A Cane Corso is described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a working dog with an imposing appearance. This look is achieved through the breed’s athletic build and stiff coat, which comes in various colors.
Many of these are recognized by major kennel clubs, while some are viewed to be problematic.
As per the standards set by the AKC and the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI), the only acceptable Cane Corso colors are black, black brindle, gray, gray brindle, fawn, red, and chestnut. The solid red and fawn-colored pups may have a gray or black mask, but it should not go beyond their eyes.
Aside from the colors mentioned above, there are still some other hues that are yet to be recognized, and it is for a good reason. I will be digging more on this as this article progresses.
Does Color Really Matter?
The short answer to this is yes, a dog’s coat color matters even though there is very little proof that it affects its temperament and behavior.
Why, you ask? There is a lot of scientific evidence that some shades reflect congenital problems that a puppy may possess.
For instance, a study conducted by the University of Sidney published in Science Daily reported that coat color directly impacts a puppy’s life expectancy.
They specifically pointed out that dogs with liver or chocolate coloration are more prone to obesity, joint conditions, and ear infections.
In connection to this, another research was done to look at how 11,000 dogs would perform at the BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response).
Results suggest that the merle, white, and piebald coat color are at a greater risk of being affected by congenital hearing loss.
If you aren’t aware of these health issues related to a dog’s shade, you might purchase a pup with a poor health condition and shed off a significant amount of cash for vet visits in the long run.
What Are the Different Colors of Cane Corsos?
Although there may be some term differences in how the FCI and the AKC describe these coat colors, it is generally known that Cane Corsos have seven major shades. They are the following:
Black Cane Corso
Black is among the most sought after colors of Cane Corsos because they make the pup appear more menacing. This color is produced through one of the two pigments that occur in dogs called eumelanin.
Since the black Cane Corso isn’t homozygous for dilution, their eumelanin remains black, leading to a solid black coat.
Aside from being phantom-looking, some other notable features of a black Cane Corso is their black nose and brown eyes. This canine’s appearance exudes power and strength; that’s why any intruder would probably take a step back and run in just the sight of them.
Black Brindle Cane Corso
The FCI and the AKC also recognize the black brindle Cane Corso. These dogs are notable for their brown or red base and their so-called “tiger stripes,” which are black in color. Cane Corsos with this coat are perfectly normal, and they don’t reflect any genetic anomaly.
To solidify my claim, let me share the result of a study conducted by a breeder from the Czech Republic named Evzen Korec.
According to Korec, Black Brindle Cane Corsos have the longest life span among other breed colors, with a median age of 10.3 years.
Grey Cane Corso
A grey Cane Corso got its coat color from the recessive dilute gene (d), which inhibits the eumelanin production in a dog’s coat.
This usually happens when both Corso parents who are carriers or this dilute gene have passed it on to their offspring and produced a grey shade, which is also called blue by many breeders.
Gray Brindle Cane Corso
A gray brindle Cane Corso isn’t as typical as the solid gray pup. They possess a brown base color, just like the black brindle, and their stripes are grayish or blue. Their coat patterns that appear blotchy at times are as equally stunning as other brindle puppies.
Fawn Cane Corso
A fawn Cane Corso has a coat that ranges from cream to brownish tan. They are often mistaken as the red Cane Corso, but the AKC and FCI described the two as distinct from one another. Fawn Cane Corsos have a black or gray mask that does not go beyond their eyes.
Red Cane Corso
The color of a red Cane Corso is developed through the pigment on their fur called pheomelanin. This red pigment concentration varies through different genetic pathways, which results in an array of red shades.
There are some Corsos with a deep mahogany shade, while others possess a pale champagne color.
Like the fawn Cane Corso, these red-colored puppies have a gray or black mask around their eyes, which are highly pigmented on their muzzles.
Chestnut Brindle Cane Corso
The chestnut brindle Cane Corso is another striped dog variety that isn’t as common as the black and gray brindle. They feature a brown or red tone for their base, while their stripes are a saturated reddish-brown.
They appear almost like the black brindle in dim lighting, but the difference is very much visible in natural light.
Do Blue Cane Corsos Exist?
The confusion about whether the blue Cane Corso exists is rooted in the terms used by the AKC and the FCI on their breed standards for this dog.
Instead of using blue to label a dilute of black pigment, they named the coat color grey.
To clarify, in the context used in the Cane Corso breed standard, the grey coat also refers to blue even though it is not directly stated.
This is why you’ll come across some pet owners who address their pup with a steely-gray tone as blue Cane Corso.
If ever a breeder you have business with claims that blue Cane Corso doesn’t exist, be extra careful. You don’t want to transact with someone who did not bother to look up whether blue and grey are the same.
Other Cane Corso Colors
The AKC doesn’t recognize the following Cane Corso colors, but I included them in this guide because some breeders sell these dogs at a much higher price to take advantage of interested buyers.
They claim that these color varieties are merely rare and do not carry any diseases when the truth is, they are predisposed to most canine health issues.
Blue Fawn/Formentino Cane Corso
The Formentino Cane Corso is more commonly known as the blue fawn. It has a pale beige or washed out fawn coat color, and its nose has a blue or grey tone.
What makes this pup interesting aside from its coat is the color of its eyes, which almost appears to be clear. This is further highlighted by the blue mask and the pigmentation on their muzzle.
Do you know the difference between a fawn Cane Corso and a fermentino Cane Corso? Check out this video to find out!
If you wonder why they have a unique name, they resemble the shade of “fermented wheat.” The Italian translation of this is Formentino; hence, they are called as such.
Chocolate/Liver Cane Corso
The Chocolate or Liver Cane Corso almost resembles the red Cane Corso, but they are entirely different. In fact, this color is considered a fault of a number of kennel organizations.
You can easily distinguish a chocolate Cane Corso from other dogs because their nose and the skin around their eyes have a pink-purple tone. They also have green-toned hazel eyes, and some of them have a black mask.
Unfortunately, even though this dog looks strong and powerful, they are more prone to diseases than the other Cane Corso colors. This is because they are usually bred for their coat and not their health.
Isabella/Tawny Cane Corso
The Isabella Cane Corso is also tagged as a serious fault by distinguished kennel clubs because they are also bred for color and not their health.
Their coat is a dilute shade of liver, and their nose and mucous membranes have a pink-purple tone. Most of them have green-toned hazel eyes similar to the chocolate Cane Corso.
What Are the Rarest and Most Common Colors of Cane Corsos?
According to the study of Evzen Korec entitled “Inheritance of coat color in the Cane Corso Italiano dog,” the most common color for this breed is black.
However, all the remaining colors in the breed standard are not identified as rare because they can easily be found on licensed kennel facilities.
In terms of the rarest Cane Corso colors, you may refer to the list below:
- Chocolate or Liver
- Isabella Fawn
These tones are uncommon because they are a result of recessive genes. Originally, they do not indicate crossbreeding since they can occur without genetic manipulation.
However, there are many breeders these days who breed Cane Corsos to achieve these rare shades. They then sell the pups for a ridiculous price even though they are perfectly aware that they might carry congenital diseases.
This is a video of an extremely rare Cane Corso. He is the only straw Cane Corso in the USA and one of around 10-20 straw Cane Corsos in the world.
Cane Corso Coat Genetics: Why Do Cane Corsos Have Many Different Colors?
Explaining why Cane Corsos have different coat colors would require a detailed genetic analysis of each shade. I know you do not have time for that, so I’ll try to give you the information you need in the shortest way possible.
There are two types of pigments that determine the color of your Cane Corso, and these are the eumelanin and the phaeomelanin. Both pigments have a default color modified by the genes inherited from the dog’s parents.
Since eumelanin’s default color is black, it can turn to brown, blue/gray, and pale brown when diluted.
On the other hand, the phaeomelanin produces red, orange, gold, cream, tan, and other related colors when modified. Genes can control the intensity of the phaeomelanin as it influences the eumelanin.
What distinguishes these two melanin pigments from each other are the parts of the dog that they affect. Eumelanin is responsible for the color of the Cane Corso’s coat, eyes, and nose. Meanwhile, phaeomelanin only affects the dog’s coat color.
The Effect of Coat Color on Cane Corso’s Health and Behavior
As discussed in one of the former sections, there is very little evidence that proves that the coat color of a dog is related to its behavior. This also applies to Cane Corsos because no research is conducted to this day that reveals the connection between the two.
If you are going to scour the internet looking for proof, you’ll just be presented with a bunch of myth-based articles that do nothing to shed light on this issue.
What you should focus on is understanding the different health problems associated with dogs who are bred for color.
This issue is thoughtfully investigated by veterinary scholars for many years, so I can assure you that it is well worth your time, especially if you are a beginning pet owner.
Do you want to know the average lifespan of your Cane Corso pup based on its coat color? Check out this video to found out!
Here are some health problems experienced by dogs who are unethically bred for color:
- Deafness: Deafness is characterized by hearing loss due to a chronic ear infection caused by a genetic defect. This is mostly present on most merle dogs.
- Eye Deformities: Eye deformities in dogs bred for colors such as the Formentino, chocolate, and isabella fawn include microphthalmia, subluxated pupils, and anisocoria. These conditions impair their vision, which frequently leads to blindness.
- Sunburn: Dogs who lack pigments are more sensitive to sun exposure. This causes sunburn, which is one of the major sources of skin infection when left untreated.
- Skin Cancer: Skin cancer in dogs is ultimately caused by their skin pigments and their exposure to the sun. Dogs bred for color are susceptible to three types of skin cancer: malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and mast cell tumors.
- Colour Dilution Alopecia: This is a genetic disease that leads to skin problems and hair loss. Isabella fawns are more prone to this condition.
- Black Hair Follicular Dysplasia: This disease targets dogs with black, chocolate, or liver coat. The common symptoms are hair loss, dull coat quality, dry and scaling skin, and skin infections.
- Otitis Externa: This disorder occurs when the external ear canal of a dog becomes inflamed. Most liver Cane Corsos are afflicted by this.
- Pyotraumatic Dermatitis: Dogs who have pyotraumatic dermatitis have lesions that are swollen and plaque-like. If left untreated for a few hours, the dog’s hair may crust or mat. This is common in pups with a liver coat.
Do Cane Corso Puppies Change Colors as They Grow?
The answer to this is yes and no. To illustrate, it is possible for a light gray Cane Corso to change into a much deeper gray shade, but it can’t turn into a red or a formentino. That’s not how genetics work.
As puppies mature, their markings may shrink or expand, but they won’t turn into color on the opposite end of the spectrum. The changes in their color are subtle and often brought about by the following factors:
- Nutritional Status
- Skin disease
So, when do you register your pups if they change colors?
The AKC actually requires registration to be submitted within 12 months of the litter being registered.
It doesn’t really matter if they change colors after being registered, they’re still the same loving puppy both on paper and in real life! Generally speaking though, most owners register their pups after the 12-week mark.
READ NEXT: 10 Best Cane Corso Breeders (2023): Our Top 10 Picks!
Cane Corso Eye and Nose Colors
According to the AKC and FCI, here are the two acceptable Cane Corso eye colors:
- Dark Hazel Eyes: For dogs with black muzzles and coat colors of black, black brindle, fawn, and red.
- Lighter Shades: For dogs with gray muzzles and coat colors of gray, gray brindle, fawn, and red.
These eye colors naturally lighten as the dogs mature, but the rule of thumb is that the iris should be as dark as the puppy’s coat color. The eye shades that are considered faulty for the Cane Corso are blue and yellow.
In terms of the Cane Corsos nose colors, AKC states that it should match the dog’s coat. For instance, dogs with black coats should have black noses. Similarly, dogs with gray coats should have gray noses.
Commonly Asked Questions
Can Cane Corsos Be White?
The solid white Cane Corso does not exist. What most pet owners mistake as a white dog is actually a formentino Cane Corso who has a washed-out carbon color.
However, it is essential to add that this dog breed may have white patches on their chin, throat, chest, backs of the pasterns, and toes.
What Do the “Black Mask” and “Gray Mask” Mean in the AKC Breed Standard?
The terms “black mask” and “gray mask” used in the AKC breed standard pertain to a melanistic pattern extending from the dog’s muzzle to its ears.
These masks are often seen on puppies with the following coat color: red, fawn, yellow, tan, and brindle.
The Cane Corso is an impressive working dog that comes in an array of solid and brindle colors. Seven of them are recognized by the AKC, which includes black, black brindle, gray, gray brindle, red, fawn, and chestnut.
Meanwhile, three colors are considered rare and faulty because they are a product of a recessive gene. They are the formentino, chocolate or liver, and isabella or tawny.
In looking for a specific color, make sure that the breeder you’re transacting with is fully aware of this breed’s standard colors.
Please do not purchase a dog from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill because they are probably tricking you into believing that they have healthy rare colored pups. But in reality, those are bred in an unethical manner and are probably predisposed to certain diseases.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.