Interview with Vito Indiveri (Il Dyrium)
By Marcos Reta
August 17, 2015
Vito Indiveri does not need an introduction in the Cane Corso world. His legendary dogs throughout the years, present day included, his essential part in the recovery right from the beginning when things were very difficult and no one knew what the future held for the Cane Corso. No one is more respected in the breed!! So who would be better to ask... what is a Cane Corso to you?
"Setting aside all formal definitions with which all these years have been used to describe our dog. For me, the Cane Corso has always been "The Dog ( Il Cane)"
Where were you born, grew up and have lived?-
"I was born, grew up and lived in Monopoli, a town in the province of Bari which lies on the coast of the Adriatic Sea which runs to the Salento."
You must have beautiful vivid memories from that period in the south, the rustic way of life, the ways of the masseria. What memories, adventures are you most fond of ?-
"I have never lived in a farm. I come from a humble family of carters who traded horses, then with the wide spreading of motorized power transportation the family was forced to change the nature of its business. The clearest memory I have of those years from my childhood is a huge, huge Cane Corso restrained with a heavy chain in the yard and whose job was to guard the merchandise.-
I grew up in a large family, we were eleven children. I am the fifth one and the second male. Life for us children of those days was very different than that of children today. I remember what most fascinated me rather than spend my time in games more suitable for children was wanting, the need to spend my time with dogs, horses, canaries and goldfinches. In our cellar, I began to breed canaries and goldfinches. When it became not possible to do it at home, with friends I continued to do it using nearby bunkers abandoned by the British military after the war. We were already a group of many and one day I decided to take a cute dog that I found in the street and in those bunkers with other kids my age, we began to compete with each other. We started to breed street dogs and the puppies that were born from my matings were always the most beautiful, so much it would attract the attention of adults."
Can you tell us anecdote(s) from those years?-
"DOG OF CAPRAI- In my area the Cane Corso was called 'Dog of Caprai" it was much in use guarding the tribes of goats grazing on the rocky and inaccessible areas of Murgia. In fact, when I took home PLUD, my father, now old, seeing him for the first time, recognized him immediately and told me: This is the dog of Caprai, I thought it was extinct, tell me where did you find him?
Encounter with PLUD.
Many are the years that I have dedicated to this breed with many memories and stories. I particularly remember when I met PLUD, the Corso who became the founder of Dyrium, a true pillar and great protagonist, so much so that his descendants are found in many of the best and most successful bloodlines. But getting back to the story of PLUD. That day I was doing a working visit to the masseria of Filippo Leone in Manfredonia and then I saw him for the first time. He was eight months old, chained and malnourished, yet he exuded a charm that I have never been able to forget; He looked straight into my eyes and growled, but not with fear; It was a deep bass so deep that along with the fixed and sharp look of his eyes, it felt like a knife, a blade no doubt. My instinct had already told me he was the right one. I was so fascinated and enchanted at that moment I unconsciously decided that my story with the Cane Corso was to begin that day and with him.
I managed to convince Filippo Leone to give him to me, while at the same time providing him with a bed sheet and a bedspread for his daughter.
Found a GEMMA-
The finding of Gemma, a black female Cane Corso, was nothing short of sensational for her typicality and its undeniable authenticity. That week, I was working in the area of Colle Sannita in the province of Benevento, the area bordering with the province of Foggia. It was the mid 1980s and I was spending the night at the Hotel Casa del Re, I remember distinctly, it was the last working day of the week and I was traveling just another country road, outside Colle Sannita as I had to go down to San Marco dei Cavoti, Baselice and San Bartolomeo in Galdo, when suddenly, over the road, I saw in the bushes the head of a Cane Corso. I slammed on the brakes of the car to stop immediately and quickly went to the dog. It was like an electrocution, she was such a beautiful bitch, like I had never seen before. I looked around and see nearby a car repair shop, so I waited for the shop to reopen and I met the owner. I of course asked him for information about the dog and if there were other specimens in the area. His name was Giovanni Jacobacci and he was immediately helpful, even showing me another Corso of his, a male also typical. But Gemma! which was the name of the female, she was like from another planet. I called Dr. Morsiani, Gandolfi, and Casolino and all of them infected by my enthusiasm, they rushed to Monopoli. After they all arrived, together we set off immediately for Colle Sannita, where at the sight of Gemma, they all went speechless!!
Morsiani, which fortunately was carrying compasses, protractor, cinometro and tape measure, would take cinometric measurements of Gemma and Guglio. These measurements proved of extreme importance, as they also confirmed with these rustic subjects the exactitude and quality of Morsiani's prior measurements. The work was done on top of a mechanic's workbench and Morsiani, assisted by the owner and I, completed, calmly and accurately all measurements necessary, from the most basic up to most complicated ones such as those related to cranial/muzzle area and those at the end of the bone/joints. Finishing the measurements of the dogs and realizing his work was right, it was very exciting, I was elated. That evening I payed for everyone's dinner!
The measurements of those dogs were printed on a brochure and translated into four languages. In 1990 as part of the European exhibition of Verona, the FCI Standards Comittee was handed a summary of morphological characteristics drawn from Morsiani's total work.-
Related specifically to the recovery period and your very prominent role in it. Sig. Indiveri, I've always found it ironic that the same conditions of contrast with modern life that made the Corso less and less useful in the masseria are the same conditions that kept him isolated and in a sense safe waiting to be found by the efforts of the recovery team. How do you view this period of modern/rustic times. Can you please tell us about those times?
"It took a lot of effort and time from my work and family to do what had to be done for the dog. When the recovery of the breed was not even a thought in the mind of most, I began a meticulous inventory, I had the responsibility of moving the dogs from one farm to another, then mating them, recording, photographing, collecting and researching evidence. Started an adventure of which I could not even imagine the outcome. I ran from one farm to another in order to choose the most suitable male dogs, I saw many kilometers of countryside roads. What was imperative was to get out of the narrow alley created by the farmers often resorting to a matter of convenience when choosing breeding partners. Years of slow and difficult work. We often had to overcome the distrust of the farmers with good manners and the abruptness of rustic dogs with infinite patience. I worked with Dr. Morsiani providing him specimens and the ability to measure a large number of dogs who came from every corner of Puglia. I surveyed the race, organized gatherings that allowed all at the ENCI to see and touch with their hands the fact there was still a population of this breed, not to mention the contribution of providing the selections. And this I do say to others, many are well aware that I gathered valuable information and documentary material. The judges and Enci delegates of that time, they know well all this assured the adventure of recognition. We are all aware of the pilgrimages from all over that came devoutly, but only once. Monopoly where I live and work. I believe I was a vital key in the recovery story and all my stories, they are always accompanied by the names and places, all documentation along with photos of it all."
If the recovery had been delayed, how much time before it would have then been an impossibility?
"I think that if a couple of years had passed by, our attempt might not have been successful. In fact the 1988 Raduno there were 12 year old dogs and even 14 years old who barely had time to breed. A few more years and we would have lost the Cane Corso."
Many people see Basir as the ultimate Cane Corso, the dog from where all the measurements in the Standard were taken. Could you please explain the facts regarding this?-
"Those who think of Basir as the ultimate Cane Corso are wrong, or may be they simply do not know the history of the breed.
Before and after Basir the breed produced many subjects equally worthy, yet Basir, as we say just found himself in the right place at the right time, because regardless of the absolute validity of the dog, he was so because of the culmination of the hard work that preceded him. Also the Sacc was located in Bologna, Morsiani's doorstep. Look I'll tell you, Morsiani during the preparation of the Standard, came several times to Monopoli to measure my Corsos paying particular attention to PLUD. Now as everyone knows, I never dreamed of saying that PLUD was the model that inspired the Standard. Basir was still a subject with correct proportions, flawless, flashy and was well suited to represent the Cane Corso who was leaving behind centuries of rural life and walking into the future. Basir was undoubtedly one of the references for Morsiani's focus, but not the only one. The measurements for the Standard of the breed were not taken only from one subject, the Standard is the synthesis of the measurements of the best Cane Corso in circulation at the time, as Morsiani himself has acknowledged verbally and in his writings. It was the perspective from a Cane Corso selection that was naturally poised to look to the future."
Yet Basir does represent the Cane Corso breed, at the time did you see another alternative dog(s) that could have represented the breed as well?-
"Basir, was the result of a selection that began some years before and continued by the SACC, he was the subject that perhaps best represented the evolution of the rustic dog and still there were others such as Bruno di De Comer, son of the first Bruno and another one of my production, PLU. Both were also measured by Perricone during measurements at Bari and pointed as selective reference along with many others of that time, they would also have represented the breed with equal dignity."
Many of your dogs are legendary, could you please tell us which ones are your personal favorites and the reasons for it?-
"Quaron and PLUD, each for different reasons. PLUD is the true beginning of my story as a breeder and at the same time, the common ancestor of my most important Corsos. Quaron is the culmination of my selection and he, a grandson of PLUD, has proved a great stud reproducer, transmitting his very good qualities and together with Quasar has founded a whole new line of Corsos."
What is your image of the ideal representative of the Cane Corso head, would it be a composite of different heads, something that you still pursue or one that you'd like to repeat?
"That of the Standard, dry and clean, with a well defined prominent bony bulge of the skull, without a convex aspect in profile, but with sharp and quite distinct lines and eye brow which is very important should never cover or invade the orbital fosse, subtracting nobility from the expression of the eye The chin should be wide and marked and denote a system of incisors and canines properly spaced so as to take the upper lips at the flat front of the muzzle and form an upside down "U". I like to distance myself from those excessively curved jaws that are almost always narrow and make that region of the muzzle resemble the mouth of a salmon. The undershot is important because it demonstrates and accompanies a constitutional nature that is no longer that of the heavy mastiff. As it is, I believe, prognathism should be contained and I personally have always preferred and selected bites with reverse scissors."
In breeding for the head and also in general, what do you look for in the male/female pedigrees, how far back do you go?
"Phenotype, and genetic knowledge of genetic contamination. And this applies not only to the head."
In your lines, what males/females have reproduced the best for you? which one have reproduced themselves the best?
"Besides Plud, I must admit that David and Saida presented me with the turning point in the direction that the standard indicated. Immediately after the theft, (34 dogs specimens, including some reproducers and some protagonists such as Rasputin) the litter of 95 between these two subjects gave the breed dogs as Quaron Quasar, Quaros, Quira and others who continued to define the progress of the Cane Corso in the direction delineated by Morsiani."
Please can you tell us about the most dominant male/females that you've had in your lines?
^Among females Saida and Maria, among males PLUD, Rasputin, Claus and David-
Regarding temperament, please how do you view the masseria/urban living/show dog issue?
^The Cane Corso has historically demonstrated the ability to adapt to different contexts and diverse uses. With the family they are wonderful, indeed we have seen how they love the contact with loved ones and how they love to protect the children. Yet it would be a disservice to forget that his character of a guardian is suspicious and protective of those he considers belonging to his own flock. Demanding performance and pseudo human behaviors goes against disposition, nature and character.-
How do you approach bringing new blood from outside to your lines?-
^In the past, when they've had the best rustic lines, I had not felt the need to go outside. Today, I would go outside. Ironically, even though with a wider genetic base I'd face serious difficulties in finding reliable protagonists due to the genetic contamination the breed has had to suffer. But I must also add that despite the contamination, there are still bloodlines, a few, who have retained all the correct characteristics of the breed.-
In photographs, one sees you handling your own dogs, is this something you enjoyed/ still like to do?
^Yes, it's true I love and I'm passionate about the spirit of competition that I feel in the ring and sometimes I give myself the outlet, to see other Corsos and meet new and old fans.-
How do you see the inclusion of other breeds during the recovery due to the small amount of cane Corsos available?
^Until the Raduno of Foggia, the work was with real Corsos that were in the area, but the sudden success prompted several people to select and mix other molossoid breeds to the real Cane Corso. They would even take advantage of their geographical location to invent, often from scratch, stories of farms, families and rustic dogs.
From the north new breeders came down in search of myth and promptly went home with an imitation of a Cane Corso, intersections of Corsos, or crosses between mastiff breeds. These original sins, are still alive today and with this it created a damage tarnishing the image of our ancient breed. Much blame for these events can be attributed to ENCI, that contrary to the agreements with the SACC directly used the progeny of foundation dogs who had been selected and verified, without performing the required phenotypical review. Many inexperienced breeders from the North took home some or any specimens and placed value on many of those crossings, they obtained poor results, but not to admit their mistake, they continue to insist on breeding the wrong dogs-
How do you see type being affected by the influence of other breeds around the world?-
^I think that, considering what has been said in the previous point, the answer is quite superfluous. However it has done enormous damage.-
Damage has had a worldwide effect. Editor
Do you still see the 1987 standard as the written description of the 2015 Cane Corso?-
^Some subjects of certain bloodlines are still haunted by incorrect features. Then there is a great mass of dogs having resulted from selections that have been forced too much or were simply wrong, perhaps good lines misused. Not to mention the large number of specimens from these contaminations of which I have already spoken about-
How hopeful about the future are you for the Cane Corso?-
^The Cane Corso is a fighter by definition and has passed the test of time, unscathed. History and I hope he can do it again. Much will depend on the people to whom it's destiny will entrusted to. However it turns out, I will be at his side, in the front line to fight this last battle that is perhaps the hardest.
Vito Indiveri I wanted to thank Fausto Delaidelli for the big help translating the original questions! Fehér Andrea Brandy McCoy Ali Denis Katja Chtuka Roy Rojas Nancy Koper Šárka Bajerová Petra Schuit