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Pit Bull vs Cane Corso: Which breed is better for you?

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso
(Image credit: Getty)

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso – which should you choose? It's a difficult choice, for sure, but there are more than enough differences between them to enable you to make an informed choice. Do you, for example, want a strong yet sociable dog who loves to goof around? Then you're more likely to fall in love with a Pit Bull. Rather have a larger dog that adores you but is more standoffish with strangers? Perhaps a Cane Corso will be preferable.

Here we look at both breeds in greater detail, in a similar way to our Bullmastiff vs Pit Bull head-to-head. As you'll discover, either of them is capable of becoming a lovely pet and a joy to have around the home. Both breeds are also low maintenance and bristling with enough energy to keep you on your toes. Still, there are concerns over their temperament so we'll be discussing whether or not their reputation is earned. The battle is well and truly on!

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso: Origins

Pit Bulls were originally bred from Old English Bulldogs in the United Kingdom during the early 19th century. They were primarily used for bear and bull baiting until the practice was banned, after which many owners sadly turned to rat-baiting instead – a terrible sport played out in a pit, hence the dog's name.

Before long, the dogs were being taken to the US by settlers where they were loved for their protective qualities. But there isn't actually a single Pit Bull breed. In the US, the name is used in reference to the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully and, in some instances, the American Bulldog.

The same isn't true of the Cane Corso – which is very much a single breed. These dogs have also long been prized for their guarding instinct while proving to be very capable hunters too. Part of a sub-category of breeds known as the Molloser, the Cane Corso became popular in Greece where they caught the attention of invading Romans.

After breeding them with native Italian breeds, the Romans used them as war dogs and for gladiator games – they would fight bears and lions to the death. Eventually they became working dogs on Italian farms and pets in homes across the world.

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso: Size and appearance

Quickly glance at a Pit Bull then avert your gaze towards a Cane Corso and you can certainly see some similarities. Both are muscular dogs with square-shaped heads and powerful jaws but there are certainly lots of differences, the key one being size. The Cane Corso is classed as a large breed thanks to its average height of 28 inches (71 centimeters). Pit Bulls, meanwhile, are medium-sized dogs and grow between 13 and 24 inches (35 and 60 centimeters) in height, making them noticeably smaller.

There is also a big difference in weight. An adult Cane Corso adult can weigh between 85 pounds (38 kg) and 100 pounds (45kg) but it's rare to see a Pit Bull going much beyond 80 pounds (36kg) although it means they're heavy for their size. A Cane Corso also has a longer and wider muzzle than a Pit Bull, with a more wrinkled face and looser-looking skin beneath a short coat that's thick and stiff. By contrast, Pit Bulls have a short smoother-looking coat across much tighter skin, and their unwrinkled faces – pierced by round-to-almond shaped eyes – are topped by smaller ears.

Are Cane Corsos more aggressive than Pit Bulls?

Let's get one thing out of the way – you wouldn't want to be attacked by either of these breeds. A Pit Bull has a bite force of 235 pounds per square inch (psi) which is more than a human bite force of 162 psi. But the Cane Corso is far stronger with a bite force of 700 psi which is higher than that of a lion! 

So does that mean you need to be wary of either of them? Yes and no. Although the dogs can cause some serious damage, neither should display signs of aggression if they are trained and socialized from a very young age. In fact, the vast majority of these dogs are friendly and great with older kids (they can dominate younger children). They are also usually calm, affectionate and loyal.

Of the two, Pit Bulls tend to be more sociable and, as we note in our look at 10 pawsome Pit Bull facts, this breed is also one of the friendliest, most fun-loving and patient pooches around – second only to the Labrador Retriever. The American Temperament Society says it passes the temperament test 87 percent of the time and it's fourth out of 122 for most affectionate and least aggressive dogs. 

But that's not to say they're perfect. According to DogsBite.org (opens in new tab), Pit Bulls are responsible for close to 70 percent of fatal dog attacks while Cane Corsos have been involved in some horrific incidents. In that sense, it's important to treat both breeds with the utmost respect and to be aware of their potential shortcomings. You should also ensure they're sufficiently mentally and physically challenged to prevent them from becoming bored.

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso: Exercise needs

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso

(Image credit: Getty)

Although a Cane Corso has less energy than a Pit Bull, both breeds still need to be kept active. Trouble is, they both have a high prey drive and that poses a challenge for any owner. Not only is it crucial that these dogs are kept mentally and physically active, you can't simply take either to a park, take them off the leash and let them run around – in fact, in many cases, you're going to have to keep them muzzled.

Instead, you'll need a good-sized, securely fenced yard to allow them to burn off their excess energy as well as the best dog toys to keep their mind ticking over. In that sense, there's very little between the breeds. You're looking at between 45 minutes to an hour of exercise as a bare minimum but you will find that they can both rest as hard as they play which will be a welcome relief at times.

Pit Bull vs Cane Corso: Grooming

If you're wondering, “do Cane Corsos shed?”, or if you're thinking the same of Pit Bulls, then the answer is yes in both cases. Thankfully, shedding is moderate despite occurring all year round. Since both breeds' hair is short, however, it's not much of a problem – a good vacuum cleaner will work wonders but just watch out for excessive shedding which can be a sign of dehydration or stress.

In general, you only need to brush regularly with the best dog brushes and, while you're at it, invest in the best dog nail clippers to keep their paws in tip-top shape and a good toothbrush to keep their teeth clean. It makes both breeds relatively low maintenance and it also means you're not going to be splashing the cash at the groomers. When considering how much does owning a Cane Corso cost you can be certain grooming isn't racking up the bills.

Is a Cane Corso stronger than a Pit Bull?

We've already seen, based on bite force alone, that a Cane Corso is likely going to be stronger than a Pit Bull. But strength goes beyond the power of a dog's jaw – you have to take into account their body as well. In this regard, the Cane Corso wins again! Aside from being larger, the Cane Corso is more muscular and could easily overpower a Pit Bull head-to-head (not that anyone wants to see dogs fighting, of course!). But you will discover a Cane Corso has less endurance – their main strength lies in speed and agility.

Pit Bulls have the potential to cause a lot of damage, though. A Cane Corso will bite but let loose, while Pit Bulls hold and shake, refusing to let go, and that can cause severe muscle and bone damage. But strength isn't purely physical, it's mental too. In this sense, Cane Corsos are tough-minded and they need to be very well trained by a patient and capable owner otherwise they'll become dominant and protective, seeking to push boundaries. Pit Bulls are more sociable and people-pleasing – they're more welcoming to strangers.

Are Cane Corsos smarter than Pit Bulls?

Both Cane Corsos and Pit Bulls are intelligent. They know what you're asking of them and they're more than capable of learning new commands and tricks with relative ease. Working out which is smarter is a difficult task, however. In general a Cane Corso is able to understand and memorize commands following between 15 and 25 repetitions. A Pit Bull will take a little longer – between 25 and 40 repetitions.

Yet behind those statistics is a stubborn streak which runs across both breeds. Getting through this may require some intelligent thinking of your own – or, at the very least, the best dog treats. Of the two, the Cane Corso is the more independent minded so being firm when training them is going to make a big difference. Both also need to be mentally challenged so it'd be interesting to see how they would fare head-to-head with these 12 great brain games for dogs.

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.