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Cane Corso vs. American Pitbull Terrier: Breed Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: April 17, 2023 | 10 min read | 7 Comments

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The Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) and the American Pitbull Terrier (APBT) are two very popular breeds. When comparing the Cane Corso vs the American Pitbull terrier, you’ll find they are both very different but have some striking similarities. It’s not uncommon to find the Pitbull and Corso as a mix.

However, the APBT is much more sociable with others, and the Cane Corso is known to be very suspicious of strangers and very vocal about it. He also requires a firmer master who is going to set the rules, and he is not for the novice dog owner. Even though the Cane Corso is an Italian Mastiff, they are different than most Mastiff breeds because of the activities they were bred for.

They are both gorgeous dogs who make loyal family companions, but they just need to be placed with the right family. So, to find out which breed will suit you and your family better, let’s look more closely at the similarities and the differences between the two.

Breed Comparison

Cane Corso

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

American Pitbull Terrier

  • Height 17-21 Inches
  • Weight 30-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Energetic, Loyal
  • Energy High
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 12-16 Years
  • Price $800 and Up

Breed History

Both Breeds come from the Molosser family of dogs, but it’s important to understand the roots of both dogs before we can glean anything about how they will perform as a family pet. Both of these breeds can make excellent family pets if raised properly and socialized early.

Both breeds also have somewhat misinterpreted pasts, making them common rescue/shelter pets, which means you can likely find one without going to a breeder. Let’s look at these pups, and compare their origins before taking a look at what makes them different from each other.

Cane Corso

Cane Corso Breed History
The Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) has a long and storied history.

The Cane Corso, phonetically pronounced as ‘Kay-Nah Kor-So’, is also known as the Italian Mastiff, and he descends from the large Roman war dogs. Originally used as a farm dog, he took employment in many roles such as sheep herding, cattle droving, cart pulling, and guarding the estate.

The Cane Corso breed nearly became extinct, but thanks to breed fanciers his numbers were soon restored, and the Neapolitan Mastiff, being used in the restoration program, heavily influenced the breed we know and love today.

The first litter of Cane Corsos was imported to America in 1988. Ever since then, he has proved to be a popular family pet and companion. In 2019, the American Kennel Club (AKC) ranked him as the 32nd most popular dog in America.

Despite only being accepted as a recognized breed by the AKC in 2010, his popularity has steadily increased from 60th place in 2012. Cane Corso’s are often mistaken for other mastiff breeds like the Boerboel or the Presa De Canario.

American Pitbull Terrier

American Pitbull Terrier History
The American Pitbull Terrier has a history that doesn’t always paint a great picture.

The American Pitbull Terrier (APBT) is one of four breeds that fall under the umbrella term ‘Pitbull,’ although it is believed by many that he is the original Pitbull.

The APBT is a descendant of dogs bred in England for bull baiting and rat pitting, and he was formed from the biggest and most powerful dogs fighting dogs, who then became known as the APBT. His fighting origins gave birth to his reputation as a vicious dog, but unless trained to be vicious, he is not at all.

To some, he is known as an intelligent farming dog and a sweet family companion. To others, he is still seen as a ferocious dog who has no place in the family home. However, through education and breed advocates such as Roofus and Kilo and their family farm of Pitbull rescues, they are once again becoming the American family favorite.

APBT’s are also usually classified incorrectly which has given them a checkered past. Many pups classified as APBT’s are actually APBT mixes or even other breeds that the APBT gets mistaken for, like the Staffordshire Terrier or American Bully who looks very similar.


Cane Corso vs American Pitbull Terrier Appearance
When comparing the Pitbull vs. the Cane Corso, you’ll find they can be similar in appearance, just different sizes.

The Cane Corso and the APBT are similar-looking dogs, with the Cane Corso looking like the much bigger sibling. The Cane Corso stands taller at 23 to 27 inches in height, whereas the APBT stands shorter at 17 to 21 inches. The Cane Corso weighs much more too, between 85 and 110 pounds, compared to the lighter APBT who weighs between 30 to 65 pounds.

They both have a muscular appearance, but the APBT is much leaner looking, with his muscles appearing much more defined. The Cane Corso often has a thicker and fuller body, sometimes with extra folds of skin.

Both of their coats are short and shiny in appearance, but the Cane Corso’s coat is much denser and rougher to the touch compared to the smooth coat of the APBT. They both sport the same color coats too, and both carry the brindle gene. The APBT is extremely popular when sporting a red coat, or a blue coat.

Due to their stocky appearance, with a muscular build and a broad muzzle and face, they often find themselves subject to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). States that impose BSL require different things, sometimes public muzzling or enhanced insurance is required, and in some states, some breeds are banned outright. For this reason, before you consider welcoming one of these guys into your home, be sure to check out your local laws.


Brown and Black Dog in Lush Grass
It is vital to socialize both breeds from an early age to combat some of their natural tendencies.

The APBT and the Cane Corso are both silly and playful with their immediate family, and you can expect a lot of fun and games with both of these breeds. They are both very fond and protective of their human siblings, and you will often find them cuddled up to the smaller pack members on the sofa. Due to their size, they should both be supervised with children and other animals, just in case of an accidental bump.

Because of their sociability, they are both prone to suffering from separation anxiety, and therefore it is important to supply them with brain games or treat rewarding puzzle games whilst you are gone, so to keep their mind occupied.

They are both very obedient dogs who are very eager to please their master. Because of this, they are both trainable. The APBT is very sociable with almost everyone, be that friend or stranger, so friends can relax when they knock at your gate.

However, the Cane Corso is much more of a dominant dog, and as such, he needs a master who is up to the challenge of being much more dominant than he is. The Cane Corso needs to be housed with a family who understands and follows the rules of pack mentality; otherwise, he can become quite an unruly and obnoxious dog. If you can achieve the perfect balance, he is a wonderful family pet to have around.

The Cane Corso is also very suspicious of strangers and will not allow anyone near his family unless instructed. He is very protective, never fully letting his guard down. However, he will be friendly and accepting of newcomers when told to do so. Therefore, if you are after a guard dog, the Cane Corso is the only option out of these two breeds.

With the Cane Corso’s protectiveness and the APBT’s potential fear of aggression against other dogs, it is really important to socialize both of these guys from an early age. This ensures they are comfortable with all other animals, especially other dogs, and other humans. This massively increases the chances of your pooch being a well-mannered and balanced family pet that is not too overprotective.


Two Dogs Running in the Snow
Expect for your Cane Corso or Pitbull to spend an hour a day burning off energy.

Both the Cane Corso and the APBT require around one hour of exercise a day, and because of their power and intelligence, the exercise needs to be of high intensity, as a long walk just won’t do. Interactive fetch sessions, a swim in the local lake, or agility courses are a great way for them both to burn off their energy and be sure to mix it up throughout the week.

A bored or restless APBT or Cane Corso are powerfully destructive dogs, so do not underestimate their exercise needs.

With that being said, they are both partial to a snooze in the evening while relaxing and watching a film, just expect the Cane Corso to sleep with one eye open. The APBT, on the other hand, will likely be found on his back with four paws to the sky, dreaming and snoring away.


Dogs Looking Up
Though both dogs are highly trainable, the CaneCorse if not recommended for first-time dog owners.

As previously mentioned because both the Cane Corso and the APBT are so eager to please their master, they are easily trained with consistent training. Positive reward training is the key for both of these guys, so be sure to reward them with toys or a belly rub when they have performed the desired behavior, and undoubtedly the odd small treat will work wonders too.

Ensure that the whole family is on board with their training routine and that the command words are simple, clear, and consistent. It is also important to involve children with their training routine, particularly the Cane Corso so that they view children as one of their caregivers who are higher up in the pack than they are.

Many Cane Corso owners suggest that the Cane Corso is not for a first-time dog owner, as he will challenge the pack hierarchy if he feels that his master is not dominant enough. For this reason, it would be ideal to enroll your Cane Corso in obedience classes as soon as you can, so to maximize your chances of having a very obedient pup who will not feel the need to challenge you.

It is also important to recognize that the Cane Corso’s training will be a lifelong commitment, as he needs to remember who is boss. Generally, APBTs do not challenge his master, so he is much more suited to families with little dog training experience.


Senior Black Dogs
There are few health issues to be concerned about with either breed.

Both the Cane Corso and the APBT are very healthy dogs who suffer from fewer health problems compared to most other purebred dogs. The Cane Corso’s lifespan is 9 to 12 years and the APBT’s lifespan is 12 to 16 years.

The APBT is known to suffer from skin allergies, with grass allergies being the most common followed by nutritional intolerances, but this can be alleviated with medication and high-quality kibble. Occasionally, he is also known to suffer from Cerebellar Abiotrophy, which results in a reduction of mobility that is caused by damage to a part of his brain.

They are both known to suffer from Hip Dysplasia, and the Cane Corso is also known to suffer from Elbow Dysplasia, which is characterized by an abnormally formed joint that causes pain and difficulty when walking. The Cane Corso is also required to be tested for cardiac issues such as Dilated Cardiomyopathy.


Happy Black and Brown Dogs With Tongues Out
High-protein kibble is recommended for both of these energetic breeds.

The Cane Corso eats around three cups of food a day, and the APBT will eat around 2 ½ cups. Of course, this varies between individuals depending on their size and energy levels, but most kibble packaging will suggest an amount to feed him based on his weight.

If you feel that this is not quite right for your Cane Corso or APBT, then be sure to speak to your Veterinarian for tailored nutritional advice.

They should both be fed a high-quality kibble that is specifically designed for larger breeds and being muscular and energetic dogs, it is important that their kibble provides them with a protein content of at least 25%.

Many APBT’s suffer from grain intolerances; therefore, you may need to feed your Pitbull a grain-free dog food if you find he is suffering from skin discomfort, but again be sure to speak to your Veterinarian. Ensure that their nutrition is age-appropriate and don’t allow them to free graze as they can become quite porky if left to their own devices.


Close Ups of Black and Blue Dogs
Pitbulls tend to have more sensitive skin, but both breeds are very low maintenance.

The APBT and the Cane Corso are relatively simple to look after in regard to their grooming needs. They both require a brush once a week to ensure that their coat is kept looking smooth and shiny, and to promote blood circulation in their skin.

They only require a bath once every two months or so, unless of course, they get super dirty while out playing or exercising. You may find that the APBT needs to be bathed more often simply because he has an affinity for rolling around in mud pits, which is why he is nicknamed the ‘velvet hippo.’

Because the APBT is known for skin allergies and sensitive skin, it is important to purchase doggy cleaning products that are designed for sensitive skin, particularly if you have to wash him more often than the desired amount, as this will help to avoid irritation and damage to his natural skin oils.


Black and Tan Puppies Standing in Grass
It is easier to find a Pitbull in a shelter, so they tend to be the more affordable out of the two breeds.

The Cane Corso is more expensive than the APBT, mainly because he is rarer than the APBT, but also because he is bigger and requires more resources to raise. A Cane Corso puppy from a reputable breeder will cost between $1,500 and $1,800, whereas an APBT puppy will cost between $800 and $1,000.

It is important that you work with a reputable breeder to ensure that their puppies are bred from healthy parents, and who have also had the best start to life.

It is also important to consider rescuing here, too. Both the Cane Corso and the APBT find themselves in rescue homes simply because their previous owners underestimated their exercise needs and intense personalities. While you may not get to be aware of his parental lineage, or where or how he was raised, you can be certain that rescue centers will only rehome healthy and well-mannered pooches.

Not only will you be saving a doggy life, but you will also be saving a lot of money as rescue fees range, on average, from $100 to $300. To start your rescue search, head over to the Pitbull Rescue Center website, or the Cane Corso Rescue website, or speak to your local rescue center.

Final Thoughts

Both the Cane Corso and the APBT are affectionate, loving and loyal dogs with their family, they are just misunderstood by many that haven’t met or don’t know much about them. Hopefully, you are now armed with the information that you need to make a decision about which one would suit you and your family better, but know that with either breed, you will be getting one of the most loyal and loving dogs around!

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