Friday, March 1, 2024

Cane Corso: can(e) do attitude

Tania Clarke with one of her diligent dogs. Photo Wayne Martin
If it’s a dog of a job (literally), in many cases there is at least one breed of clever canine ready to step up to the mark, as JON RAWLINSON reveals.

They may have escaped to the country, but there’s no question as to which beast is best friend to Tania and Loncey Clarke. Operating as Cane Corso Corsarii in Pukekohe East, the couple breeds an uncommon variety of mastiff, cane corso. The Clarke’s love story (which is also part tragedy) began in east Auckland.

“We were high school sweethearts at Edgewater College – Loncey was originally from Papakura and I was from Pakuranga,” Tania says. “Years later, we were on holiday, having a coffee at a café in Rome. We saw a guy walking two of these big, beautiful dogs and Loncey jumped up to pat them. They looked amazing and they were so affectionate that we fell in love with them then and there,” says Tania. “After we were in a serious car accident [in New Zealand], we discovered cane corsos are used as therapy dogs. Initially, we brought them over from Australia for ourselves, but we talked about it and ended up importing them [to breed] as well.”

Strong and intelligent, the dogs are perfect assistants for those most in need.

“As therapy dogs, they can be large enough so that if someone falls out of a wheelchair they can help them get back in. They are taught very specific tasks, such as to tap light switches and understand traffic lights at crossings, to fetch medication or slippers – there’s a long list.”

A testament to their skills, these dogged, dog-eared workers are also employed overseas on the front lines of emergency services, assisting police and others in roles as varied as search and rescue and even bomb detection.

“We saw a guy walking two of these big, beautiful dogs and Loncey jumped up to pat them. They looked amazing and they were so affectionate that we fell in love with them then and there”.

Cane corsos are well suited to the highly competitive dog show arena too. Although the Clarkes don’t show animals themselves (leaving this to experienced competitors), many of the breed are registered under their NZ Kennel Club name, Montopoli, named after the Italian city where the breed originated.

“Cane is Latin for dog, but corso has more than one meaning. It can mean ‘companion’ or ‘cohort’ or a reference to hunting by sight,” Tania explains. “It can also be a specific reference to the enclosed courtyard of an Italian masseria (which translates as ranch or farmhouse) where the dog’s main function was to watch the comings and goings of every person and animal.”

Although still used for herding animals and hunting, cane corsos are as at home in suburbia as they are down on the farm. They don’t need acres of space to thrive.

“They are exceptional guard dogs, while being wonderful with children as they’re utterly devoted to their ‘pack’,” Tania adds. “If people have an apartment in the city, I’d say it’s not the breed for them. They need enough space, but a reasonable size section in suburbia can be okay. A daily walk of about 10 minutes is enough for most, but they need vigorous exercise until they’re about eight years old.”

Solid genetics is a major reason to choose any pedigree pup, but people keen to purchase them should be as ‘switched on’ as Tania’s beloved dogs.

“We provide pet insurance as well as books to ensure people know what to expect and how to take the best care of these amazing dogs.”

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