you, so that in case of doubt, they will let you win. Judges are only human and obviously they have a lot of doubts when judging. I also started to be guilty of these ways of winning shows, when I started taking a less good quality dog to show and she started to win from, in my opinion, some better dogs. When I realized this, I took a step down from showing. I only showed this dog for socialization, after she had a bad experience with a child when she was a puppy, which made her character not what it should be. But because I appeared on all the shows with her, I noticed how I was influencing the judges choices. For me this was a bad development for the breed. It is normal that a breed evolves. Look at for example the English Bulldog, who used to be very different than today’s Bulldog on the shows. Yet today’s Bulldog does fit the breedstandard and the old dogs don’t fit the standard anymore. This because the standard has changed over the years, following the “fashions” in the breed. This is a normal development in dogbreeds. I will never say that breeders who follow these fashions are doing such a wrong thing. However, I do no longer see the breed on today’s shows, that I fell for in 1993 and searched for, for the 2 years after. However, the standard for the Cane Corso till today (late 2009) still has not changed in type. But seeing the preferences on the shows going towards Bullmastiff type or even Boxer, I do expect that sooner or later also our breed has to go though such type change in the standard and in our case the heads will go rounder and the muzzles shorter, as is today’s fashion type. I do however of course hope I am wrong.


At the breeders’ homes, I also saw the other dogs that are not on shows, where my personal preference in past few years more and more leaned towards these dogs and not their famous winning showdogs. Fortunately these more unknown dogs are not always excluded from breeding, but used to preserve the original type a bit too.


My urge to find the original type back eventually brought me to Puglia, South Italy and mainly Manfredonia, where Umberto Leone and Tomassino Castrignano, and also Michele Bocci from the nearby town San Giovanni Rotondo, still is the original kitchen of the Cane Corso. Here I also see the original character back. For me it was an honor to have met the legendary, unfortunately by now passed away, Diablo from Umberto Leone. Just the even as legendary Tuco from Tomassino Castrignano. Big strong dogs, with an extraordinary good bodystructure and character. And definitely not wrong in type. I think that Diablo would even do good on today’s shows if the judge would be an “old one who judges the breed from the beginning of the recognition. They are strong and tough in character, but because of this the best guardians and good for their owners. These people still breed following their own ideals, as they also did far before the breed was recognized. Yet their ideals still fit the current breedstandard, which was created by measuring about 70 dogs who mainly originated from these 3 breeders and/or their bloodlines. This makes it that the current breedstandard anno 2009 is based on the ideals from these breeders. This is also the breed I fell for in 1993. These breeders can talk about dogs, their ancestors, the breed’s history and their own dogs for hours. Unfortunately all in their own dialect and that does not makes things easier to have a good conversation with them. But we always have a good time and eventually always find a way to understand each other, of course with a bit of help from the younger locals, who understand the old dialects and speak the new dialects and (almost) normal Italian and if needed a bit of English. Now I do have to give one warning. Not all breeders in the South of Italy (Puglia area and nearby provinces) breed the original type. In this part of Italy, the financial crises hit the hardest and some breeders left the original type for the more popular showtype. Especially now since “the South of Italy” has become a popular place itself for people who want something “special”. These breeders found their chance to get financially better during this crises. Unfortunately losing their original goals……


The original type is called rustic. However, this word is often used as an excuse for dogs with long narrow muzzles. The owners call these dogs “rustic” in type to have an excuse to still breed with these dogs with obviously less qualities in type. It is not easy to explain what is rustic in the Cane Corso. The Cane Corso IS a rustic breed. In type the dogs need a wide, deep and powerfull muzzle, which is not too short. But definitely no round head, as we see the the Bullmastiffs. But rustic means more than only the type. It really is not something to just explain on paper. It is an experience you have to live. The whole picture has to be correct. The type, character, bodystructure and even the surroundings where the Cane Corso is kept. Not that a dog that is on a chain his entire life, which we also sometimes see in the South of Italy, is such a beautiful rustic idea. I can only say, go and live the experience. Only that way it is possible to understand it, if your preference leans to the original breed and not the modern fashion dog. I am happy that I have been able to place some pups from these breeder in and around Holland, which made it possible for us to see that if such pup is raised in the family way, as is normal in Holland, can function just fine. Sweet for owner and family, but still a good guardian for less wanted visitors, if needed. It is definitely not needed to breed for softer characters to make the fit better in our current society. People who claim this really should consider to get another breed. Also in Italy we see more and more softer characters on the shows, which even sometimes show real fear. Afraid dogs are the most dangerous for our society, because afraid dogs bit out of fear. This is definitely unwanted and has nothing to do with Cane CORSO. Corso means “strong/powerfull”. Cane means dog. Cane Corso simply means “strong/powerful dog”. Nothing more and definitely nothing less.


Next to good dogs, Italy has a lot more to offer. The countryside is amazing to visit, with delicious food. And all is not expensive at all. Maybe you should combine your next holiday with this beautiful land, the beach, the food and of course visit some breeders to also taste a bit of the Cane Corso atmosphere. And experience to live, which really is impossible to just explain.

View the hotel in Manfredonia

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Nancy Koper