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Cane Corso vs. Boerboel: Breed Differences & Similarities

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Last Updated: November 8, 2022 | 10 min read | 41 Comments

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The Cane Corso and the Boerboel are two fantastic dogs that are worthy of some serious attention. These guys both have an unfair reputation and because of this, they are often overlooked as family pets.

Despite their size and mean-looking exterior, they are both known for having soft spots for children, and they are very gentle and protective of them. They are both intelligent and affectionate with their immediate family, but they both have the ability to protect their family if in danger.

They differ slightly in their temperament, the Cane Corso is quicker to react and can become actively aggressive if he fears that his family is in danger. The Boerboel is slightly calmer and will watch the situation in front of him unfold while assessing how to best react. The Boerboel is also much heavier and stockier than the Cane Corso. In this article, we are going to take a closer look at them both and compare their qualities.

If you are not certain of your dog’s genetic makeup, you can use an at-home DNA test kit to find out.

Breed Comparison

Cane Corso

  • Height 23-27 Inches
  • Weight 85-110 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Intelligent, Majestic
  • Energy Average
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 9-12 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

Boerboel

  • Height 23-28 Inches
  • Weight 120-200 Pounds
  • Temperament Confident, Intelligent, Aloof
  • Energy Average
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 9-11 Years
  • Price $1,500 and Up

Breed History

Looking at a dog’s history is a great insight into what their personality may be like and what they need to be properly taken care of.

Cane Corso

Gray Dog Lounging on a Deck
The Cane Corso is also referred to as the Italian Mastiff.

The Cane Corso hails from Italy, and it is phonetically pronounced as ‘Kay-Nah Kor-So.’ His forefathers were much larger than the Cane Corso we know today, but they were used in war to fight and charge enemy lines with flaming weapons. When he was no longer required in war, he was used as an estate guardian, flock guardian, and hunting dog.

The Cane Corso almost became extinct at the beginning of the 20th Century, but thanks to breed fanciers an intense breeding program saved them. The Neapolitan Mastiff, who is very similar, is known to have played a major part in the breed restoration.

This isn’t unlike the English Mastiff, which was also saved from extinction in the 1800s and was done so by what some people think was bringing in the saint bernard into the breeding line. This is why a very small portion of EMs to this day still have a fluffy appearance. The Cane Corso is also often mistaken for other breeds, like the American Pitbull Terrier.

Today he is better known for being a loving family companion, as well as a great household guard dog. The Cane Corso is a popular pup and he is currently ranked the 32nd most popular dog in America by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Boerboel

Fawn Dog Lounging Outdoors
The Boerboel is also known as the African Mastiff.

The Boerboel hails from South Africa and it is phonetically pronounced as ‘Boo-R-Bull.’ In the 17th Century Dutch, French and German settlers sailed to South Africa in the hope of farming the land. With them they took large dogs, namely Bulldogs and Mastiff type dogs, to protect and guard their estates and family.

The Boerboel is a result of breeding the Bulldog and the Mastiff, and since then he has been further refined with a few other undocumented breeds. There is a long history of this breed, unlike the American Mastiff which has only been around for about 25 years.

Today he is a loving family companion and estate guard. He is known for his ability to intimidate packs of Lions and vicious Baboons and he has been known to fight them off in order to protect his family. The AKC has ranked him as the 121st most popular dog in America, out of 193 breeds.

They are quite rare outside of Africa, which explains why they are much lower down on the popularity scale compared to the Corso. They are often mistaken for a Bullmastiff or Old English Mastiff when seen in person. These two large breeds are different, even though they may look similar to the Boerboel.

Appearance

Fawn and Black Dog Sitting Outdoors
Though both breeds are massive, Boerboels tend to be the larger of the two breeds.

The Cane Corso and the Boerboel are very similar in their appearances except for their size; the lighter-colored Corsos could easily be mistaken for a smaller Boerboel, and the brindle Boerboels could easily pass for a large Cane Corso. Both dogs could also easily be mistaken for a Boxer Mastiff mix.

The Corso stands between 24 to 27 inches, with the Boerboel ever so slightly taller at 24 to 28 inches, measured at paw to shoulders. The difference between them is their weight; with the Cane Corso weighing between 99 to 110 pounds and the Boerboel weighing a significantly larger 154 to 200 pounds.

They both share a muscular appearance, but of course, the Boerboel is much stockier thanks to his extra weight. They both have square-shaped heads with deep broad muzzles, thick necks, and well-proportioned bodies.

The Cane Corso has a short coat similar to the Boerboel, but his fur is much denser and rougher, whereas the Boerboel is smooth to the touch. The Cane Corso is available in seven recognized colors, whereas the Boerboel is available in six. The Boerboel is traditionally much lighter in color compared to the Corso.

The Cane Corso and the Boerboel often have their ears cropped by their owners to be in keeping with their traditional aesthetics. This also served a working purpose, to ensure that their ears were not torn while hunting wild animals or fighting lions. In their natural state, their ears are both large and floppy.

Temperament

Black and Brown Dogs Looking Over Objects
Both breeds are gentle and can be fun-loving animals.

It may come as a surprise to some, but both the Cane Corso and the Boerboel are playful and silly with their immediate family. They are sociable and require a lot of human interaction; they won’t be too pleased if you leave them outside all day expecting a full-time guard dog.

They love to play interactive games, fetch sticks, or show off their skills at an agility course. The Boerboel is the more agile of the two breeds, but the Corso is known to be slightly goofier and sillier.

They are also both similarly protective of their family and their estate. They will alert you to anything that they deem to be suspicious, and they will step between you and anything or anyone who they feel to be a threat. If their master signals that someone is ok, or if their master invites them into their home, then both breeds immediately step down and greet their new playmate.

They are known to be particularly in tune with their master’s emotions, so, if you feel anxious about something, they will be the first to notice and take action. Generally, the Cane Corso is quicker to react to strangers and danger, whereas the Boerboel has a tendency to risk assess the situation before deciding how to proceed.

They are also both known to be gentle and protective of their human siblings, and this is particularly true of the Boerboel. The Boerboel has a soft spot for children, and he is very tolerant of them touching and pulling him. Due to both the breeds’ sizes, a supervising adult should always be in the same room, in the unlikely event of any accidents.

Exercise

Black and Fawn Dogs Running Outside
About 60 minutes of daily exercise should be enough for either breed.

The Cane Corso and the Boerboel require around 60 minutes of exercise a day. They both enjoy long walks, jogging with their master, or mucking around in the garden with their family. The Boerboel is known to be the most agile of the Mastiff family, and as such he would definitely appreciate plenty of agility course sessions.

Because of their sheer size and power these guys need to be entertained on top of the one-hour exercise requirement, otherwise, they can become restless, and a restless dog can easily become a destructive dog. Combining this with their sociable nature, they are best placed with families that won’t leave them alone for too long.

Both the Cane Corso and the Boerboel often appear on the list of dangerous dogs, so if you are thinking about getting one of these pooches then be sure to check out your local dog laws. You may be required to leash and muzzle them as soon as you leave your property, as well as other restrictions.

Training

Black and Fawn Dogs Sitting Obediently
Neither of these breeds is recommended for first-time dog owners.

Early socialization is key for the Cane Corso and the Boerboel due to their protective nature and guarding tendencies. Socialization is the process of learning to be comfortable and calm in a variety of situations.

If either breed misses out on this important training then they can grow up to be too protective, or even aggressive with other humans or animals. If they do receive adequate training then they will transform into delightful doggos who are a pleasure to be around.

Both of these guys respond well to positive reinforcement training with a dominant pack leader. Instilling discipline into your household is essential, and obedience training is a great way to achieve this. It is important for every family member to be familiar with the rules that you put in place, and to also ensure that every family member is familiar with the pack mentality and its importance in regards to these breeds.

Both the Cane Corso and the Boerboel are intelligent breeds who are eager to please their master, and as such, they respond well to training. However, don’t mistake this for an easy task, for they both require a firm hand and consistent training throughout their lifetime. Neither breed is suitable for a first-time dog owner.

They will require extreme patience as both dogs have energy, so be prepared to spend some time with them, especially if you plan to crate train them. If you plan to crate train, you’ll want to make sure that the crate you buy has enough space, which means you’ll probably be looking at a crate specifically made for XXL breeds.

Health

Senior Dogs Smiling
Though these breeds come with a few genetic health concerns, they are overall very healthy dogs.

Both the Cane Corso and the Boerboel are healthy dogs. They are both required to be screened for Elbow and Hip Dysplasia, this is an abnormal formation of the elbow and hip joints that can cause mobility issues and crippling arthritis. This is a common health issue amongst larger dogs due to the impact that their weight has on their bones and joints.

The Cane Corso National Breed Club also requires him to have a Cardiac Evaluation. Dilated Cardiomyopathy can be quite common in Corsos, and this is characterized by thin walls which make the heart weak.

The Boerboel National Breed Club requires him to undergo an Ophthalmologist Evaluation, which determines whether he has any eye disorders. Entropion is common in Boerboels, which is characterized by eyelids that turn inwards.

Could Pet Insurance Help?

If your pet insurance covers exam fees and your dog needs to be examined, there is a good chance your policy will reimburse those costs based on your policy details. However, if you are a new customer, vet expenses will not be covered until after your policy’s defined waiting periods, so signing up once you have an existing health concern is not going to help this time. Pre-existing conditions are not covered by any current pet insurance plans.

This is why it is a great idea to sign up for a pet insurance policy when your pet is young and relatively healthy to ensure you will be covered when you need it most.

Nutrition

Happy Dogs With Tongues Out
The Cane Corso can eat a lot, but the Boerboel needs even more to sustain his massive build!

The Boerboel consumes more dog food than the Cane Corso; on average, the Corso will consume three cups of food whereas the Boerboel will consume around five cups of food.

They both have a sweet tooth, so it is important that you monitor their treat intake. They are both known to easily pile on the pounds and become obese, so keep them healthy with minimal snacks and plenty of exercise.

A high-quality kibble is a key to keeping your pup as healthy as possible, and they should always be fed age-appropriate food. The Veterinarian will advise you on what is best to feed your Corso or Boerboel should you be unsure of anything.

Grooming

Fawn Dogs Looking Up
These breeds are very easy to take care of with minimal grooming needs.

The Cane Corso and the Boerboel have similar coats, in that they are short and shiny, and easy to take care of. Brushing them once a week will suffice in order to keep them looking healthy, and to remove any dead hair that otherwise may find itself on your sofa.

They also require a bath once every month or two, this is dependent on how dirty they get while exercising outside. Be careful not to bathe them too often otherwise you risk damaging the natural coat oils that keep them looking healthy.

Though typically cropped, it is still important to check their ears and clean them out regularly to avoid infection. Clearing out wax or debris every three or four days should be plenty. Taking a cotton swab dipped in baby oil or coconut oil and making your way from the ear flaps to the inner ear is the best way to accomplish this. Just be sure not to go too deep!

To ensure optimal dental health, brushing your Boerboel or Cane Corso’s teeth every 2 to 3 days is recommended. A doggie toothpaste works best with a finger sleeve, toothbrush, or finger to remove plaque and tartar.

Price

Small Black and Fawn Puppies Standing
Expect to pay $1,500 or more for either breed.

The Cane Corso is slightly less expensive than the Boerboel, with the Corso costing between $1,500 and $1,800, and the Boerboel costing between $1,500 and $2,000. The main factor for this is that there are fewer Boerboel breeders in America, and as such the puppies are more in demand.

Be sure to buy your pup from a reputable breeder to ensure that they have the best possible start to life and that they have not been mistreated or mishandled.

As both breeds are very dominant and often underestimated by new owners. Unfortunately, they often find themselves being put up for adoption. If you would like to rescue one of these breeds then contact your local rescue Centre, and they would be happy to point you in the right direction. Not only may you save a little money, but you will also be saving a life!

Final Thoughts

The Cane Corso and the Boerboel are increasing in popularity as family pets and it is easy to see why. Not only are they great guard dogs, but they are affectionate with their family and gentle with children.

They require intense and consistent training to ensure that they are well-mannered pups, and they require a dominant pack leader to ensure that they do not become unruly. But if this is something that you can master, then they are both fantastic family breeds that will reward you with bags of loyalty and heaps of fun!

Owner sitting with Dog

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