Umberto Bisceglie interview, article originally published in "WORK DOGS", number 92, 2000.
Article taken from "Reportage on Prognathism", by Giorgio Rossi, editorial coordination by Fabrizio Bonanno.
I have known the Cane Corso breed since I was born. My grandfather had Cane Corsos too. That's because free range livestock farming has always been practiced by my family and the italian cane corso has been useful as guardian dog and herding dog, but also as property guardian. Currently, I have a herd of 400-cow. The Cane Corsos that you can see in the dog shows nowadays is not as they used to be. This is because the Cane Corso got “refined”, he got boxer type.
Twenty years ago, his weight was about 55 to 65 kilos and the height at the withers was about 64 to 68 cm . The trunk of the dog was 20% longer than it is now. These Cane Corsos had to have a strong back and they had a pincer bite (or level bite, “a tenaglia” in italian). Their muzzle was short, their masseter muscles were strong and the stop was evident.
The pincer bite was surely suitable, considering that the dog had to be able to block calf whose weight was 700/800 kilos. Today, the weight of the calves is about 1100 to 1200 kilos because of the betterment of the livestock. If the dogs had had the undershot bite, they would only have bitten the skin. It was needed a bite that could cut the skin deeper and get a shooting pain in order to block such a big calf, especially in case of gadfly bite or in case the calf had to be brand-marked.
This was possible only thanks to the pincer bite. Incidentally, the breeders did select the more dynamic and obedient puppies, the puppies more suitable to be lead. The Cane Corso females used to mate for the first time when she was 5 or 6 years old in order to have only one sire and only one dam. The cane corso's skin was very thick and tough and there was the double coat that did protect the dog from the elements in the winter and from the dehydration during the summer. The modern Cane Corsos have a very thin skin without the double coat.
I have seen that with a sudden clap of my hands many Cane Corsos are used to hiding in the dog's bed; this is a reaction that should not occur if you have a good cane corso italian mastiff bought in order to have a property guardian dog and personal protection dog. Indeed, a good cane corso should react impetuously in order to discourage every enemy.
I take this opportunity to tell you the history handed down from my grandfather and from the farmers to me concerning the origin of the Cane Corso breed, which origin goes back to time immemorable. The Ancient Cane Corso was the result of the meeting of two cultures: the culture of feudataries of Frederick II, who owned lands in the south part of the “Tavoliere pugliese” (which is the northern part of the region called Puglia); they had the so-called “cane e presa”, also called “cane dei lanternai”, that is the ancestor of Neapolitan Mastiff ; his weight was about 60 to 65 kilos.
The other was the culture of shepherds who did practice transhumance and were related to the village of Opi. They had a dog called “Ancient Abruzzese Molossian dog” ( that had nothing to do with Maremman Abruzzese Sheepdog); his weight was about 65 to 70 kilos, his muzzle was short and his height at the withers was about 70/75 cm. He had very strong masseter muscles and his temperament was very strong. He used to face bears and wolves in Gran Sasso d'Italia.
The Ancient Cane Corso was selected thanks to the meeting of these two different cultures (and their two different dog breeds). Unfortunately, the Ancient Cane Corso has nothing to do with the Modern Cane Corso, not only in terms of temperament, but also in terms of functionality.