Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Which breed is right for you?

Boerboel lying on ground in forest
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re weighing up the pros and cons of the Cane Corso vs Boerboel in terms of which breed is best for you, you’ll be pleased to learn that both of these breeds are incredibly intelligent, loyal, and affectionate — making them an ideal choice if you’re looking for a protective pal to watch over you and your family.

Large and muscular, both the Cane Corso and the Boerboel are a type of Mastiff. However, while they can make wonderful companions, it’s worth noting that being big guardian dogs they must be trained and socialized from a young age to ensure they know how to engage appropriately with people and other dogs.

Although they are very loving and eager to please and learn, we don’t recommend these breeds for novice owners. They have a natural tendency to be assertive, dominant, and wilful, so they need a highly confident and experienced owner who will be able to take control and let them know who’s boss.

Feel ready to take on one of these breeds? Then read on to find out everything you need to know about the Cane Corso and Boerboel, from their strength and smarts to their grooming and exercise needs.

Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Origins

The Cane Corso dog is part of a subcategory of breeds known as the Molossus that were popular in Ancient Greece because of their guarding instincts. When the Romans invaded, they took some of the dogs back to Italy and bred them with native Italian breeds. At first, they accompanied soldiers into battle but, eventually, they came to be used by farmers to protect livestock.

The Boerboel, by contrast, hails from South Africa, where many settlers introduced large guard dogs for hunting and protection. Breeding with other mastiffs and bulldogs led to the breed's development and, just as Italian farmers loved the Cane Corso for their guarding instinct, the South African farmers sought to protect their homesteads from predatory animals. 

Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Size and appearance

Both breeds look similar to some degree. They have square-shaped heads and a long, broad muzzle and they are also roughly the same size – they each grow to roughly 28 inches (71cm) in height. 

The Boerboel is bulkier and it's not unknown for this breed to be twice the weight of a Cane Corso. That's not to say the Cane Corso isn't muscular – far from it – but the Boerboel can look more imposing and stocky simply because of that extra weight.

Otherwise, the main differences are color and coat. Boerboel fur is short and smooth whereas a Cane Corso's coat is short yet thicker and stiffer. Boerboels are usually lighter in color but the Cane Corso also tends to be black, even though there are red, fawn, and gray colors too. Interestingly, one of the top ten Cane Corso facts shows how lifespan may be linked to color, so bear that in mind.

Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Bite force

Nobody likes to get bitten but, let's be clear, both of these dogs have strong jaws. The Cane Corso is one of the strongest biters in this respect with a 700 psi bite force – that's enough to crush a house brick. By way of comparison, humans have a bite force of 162 psi. 

The Boerboel, on the other hand, has a bite force of 450 psi. That's still incredibly powerful, making them one of the world's most powerful dogs. Indeed, 450 psi is stronger than a grey wolf and on a par with a black piranha. It's why solid training is vital for both breeds.

Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Exercise needs

Cane Corso vs Boerboel

(Image credit: Getty)

Both breeds need a lot of exercise, both mentally and physically. If they are not kept busy, they will become destructive, which is why giving them the best dog chew toys, for instance, will be as important as taking them out for an hour's walk each day.

Of the two breeds, the Boerboel is more agile but both have high prey drives and need to be kept on a lead when you're out and about. If you are considering either breed, you ideally need a secure, fenced backyard in which they can run around. You also need a decent amount of indoor space as well. Both are big dogs and they dislike small spaces. Neither of them are the best large dogs for apartments.

Cane Corso vs Boerboel: Grooming

Both breeds are relatively low maintenance thanks to their short coats. So while you may wonder “do Cane Corsos shed?” or think the same of Boerboels, rest assured that shedding is moderate and nowhere near as much as other larger breeds. Even though shedding occurs all year round, weekly brushing with one of the best dog brushes will help avoid masses of hair spreading across your furnishing and clothes. 

Other than that, invest in the best dog nail clippers and keep their teeth clean. One thing's for sure, you won't be spending a fortune on grooming, so if you're pondering how much does owning a Cane Corso cost?, for instance, then you can at least cross this off the list.

Is a Cane Corso stronger than a Boerboel?

We've already seen the bite force of these breeds and noted that the Cane Corso is far more powerful in that respect. But the Boerboel has good muscle development and is the stockier of the two breeds, which gives it the edge in terms of strength.

Of course, strength is also mental and, in that respect, the Boerboel likely leads again. They are confident dogs with a distinct lack of fear and they're also very protective. Yet the Cane Corso is tough, too, and it will try and push boundaries. 

The big difference is that a Cane Corso tends to react to a potential danger more quickly than a Boerboel, which usually waits and assesses a situation before acting. It can make a Cane Corso more uncontrollable which, given their strength, could be dangerous. As always, however, training is key. 

Are Cane Corsos smarter than Boerboels?

When Stanley Coren, professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, wrote his book, The Intelligence of Dogs, in 1994, he didn't specifically include either the Cane Corso or the Boerboel. However, he found that Mastiffs were among the lowest degree of working and obedience intelligence. That's frustrating because Cane Corso and Boerboel breeds are known to be very smart indeed.

Both of these highly intelligent breeds are quick to learn but they also need experienced, confident, and consistent owners. Without sufficient mental stimulation, they soon become bored and destructive, which means it's hard to leave them alone for lengthy periods. As for which is smarter than the other, we'd have to call it a draw. There really is very little between them.

David Crookes

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.