When you see a Cane Corso, chances are that you notice his head first. Which variety do you usually see?
Do you more often see a burly dog with short prick ears or a dog you might confuse for a Lab if his head was not so big? If you have seen both, which would you prefer as a pet?
As you may have guessed by now, Cane Corso’s ears are complex. A few Cane Corso clubs forbid their members from using the term “natural ear” in reference to a Cane Corso.
Cane Corsos are born with floppy ears that they would by design carry all the way into adulthood.
Nevertheless, the preferred look is a dog with ears that have been cropped or trimmed so they are short or medium in length and stand upright.
The AKC accepts both cropped and floppy ears in conformation shows. After all, the main goal of the ears is to highlight the dog’s magnificent head. Both types of ears do that, although many feel the upright ear is more flattering.
We only cover the controversy of ear cropping briefly as the scope of the article is the discussion of a Cane Corso’s ears.
We will discuss basic anatomic features and functions. We also go into ear trimming in-depth as this seems by far the preferred exhibition of the breed.
Even in countries that ban ear cropping, owners send their Cane Corsos abroad to find someone to perform the procedure.
A dog’s head is one of its most defining features. The quickest way to identify most breeds is by their heads. So unique is the character that you can identify a breed often by just the silhouette of its profile.
For Mastiffs and Bully breeds, the head achieves paramount importance. A Molosser such as a Cane Corso must have a correct and imposing head to place well in conformation shows.
However, it also serves to house the dog’s powerful jaws and balances a heavily muscled body.
Ears are relevant because they serve to highlight desirable traits of the head in many breeds such as the Cane Corso.
What are a Cane Corso ear’s functions?
The most obvious purpose of a dog’s ears is to hear. The outer flaps draw sound down into the external canal to the middle ear, tiny ossicles, and tympanic membrane. The auditory ossicles amplify sounds on their way to the inner ear.
Dogs hear at a higher frequency and range than humans. Where people hear sounds from 20 to 20,000, dogs can detect a range from 67 to 45,000 Hz. Moreover, people over the age of 18 years drop off to an upper frequency of 16,000 Hz.
A Cane Corso, like other dogs, has a much longer ear canal than humans or cats. It dives down vertically at its funnel-like opening and then makes a 90-degree bend to the middle or horizontal canal.
The pinna is the ear flap responsible for giving expression to the dog’s head and communicating his emotional state or intention.
A Cane Corso’s ears, even when floppy, can move independently of one another and rotate 180 degrees to face to the side or backward.
Forward-facing ears can indicate anything from friendliness to aggression depending on the set. Cane Corsos may lay their ears back in anxiety or simply rotate them to indicate their attention is behind them.
There is a complex history of ear cropping
Ear cropping will always be a source of controversy, largely because it has become a cosmetic procedure in most places where it is still legal. However, it began for the working dog’s safety, like docked tails.
Livestock guardians that were tasked with fending off wolves had cropped ears so predators would not tear them during altercations. Protection dogs, such as the Doberman, sported trimmed ears as early as the 1600s to appear more intimidating and to protect them against injury in their duties.
Many Bully dogs were unfortunately used for dogfighting, and ear cropping was a study in practicality. With little to no ear hanging down, an opponent in the pit had one less thing to grab.
Owners of various breeds of hunting dogs also cropped their ears to prevent injury from their dangerous game.
Many dogs, from the diminutive Brussels Griffon that hunted rats to the giant Great Dane that boldly faced wild boars, have carried the tradition of cropped ears to the breed standard and show rings.
However, proponents of ear cropping cite other reasons than cosmetic for the procedure.
- Lessens the chance that a dog will develop an aural hematoma (blood pocket) – Fragile capillaries between the layers of the skin that sandwich the ear’s cartilage rupture from head shaking, a pinch, a bite, or banging against the wall; Trapped blood usually requires draining
- Decreases ear infections
- Parasites such as fleas and mites occur less frequently
For several dog breeds, ear cropping remained beyond its utilitarian purpose. It boiled down to a cosmetic choice, and many owners like how a trimmed ear makes certain types of dogs look in the face.
What are the breed standards for Cane Corso’s ears and head?
As stated, the Cane Corso’s head is of utmost importance to the breed standard; it translates to winning in conformation shows. In Molossus fashion, a Cane Corso’s head should be large concerning his body.
Cane Corsos are medium-sized Italian mastiffs that stand 23 to 28 inches tall at the top of the shoulders. This height information is vital because the dog’s head’s length should be about 33% of it.
The true impressiveness of the head comes from its magnificent breadth. A Cane Corso’s face is widest across his prominent cheekbones.
In fact, the skull should be as wide as it is long, giving the head a square appearance. However, from the front, it can appear rounded from the high cheekbones and heavily muscled jaws.
The profile is distinctive because of an exaggerated arch above each eye which combines with the prominent frontal sinuses to create a steep break from forehead to muzzle.
A Cane Corso’s natural ear is not dissimilar from a Labrador Retriever’s. Cane Corso’s ears are high-set and lie against the cheekbones. Thus, a Cane Corso’s ears highlight the prominent zygomatic arches and square jaw rather than obscure it.
The pinna should be medium in size with a triangular shape. According to the AKC breed standard, the ear lines up with the cheek but does not stretch past the jawline.
There are specific reasons for cropping Cane Corso ears
According to the Cane Corso Association, ear cropping is for the health as well as aesthetics of the breed.
Historically, the Cane Corso was a light war dog for Roman soldiers. Outside of war, they were versatile working dogs.
Cane Corsos would become proficient hunters of wild boars, workers and guardians of livestock, and guard dogs. In all these jobs, the Cane Corso benefited from trimmed ears, avoiding rips.
With personal protection and guarding responsibilities, many owners continued the tradition of cropping their dogs’ ears to make them appear more intimidating to intruders.
Although the presence alone of a Cane Corso is quite formidable, many people felt the intact ear made the look too approachable. Even as companion dogs, widespread ear cropping of Cane Corsos persists into the 2020s.
While some fanciers proclaim that the upright ear is the canid’s natural state and serves to eliminate dark, damp places for parasites and bacteria to hide, opponents see cropped ears as cosmetic and unnecessary.
Fact-checking does not clear up the controversy surrounding ear cropping, but it reveals a few interesting points.
- According to the AVMA, floppy ears can contribute to ear infections via decreased ventilation but is not a major factor
- Floppy ears directly correlate with the dog’s domestication; the phenomenon does not occur in all breeds, but weakened cartilage would frequently come as an unintended effect of taming an animal
- Cropping ears does protect the sensitive appendages in dogs that fight, hunt, and guard property
- Observation of public perception has shown that dogs with upright ears are, indeed, more intimidating than floppy-eared canines; One of the best study subjects, children
What should you know about the Cane Corso Ear cropping process?
If you do decide you want your Cane Corso to have trimmed, upright ears, the best age to perform the procedure is between seven to twelve weeks old.
Cropping a puppy’s ears at a young age takes advantage of the cartilage’s strength because it will weaken over the ensuing weeks and months with the ear’s increasing weight.
Cane Corsos can potentially undergo the procedure later in life because their ear cropping standard is shorter than some of the other breeds.
Also, with the high set of their ears, owners have a relatively easy time getting them to stand. However, healing in puppies over 16 weeks old may involve prolonged healing.
A licensed veterinarian should always perform ear cropping, no matter what your breeder or friend may say.
Veterinarians ensure your dog undergoes surgery with the gold standard of sterile equipment and technique, proper anesthesia along with careful monitoring, and appropriate pain control.
Veterinarians have various approaches with many considering cropping ears an art. Regardless of whether they use stencils or draw the outline freeform, the surgery involves removal or amputation of the lateral portion of the ear nearest the neck.
Cropping avoids the area of the ear including the fold at the dog’s forehead except in a complete amputation or “fighting” cut.
The trim never involves cutting a shape into the ear but rather a curve or straight line down the caudal or back edge.
Your veterinarian then sutures the cut surface, usually accomplishing a rolling effect of the edges. Many professionals utilize a continuous suture pattern, some interlocking the stitches.
With experienced vets performing the procedure on a young puppy, it is very short. An efficient and fast surgery is important because of the youth and small size of the patient.
Puppies under anesthesia cannot maintain their body temperatures as well as adults can. Surgical recovery, however, tends to be quicker.
Recovery of the wound usually only takes seven to ten days. Your veterinarian will probably remove the sutures in 10 to 14 days and check the ears.
However, posting the ears will begin immediately after surgery to ensure the ears stand. There are several methods, most involving tape and a small board-like apparatus such as a tongue depressor.
Newer methods seek to avoid tape which can irritate the ears.
The posting process can take four to twelve weeks. Your veterinarian will often perform the initial taping or tapeless posting with you doing follow-ups at home.
You will probably need to undergo frequent vet visits to check progress unless you are a breeder or otherwise have tons of hands-on experience. There are four types of crops for the Cane Corso.
- Long crop – Rarely used for this breed; most difficult to get to stand and many owners do not feel it sets off the dog’s features in the best light
- Show crop – The AKC does not specify a particular length for a Cane Corso’s cropped ear, but it should be an equilateral triangle, so of medium-short length; This cut sets off the breed’s square jawline and high cheekbones and gives the dog an alert appearance
- Short crop – Shorter than the show cut, it is easier to get the ears to stand; Most common cut in pet Cane Corsos
- Complete crop – Battle or fighting cut; Dog shows almost no ear above the canal; This cut really highlights the dog’s eyes and cheeks but also makes her appear much more aggressive; The cut is so short it may expose your pet to more ear infections and easily confuses her communication with other dogs
Cropped versus Uncropped Ear Video Example
No video captures the Cane Corso’s cropped versus uncut ear better than this video. Notice how the uncut ear tip seems to point to the cheekbones and the backward edge tapers away from the face in an upward sweep. The ear is medium-sized, high-set at the base, and triangular.
The other dog exhibits a show crop. His ear forms an equilateral triangle. You could argue the face looks more open and businesslike with a clear view of the jawline going into the neck.