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Are Cane Corsos Smart? The Impressive Answer!

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

cane corso sitting on grass

The Cane Corso (pronounced KAH-nay KOR-so) is an imposing dog that with the proper training, can be an adorable snuggle pup and excellent protector. They are members of the Mastiff family, which helps explain their size, but how do they measure up in terms of intelligence?

Cane Corsos, or more accurately, Cane Corsi, are quite smart dogs and are thought to be on the same intelligence level as German Shepherds.

How we measure intelligence in dogs can differ from breed to breed, however, so let’s go over where the Cane Corso factors in.

Divider 7Measuring a Dog’s Intelligence

How we measure a dog’s intelligence can be flawed. We typically base it on things that aren’t necessarily a fair measure of the intelligence of certain breeds.

Brindle Cane Corso lying on the grass
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock


Frans de Waal is a primatologist and biologist from Emory University who states that the way that we judge any animal’s intelligence isn’t fair. For example, we can’t assess a squirrel’s intelligence by expecting it to count to 10.

A squirrel’s existence depends on hiding and then retrieving nuts, which makes them much more talented at finding things. Many of us can’t remember where we left our keys or our glasses, even when they are perched on top of our heads!

Following Orders

The way of measuring a dog’s intelligence is typically based on how well they do at following orders. This isn’t the best method because each breed and even each dog will respond to intelligence tests in different ways.

Psychologist Stanley Coren surveyed 199 dog obedience judges on the working intelligence of dog breeds. The judges noted that while the results were consistent, there are always exceptions in every breed, and much of it comes down to training.

male cane corso standing
Image Credit: Sbolotova, Shutterstock


Coren filtered the results into six tiers, where the top tier was dogs that learned a new command in 5 seconds or less and would obey at least 95% of the time. The bottom, or sixth, tier would learn a new trick after over 100 repetitions and obey about 30% of the time.

However, the Cane Corso doesn’t appear anywhere on this list of 141 dog breeds.

How Intelligent Is the Cane Corso?

It’s possible that the Cane Corso didn’t show up on the list because some breeds don’t excitedly obey every command.

Corsi form intensely strong bonds with their owners and would like nothing more than to please them. But they are also extraordinarily independent and assertive. While they are working dogs, it’s along the lines of protection and as guardians rather than racing off to do their owner’s bidding.

These dogs are the slow and steady type, and it’s even said that some Corsi can even start to anticipate what their owner wants by gestures or looks alone. It’s been called an almost-telepathic link.

So, Corsi will not eagerly wait for a command and jump up immediately to comply. Instead, they will observe the world closely and carefully. If they are well-trained, they will look to their owner and even give their own orders.

Judging how intelligent these dogs are can be tricky, as a new trick might not be something that they are interested in learning. This can actually indicate high intelligence, not the opposite, so the standard way of measuring intelligence won’t necessarily work on the Cane Corso.

cane corso playing
Image Credit: Miroshnikova Arina, Shutterstock

Training the Cane Corso

Cane Corsi require training and socialization from an early age and an experienced dog owner. They need consistent training that will last their entire lives, and as an owner, you need to be clear with them about your expectations.

Without the proper training and guidance, their instincts will kick in, and they will likely view everything outside their family as a threat. This makes socialization vital for this breed! They need to be introduced to as many places, people, dogs, situations, and noises as possible.

The Corso needs an owner who can be firm, consistent, and patient, who uses positive reinforcement, and who has a confident yet calm presence. These dogs will not react well to yelling and anger.

While they make excellent family dogs, there needs to be a great deal of socialization with children during the training period. The Corso should be under constant supervision at this time, particularly around young kids.

Are Cane Corsos Aggressive?

The Cane Corso scored 88% on the American Temperament Test Society. 235 Corsi were tested for aggression, and 207 passed the test and 28 failed. Compare this percentage with the beloved Golden Retriever’s score of 85.6%.

Cane Corsi are not necessarily aggressive dogs, but if they haven’t been trained or socialized well, the potential is there. As important as the training is, however, it’s also critical that they get enough exercise, both physically and mentally.

They need a great deal of exercise, which must include two long walks every day in addition to playtime and other activities to help keep them busy. You don’t want a bored Cane Corso on your hands.

girl playing with cane corso
Image Credit: Efanov Aleksey, Shutterstock

A Brief History of the Cane Corso

The Cane Corso technically originated in Greece, but the Roman Empire brought a few of their early ancestors to Italy. They were used as war dogs and were known to be quite fearless and even larger than Corsi today.

By the 5th century, they were used for a wide variety of jobs, including working on farms, driving livestock, hunting wild boar, and guarding farms and henhouses.

But by the middle of the 20th century, the Corsi had been reduced to very low numbers and were practically extinct. In the 1970s, Italian fanciers brought them back from the brink, and they made their way to North American shores by 1988.

The origins of these dogs were to protect humans, and it’s something that is hardwired into their genetic makeup.

Divider 7Conclusion

Deciding how intelligent one breed of dog is compared to another depends entirely on the dog and their training.

Is one dog smart because they are eager to do as many tricks as possible on your command? Or is another dog smarter because they don’t do every command asked of them and decide for themselves whether it’s worth it?

Cane Corsi are unquestionably intelligent dogs, which is only something that you might pick up on when you live with one.

Regardless of how these dogs stack up in the smart department, there’s no question that they are fearless, confident, and loving and will make incredible companions for the right owners.

Featured Image Credit: Hoika Mikhail, Shutterstock

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