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NEGLECTED SPECIFIC QUALITIES:
“Cane Corso’s tegument“
and various considerations, second part : coat’s colour
(translation by Federico)
Another element characterizing a dog’s tegument is the coat’s colour. Is well known that in some animals the colour is extremely important for the survivor or the predation because allow them to camouflage in the surroundings. For the Cane Corso, not existing these kind of motivations, the coat’s colour – beyond some belief  – has always been a secondary aspect except for the fact that for some tasks were employed subjects that, under the same conditions of “work capacity and efficacy”, had a colour that would have “mimetically” favor them in the task . So, for example, in the badger’s hunts – that were usually conducted during the night – were used “grey fawn (formentino)” coloured dogs to recognize them easily in the dark of the night, while for the watch-dogs were favored (always under the same conditions of aptitude) those with a dark coat because they could be better camouflaged in the darkness. The coat’s colour in a Cane Corso change depending on the different genetic blood lines; monochromatic coats comprend the black coat , fawn coat (in the different tonalities: dark, stag red and light), grey coat (in the different tonalities: slate, light and lead), brown coat and the grey fawn coat that, sometimes, could be so light to appear nearly white. Among the most traditional and ancient coats we have the “ashen” coat (consisting in a mix of white and black hair), honey-coloured coat (consisting in a prevalence of fawn hair with some white or yellow hair which chromatic aspect remind the honey one) and a kind of coat made by two or three components consisting in a monochromatic found, interrupted by more or less visible streaks, large and delicate, called, according their characteristic direction and disposition, “brindled, straked or winding (serpature)”.
As testified in the historical iconography of the Roman Molossian, from which without any doubt our Cane descends, is as archaic as the same even the presence in many subjects of some white spots, more or less widespread in the muzzle, in the chest and in the feet.
For this kind of colouration, we want to remind either Picciotto , employed in the selection and recovering project of Cane Corso, and what resulted in a research carried out by Paolo Paoletti some time before 1990.
Picciotto, coupled with Brina (daughter of Mirak and Alioth) gave birth to Tipsi that, coupled with Dauno, gave birth to Basir: the subject that has been taken in consideration by Dr. Morsiani in the compilation of the Standard.
Concerning the research of Paolo Paoletti , it was
conducted through nearly 160 interviews (in Salento,
Murge, Capitanata, southern Molise region, internal
zones of Campobasso and Benevento) and “the
deliberately simple method, has been to show to the
people interviewed 5 pictures of very morphologically
different subject, asking to indicate the most typical
one”. The coat that received the larger number of
consents (32%), presented large white spots on the
muzzle, on the feet and on the chest (see the picture
of the Guardian of Lucera’s dog).
In the Cane Corso, this particular colouration is an ancient reality testified by an iconography that contemplates ages and ages of history . This is true, as Dr. Morsiani and Dr. Mainardi say, even for the completely white Cane Corso . In his commentary to the standard , actually, Dr. Morsiani says that
“… it must be remarked that the iconography had fixed to the history
even white Cani Corso” after a previous affirmation in which he stated
that “When, during the early ‘80’s, the recovering Cane Corso project
started it was decided not to privilege in the selection process any
specific colour, but to take in consideration all the different colours
that the historiography and tradition has passed to us”.
That among “the colours that the historiography has passed to us
” would be surely included even the one characterized by a spread white
colouration (if we don’t want to take the disturb to resort on the
iconographic an historical evidences, or if we don’t want to take in
consideration Paoletti’s researches), can be understood by the
role that Picciotto assumed in the selection project for CC recovery.
And so? Why does nowadays the white (or even its spread presence) must be so dishonored since once it was very diffused and since it doesn’t lead to any health consequence? (white, alone, doesn’t mean albinism). The hypothesis according which “white” (spread or total) means “half-caste”, into the standard’s comment is not even touched (rightly!). If so it is, it would have been said by Dr. Morsiani, as he said – talking about the “mask” in the fawn subjects – that if it surpasses the eye line that is evidence of extraneous blood.
For the coat’s colours, Mr. Morsiani concludes peremptorily considering that “in the future the selection must be oriented on the four traditional colours: black, dark brindled, ashy and grey fawn” obtaining it from his previous specification: “… the coats that once were present were essentially four: black, dark brindled, ashy and grey fawn”. With all the respect that we owe to Him, for us it would have been more correct to say “… The coats that they presented to me”, (and not “the existing ones”) wanting to underline (and what we are about to say is true not only for the coat) that His meritorious work has been negatively contradicted by the fact that the statistic sample that he analyzed was not, in our opinion, very (or we should say “not at all”) representative of the universe of subjects that actually were present in that time on the territory.
A more deepened census, actually, would have requested more consistent effort and times that would have not reconciled with the decision of coming, in brief times, to the breed’s recognition. This was a political choice dictated, at that time, by comprehensible motivations and by an optimistic – and most of the time sincere – conviction that the road toward the improving and completing of the work made would have continued after the recognition.
It’s sad, nowadays, to see how this has not happened and how different is the dog obtained from the one that had to be recovered.
Back again to the coat’s colour, we read again the registries of the Civitella National Meeting trying to find new points of view. This is what Dr. S. Goldman expresses in His “Morpho-functional valuation of Cane Corso”: “According to my point f view, in the Cane Corso, even if together with the prohibition of ears cutting, it would be opportune to limit the coat’s colour to the streaked and the fawn tonalities ones and to the black ones with under-hair layer just to give to the long-ear Cane Corso a further peculiarity”. Even if respectable, this is a statement that we do not share, because it is based upon a personal aesthetic opinion and not upon the “reality” of our Dog.
On the contrary, we are sure that there isn’t any valid reason (for nobody gave the prove that the opposite is true) for not consider as Cane Corso’s peculiar colours, all the different kinds that history and tradition has passed to us. This was the way taken in the first part of the recover project and this had to be the only way to follow.
In His comment upon the Standard, Dr Morsiani underlines, in a very correct way, how some characteristics are essential “in a work breed as the one of Cane Corso”. Well, which is the end of the excellent subjects in the work, morphology and behavior but with a colour that does not appear in the standard? Must we erase them from the reproduction?
Nor we can hide behind a finger: for a breed with such far origins, puppets with that colouration will born even coupling together black, fawn, streaked, etc. subjects. Anyone who breeds with knowledge knows it!
Even without having finished the treatment (we will take it back) we want conclude, for now, calling back the English standard made by the genetics scholar Willis that, talking about the Alsatian Dog, says: “the colour itself is not important and has not effect on the character or ability to work so it must be considered as secondary”.
……… What amazing lesson of pragmatism!!!!
 To anyone who would like to study the complex genetic processes that regulate the coat’s colouration we recommend the specific scientific literature; we just want to say that the coat’s colour is due to a pigment (melanin) situated in its cortex (the “cortex” is the part situated between the “cuticula” and the “marrow”). In relation to the number of colours that compose it, the coat could be “simple” (monochromatic) or “composed” (two or three colours).
 Years ago, the selection of Cane Corso for its tasks on support of human works, was based upon natural – and not aesthetic – criteria. In the absence of an adequate prophylaxis and therapy, the defense from viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases was left only to the natural organism’s reactions: only the strongest survived (that is what actually happened even with “human puppies”) or they were saved. For this reason, the coat’s colour was not influential and, even if among the puppies there were all the possible colourations (bridle, grey fawn,……, brindle with a white spot on the chest – extended sometimes on the abdomen – on the feet and on the muzzle), the selection favored only the healthiest and strongest ones. And only those were breeded. The dogs were valuated while growing up: aptitudes were found and addressed to the best utilization and tested in the different tasks, the character was studied and (when it was easy to manage) moulded.
The optimal respond to the different functions (watch, defense, hunt, work, etc…) promoted the adult Cane Corso to “work mate” and made it worthy to the “human family” attentions.
In this way it became… “The Dog”. And if, when it was given a task to it, it kept on demonstrate its abilities contributing to the health (or in some cases to the survivor) of its owner, it was worthy to perpetuate its character, its physic, its coat and…, often, even its name.
Every family had its Cane Corso and maintained the blood line constituted by the subjects with the same character, structure, morphology and coat’s colour. Moreover, this contributed, maybe unconsciously, to avoid or manage the consanguinity. Looking at the Cane Corso, it was simple to understand from which family it came simply because anyone kept the same bloodline.
Today we would say that any family “had its affix”
According to the meaning that wants any blood line marked by the others for peculiarity and by particular and not shared characteristics, we think that many of those “sponsored” today are artful (and so fake) blood lines because characterized by strong relations either transversal (that is between a line and another) or wide.
 In the old times very much attention was given to hypothetical correlations between some character qualities and some morphological details, especially the colour. It was believed that, for example, a spot or a star or a list more or less large and lengthened on the front of the muzzle, could be a sign of power and health. This regarded all the animals and, in particular, the dog and the horse into which, the man, sought the best functionality. For these purposes some breeds as grey hounds and molossians were reserved to the aristocratic people that, moreover, had the means to keep entire dog packs.
 Is not possible to say the same for the Mastino Abruzzese which white coat has the purposes essentially functional that may be deduced by what follows.
Some shepherds (the real practical users) say that the sheep dog, that is the Mastino Abruzzese – the best existing dog for the sheeps’ guard – , must born in the “net”, that is that kind of fence that keeps safe and united the sheeps during the night or during the moving. The Mastino’s puppies, opening for the first time the eyes in the flock, beyond the mother they are able to see the sheeps too. This determinates a strong relation between both that is “extended” by the same coat’s colouration. Several times before Him, the shepherd noted empirically the practical effects of what the great K. Lorenz scientifically codified with the “Imprinting”.
The adult dog will never attack the sheeps to which it is attached in a nearly morbid way and which will defend from the wolves’ attacks that, mostly, attacks during the night. To the shepherd who runs to help the dog in the defense of the flock is easy recognize the wolf, which colour is different from the white of the sheeps and the white of the Abbruzzesi.
 Must be noticed that once the black coat presented white spots on the feet, on the chest, on the muzzle and on the front (list). The completely black subject was very rare.
 - “brindled”: reminds the characteristic dispositions of the strakes on the tigers’ coat along the hips (ex. light fawn brindled, or black brindled on mixed basis, ore more – in the brindled with three components – grey basis and black or brown brindles);
- “winding (serpature)”: referred to the snake shape of the strikes (ex. Grey fawn serpato);
- “straked”: with particularly irregular and random strakes (ex. Gray with black strakes).
In the common lexicon the three terms are used indifferently.
 Subject owned by Armando Gentile from San Paolo Civitate
 “Researches upon Cane Corso and its image” by Paolo Paoletti - 1° National Civitella Alfedena Meting files, 16th and 17th of June 1990: “The Cane Corso, characteristics and contributes for the definition of the standard” (Ediz. L’Orsa)
 Many years of breeding has not eliminated from the genetic
heritage of Roman Molossian this colour that we can find even
in the Neapolitan Mastiff. In the doubt, just see some Neapolitan
Mastiffs of 50’s - 70’s that had much of withe. Moreover, and just
as example, in the book by Felice Cesarino “Il Mastino” (page 21),
it can be seen Guaglione 1° owned by Ciro Magno: completely white
For the Cane Corso, white puppies born even coupling together
black and streaked subjects, and anyone who breeds with knowledge
 “…not rarely in the past it was white” (Prof. D. Mainardi;
L’Espresso. 21 October 1984). We add that the dogs with this
colour were the favorites of the shepherds.
 “Comment to the Cane Corso’s Standard by Antonio
Morsiani and Stefano Gandolfi”; from: Il Cane Corso,
 Unfortunately, sometimes, due to ignorance or business
or even to a form of mania, it happens to declare the elimination
of one breed’s typical coat’s colour. A case that made quite a
splash can be found - …by chance !?!? - in the Boxer: it comes
the doubt that some “so called” CC’s breeders, after having
used it for reproduction, now try to copy even what has been
done and written upon the Boxer!
At the dawn of the breed, many Boxers were streaked and had
several white spots. Some other were completely white, some
even black. There were, moreover, the “spotted” ones; but, if
the white colour was spread for more than 2/3 of the entire
body’s surface, the dog was considered white.
From the coupling between Blanka von Angertor, by the
completely white coat (sister of Flocki, first subject of Boxer
recorded on the Book of Origins) and Piccolo von Angertor
(completely white as well), has born Meta von der Passage
- mostly white - that is considered the real progenitress of
the breed. In 1925, the German Boxer Club excluded all the
exemplars with white and black coats; in 1938 has been excluded
even the “spotted” ones. We cannot but ask why they have been
excluded –and so, destined to an inauspicious fate- when the founders
of the breed themselves had that colouration!
The way that has been chosen was, according to us, against nature, and that is demonstrated by the fact that many years of breeding have not erased from the Boxer’s genetic heritage the white coat.
And if it’s infrequent to see Boxers of that colour, arise the question upon “how of not-very-reliable” is there in the “voices” according which, in the name of fake pretexts –deafness, blindness, diseases, hereditary defects, etc.-, lots of white puppies have been killed!
Moreover, to discredit the said according which “white lead necessary to white” we report just two experiences in breeding:
- in three litters bore by a white female, there were 20 streaked puppies;
- on 28 boxers of two white females’ four litters, none of the puppies was white.
In conclusion to this note, it must be remember once again (we said it, wrote it, demonstrated it, and we will never get bored to say it, write it and re-demonstrate it again) what more eminent people like Piero Scanziani, Prof. E. Tecce (Zootechniques professor in the Regia Scuola Veterinaria of Milan), and many others, have always said. That is, that in any breed the primary cure has to regard the entire morphological-anatomical-functional complex, the function and the behavior. It’s true: is the function that makes the type.
 Among the motivations in support of a selective address that aim to the too much extended white’s elimination, it must be mentioned the one according which in the Cane Corso this kind of colouration derives from crossings, occasional or not, with the Mastino Abruzzese during the transhumance. Is out of doubts that it happened, actually the dog that resulted was called “Half-Corso”. Anyway, it was well distinguishable from the real Corso, differentiating itself either for behavior or for morphology. In particular, as even Dr. Breber says “it betrayed itself by the long and steep hair” (Breber; Cani da Presa, Feb. 1997: “Pure, polluted, half-caste, true, false Cane Corso” [“Cane Corso puro, inquinato, meticcio, vero, falso”]).
Certainly, even if we avoid using the Half-Corso for the reproduction, non-controlled couplings may have left tracks in some dogs. But… at what age can we date the origin of this phenomenon? Both dogs (Cane Corso and Mastino Abruzzese) have so old origin that is quite impossible to say when the “true colours” of the Cane Corso (but which one is the true colour ???) have been polluted by the white of Mastino Abruzzese (that is, when that colour has entered the genetic heritage of CC). If we look at the historiography and at the iconography we could hazard: from ‘700? From ‘500? From 300 A.D., before?…Mah!
Some may counter: “Well, Ok; but to remove any doubt, eliminating from the reproduction these subjects we will succeed during the years in the total skimming ”.
Apart the fact that the colour may be (admitted but not granted that it certainly is) just one of many indicators of that crossing (that is, who can say, that a subject without spread white hasn’t had origin from that?), we may provocatively (not so much actually…) respond: “how will you do for quite the totality of the actual dogs that you present to the expos or in the meetings, that are evident descendants of Boxers, Mastiffs and with….all that you want? How will you proceed? You surely cannot avoid to make them coupling among themselves, either because somebody has several prizes and so its puppies would bring you lots of money, and because according to “You” there are no more traditional CC, and, finally, because you couldn’t do differently. You may… just manage the problem, may be avoiding the coupling with Boxer, Mastiff and…whatever you want. If you would succeed, that would be a great idea!
And then, if for You is so difficult to take away from Your head Your personal conviction on these origins of white, why don’t you act in the same way for the Corso with spread white? Simply avoid the coupling with Mastino Abruzzese (or Half Corso, if you can find it)…till the “total skimming”. Elementary!
And, also…. Why don’t you ask yourselves even from which remote or recent couplings may “the other colours admitted by the standard” derive?
Let’s continue with the provocations, excusing with the reader and hoping in his forgiveness.
At the same way that you think for the white colour, who tells you that the uniform black, so difficult to find in the traditional Cane Corso, has not being originate by crossings with any breed by the typical black coat? What shall we do? Eliminating the black colour? Absurd!
Then, if we are not able to demonstrate them, let’s forget about all the hypothesis and avoid to bring them as instrumental justifications of a very personal aesthetic keen that, even if respectable, cannot have a universal and zootecnical validity.
 Another provocation: ….how come! The utilization of Picciotto, “the wonderful dog owned by the shepherd of S. Paolo Civitate” (as the SACC president of those times defined it) led us…to the “Basir model”…!!!