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English Mastiff vs. Cane Corso: Breed Differences & Similarities

Thinking of adopting a Cane Corso or English Mastiff, but aren't sure which of these gentle giants is a better fit for your lifestyle and family? Read on as we compare both breeds, including size, puppy costs, and more!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: July 15, 2021 | 9 min read

English Mastiff Comparison Cane Corso

Comparing the English Mastiff vs. the Cane Corso as your next family pet, or home guardian? The Mastiff and the Cane Corso are similar breeds, but they also have differences too. It is these differences that help owners decide which one to choose. Here in this breed guide, we will walk you through all of the differences and similarities, along with a few fun facts along the way.

Both dog breeds are considered giant dogs. They will both easily weigh in at over 100 pounds, making them a lot to handle for new dog owners. If you are an inexperienced dog owner, we’d recommend not looking at either of these two breeds. With that being said, few dogs are more loyal than the English Mastiff or the Italian Mastiff, also known as the Cane Corso.

In this guide, we answer questions such as which breed makes the best protection dog and which one makes the better family dog. Both the Cane Corso and the English Mastiff were bred for different purposes, so it’s important to understand the nature of these breeds before deciding which is a better fit for your family. Let’s jump in and compare these two gentle giants!

Breed Comparison

English Mastiff

  • Height 27-30 Inches
  • Weight 120-230 Pounds
  • Temperament Courageous, Dignified, Good-Natured
  • Energy Low
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 6-10 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Cane Corso

  • Height 23-27 Inches
  • Weight 90-110 Pounds
  • Temperament Intelligent, Regal, Affectionate
  • Energy Medium
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 9-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

It is essential to look into a dog’s history because it can tell you a lot more about what they will be like as a family pet. Knowing what they were bred for will help you understand what you need to give them as their dog mom or dog dad. Plus, it is always good to be armed with a few fun facts about your dog.

Mastiff

English Mastiff Fawn Color
The English Mastiff is one of the most popular giant breed dogs.

During the Roman invasion in 55 BC, the Romans encountered the beastly dogs who protected the British Isles. They were the ancestors of the Mastiff, and Julius Caesar was super impressed by them. He took them back to Rome, where he fought them in battle against gladiators and other ferocious animals.

Over time we fell out of favor with blood spots, and we soon realized how loving and affectionate he was as a family pet. His fearsome qualities were subdued, and we perfected the breed that we know and love today. He is one of, if not the, largest dog breeds known to man.

Zorba, the heaviest Mastiff known to man, weighed an impressive 343 pounds. Because of their enormous size, you can often find the English Mastiff being compared to the Saint Bernard, or facing off against the Great Dane.

Cane Corso

Black Cane Corso Outdoors
The Cane Corso is also known as the Italian Mastiff.

The Cane Corso also descends from large Roman war dogs. Instead of fighting, though, he was used as a versatile farm dog. He herded sheep, drove cattle to the market, and pulled carts, as well as protecting his family and their property. He was also used for hunting wild boar and other game to earn his keep.

Soon after the Industrialization era, he nearly became extinct. But thankfully, breed lovers in Italy brought him back to life, using his larger cousin, the Neopolitan Mastiff. In 1988, the Corso made his way to America. He quickly became popular and is often confused for the American Pitbull Terrier.

Appearance

Mastiff and Cane Corso Fawn Colored
The English Mastiff and Cane Corso can have similar coat colors but have distinctly different features.

Those who don’t know these breeds would say that they look slightly similar due to their shape and build. But for those that know the Mastiff and the Cane Corso can see the distinct differences.

Instantly, you can see that the Mastiff is the largest of the two breeds. The Cane Corso is a large dog breed, with the Mastiff being considered a giant breed. At their heaviest, the Mastiff can be twice as heavy as the Corso. Many families base their decision on this alone. Fewer families have the space for the mighty Mastiff.

They are both square and stocky in appearance, and you can see that they are both descendants of large Mollaser type dogs. The Cane Corso, with a less canine chunk, is more athletic and muscular in appearance. They both have skin rolls, a big square nose, and droopy jowls.

They both have short and sleek coats that are double-layered to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The Mastiff usually sports a fawn and apricot jacket with a black facial mask. Sometimes, he sorts a brindle coat. The Cane Corso has a few more color options, such as solid black, chestnut, gray, red, fawn, and several brindle shades.

Temperament

Cane Corso and English Mastiff Different Colors
Both breeds are of Molosser heritage and carry similar personality traits, but also differ.

The Mastiff and the Cane Corso are both similar and different in their personality. They both adore their family, and they are super affectionate and loving. Far from their big burly appearance, they are real sweethearts.

Both breeds do not extend this love to strangers, however, as they are both aloof with outsiders. Both the Corso and the English Mastiff share this trait with the Neapolitan Mastiff, which is why they are excellent guardian dogs.

The difference comes with how they actually approach strangers. Mastiffs will typically stay calm and collected, barking on occasion. He will step back and keep a watchful eye on his family. He is very courageous and will not hesitate to protect his family if he feels the need to.

But not the Cane Corso. Instead, he will step right next to his family and stand guard. Corso’s are known as the ‘bodyguard dog,’ and they are known to become overprotective. This is a natural instinct, which is why they should only be taken on by an experienced owner who knows how to deal with dominant dogs.

The Cane Corso is intelligent but stubborn, and the Mastiff is stubborn, and (sorry Mastiff lovers!) not so intelligent. He a stubborn pup, but this is all a part of his charm. If you want a pooch that does all sorts of tricks, neither breed should be considered.

Talking of goofballs, they are both fun and love to play with their family. If you are looking for a dog to get involved with family games, they are both up to the job. Despite their formidable exterior, they are great family dogs to have. They both get along well with children, and they can both exist alongside other pets if they are socialized well as a pup.

Exercise

Running Mastiff and Cane Corso Dogs
English Mastiffs will need less exercise than the more active Cane Corso.

The Mastiff and Cane Corso have different exercise needs. The Mastiff needs far less and would be happy with approximately 30-45 minutes every day. Because of his large body, his exercise doesn’t need to be too vigorous. Instead, fun and steady exercise is ideal. You might have to persuade him that he needs a walk because this boy loves to nap on a cozy mastiff-sized dog bed.

On the other hand, the Corso will need a bit more at around 60 minutes every day. But, his exercise needs to be intense to expel that energy of his. You won’t have to convince this guy – he will always be up for adventures. To keep him stimulated, it is wise to chuck in a mixture of activities into his weekly routine to keep him interested.

Although they both need to be exercised to stay sane and happy, the Cane Corso will become restless and destructive if you lock him up all day. Compared to the Mastiff, who will happily skip a day of exercise. If you are after a more active pooch, the Corso will make the better option. Or, if you like a casual stroll and a snuggle buddy most days, the Mastiff is ideal.

Training

Two Dogs Training Outdoors
Expect to put in some time training both breeds.

The Mastiff and the Cane Corso have slightly different needs when it comes to their training. They are both stubborn and need obedience training straight away if you want them to transform into polite pooches. You also need to understand that you will never find a 100% obedient pooch in either of these breeds.

Because they are both really stubborn, we wouldn’t recommend either of them for a first-time owner. However, the Cane Corso is a very dominant dog who needs a strong master who understands dog mentality. The Mastiff is less dominant. The Cane Corso’s training is a lifelong commitment that shouldn’t be undertaken by the faint-hearted.

As protective dogs, they both need to be socialized well as pups to ensure that they do not become overprotective. Make each experience with other dogs and unfamiliar humans as pleasant as possible so that they learn that not everyone and everything is an enemy.

The Cane Corso’s motivation will be a mixture of human praise and edible treats. Compared to the Mastiff, who will always pick a treat (or five) over praise. Positive reinforcement training is the most effective training method for them both. Just be sure to keep training lessons short and sweet to pique their interest.

Health

English Mastiff and Cane Corso in Field
The Cane Corso typically has fewer health issues than the English Mastiff.

The Cane Corso lives longer than the Mastiff, primarily because the Mastiff is a giant dog breed. Generally, giant dog breeds have a much shorter lifespan than most. On average, the Mastiff lives between 6 to 10 years, compared to the Cane Corso, who enjoys 9 to 12 years.

Reputable breeders are required to test both breeds for the exact same health concerns. That is hip and elbow dysplasia, and ophthalmology tests for eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts. As well as cardiac problems, in particular dilated cardiomyopathy.

They can also both suffer from a life-threatening condition known as gastric torsion, also known as bloat. This is where the stomach distends, causing pressure and oxygen starvation to other organs, internal tears, and difficulty breathing. It needs immediate veterinary attention, so please make yourself familiar with the symptoms.

Nutrition

Mastiff and Corso Waiting on Food
Both the English Mastiff and Cane Corso have healthy appetites.

Both breeds like to eat. Because of the Mastiff’s size, you can expect an English Mastiff to be more expensive when it comes to food. Mastiffs can eat up to eight full cups of Mastiff appropriate dog food, every single day. Depending on the type of food your feed your pup, this can get quite expensive. Mastiffs are known to have sensitive stomachs. So there’s a possibility you’ll need to rely on a Grain-Free, or Pea-Free dog food, all of which can become expensive.

The Cane Corso eats less. They are smaller, but typically will eat between three and six cups of dry kibble per day, depending on their gender and size. Cane Corsos are also more active, meaning they will burn calories quicker than the Mastiff, and are less likely to become overweight.

Grooming

Two Giant Breed Dogs Needing Groomed
Both the English Mastiff and Cane Corso will need regular grooming.

The Mastiff and the Cane Corso are also very similar when it comes to their grooming regime. They both have short and tight coats. Both breeds shed moderately throughout the year and heavier during the shedding seasons. They both only need a brush once a week to keep them looking fresh and shiny. If you are lucky enough to own a Mastiff with long hair, expect to groom your dog more frequently.

Cane Corso and Mastiff bath time should happen once every 8 to 12 weeks. Use a gentle shampoo that uses natural ingredients. The Mastiff is known to have a more pungent doggy odor than some other breeds, but this should be enough to prevent strong odors. The Mastiff is also the biggest dribbler out of the two. But if you aren’t a fan of doggy dribble, neither of these breeds is the one for you.

Puppy Prices

English Mastiff and Cane Corso Puppy
Prices start around $1,000 for both the English Mastiff and Cane Corso puppy.

As large breeds with similar popularity, they are, on average, both the same price. From a reputable breeder, prices start at around $1,000. If you want to work with a popular breeder, you may have to pay a little bit more and be put on a waiting list too.

Whatever breeder you decide to work with, please make sure that they are reputable and ethical breeders. Avoid puppy mills at all costs, even if they offer a lower puppy price. Not only will they breed unhealthy puppies, but they will not be socialized. This can be disastrous for large and protective dogs such as these guys, so the lower price is not worth it.

Alternatively, rescuing is another option, and you can expect prices to be lower. But finding a puppy is very unlikely. You can either visit your local rescue shelter or check out dedicated breed rescue websites. The Cane Corse Rescue and the Mastiff Club of America Rescue Foundation list dedicated breed centers.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. All of the similarities and differences between the Mastiff and the Cane Corso. They are both colossal dogs, but the Mastiff wins paws down on the size prize. Both breeds need experienced dog owners, but the Cane Corso more so. They both make fantastic guard dogs, but the Cane Corso is more sensitive when it comes to his family’s safety.

As long as you can give them both what they need, they will make fantastic dogs, for sure. They both love children and are fun goofballs who will bring lots of canine entertainment to the table. All you need to decide is which breed sounds more compatible with your lifestyle, and the rest will be history.

Leave a Comment

4 Comments

Heather

December 29, 2020 at 1:47 am

Loved this article and the comparisons. I currently have an English Mastiff and a Bullmastiff, and your descriptions of the breed were spot on. Well written! 👌

Kelly Wilson

December 29, 2020 at 10:14 pm

Thanks for the comment, Heather! We have an EM and an AM ourselves, so we know quite a bit about the breeds! Thanks for stopping by!

Kathy Flor

February 4, 2021 at 4:12 am

I loved this article! Very informative! My husband and I rescued our Elsa about 2 years ago after losing our 9 yr old boxer, Dempsey, to cancer of the spleen. I was drawn to her because of her size and strength, similar to a boxer. They said she was a mastiff mix. She had Lyme disease and another tick-borne disease and was loaded with worms. She was thin (80 lbs) about 1 1/2 yrs old and her coat was terrible. She was scared to death.

I decided to foster her at first. We got her all the proper meds she needed, got her on high-quality dog food, house trained her, and gave her lots of love. The shelter said they hoped she would fail foster care. They said that would mean I would adopt her. Well, I fell in love and adopted her just about 2 yrs ago. I signed us up for Petsmart training. She was scared to death of other dogs.

It took a lot of socializing. We would visit every store that allows dogs just to socialize her. We practiced everything we learned. After 12 weeks of training, we took a break but continued to practice every day. She now weighs over 110 lbs., has a shiny dark brindle coat and beautiful, clear bright eyes, and walks beautifully with me. She knows many commands including heel right, heel left, sit, leave it, no jump, take it "like a lady", and wait, lay all the way down.

She likes to play fetch and run and play on our 10 acres but always comes on command. Little by little she has learned that not all dogs are scary and now has many dog friends and cat friends, as well as people friends. My daughters come to visit with their Newfoundland puppy and cat and Elsa is a great hostess sharing her water dish and toys and bones. She adapts well as long as she can be with us.

Best of all, we got a dog DNA kit for Christmas and just got the results. She is 100% Cane Corso!! Not that it matters, we just adore her!! After Covid, I would love to go for more training and possibly get Elsa certified as a therapy dog. I know this breed is not recommended for therapy dogs, but Elsa is a very special girl!!

Kelly Wilson

February 4, 2021 at 3:32 pm

Hi Kathy! Thank you for sharing your experience with your Corso! We've used Embark twice now, and the results were 100% right on for us as well. Sounds like you have an amazing pup. We considered adopting a Corso rescue but ended up adopting an English Mastiff that has long hair.

No preference on our end, it just ended up that way. We love the Corso and all Mastiff breeds! Thanks for taking the time to comment and I'm glad you liked the article!