The Welsh Corgi is a small herding dog that hails, of course, from Wales. The name “Corgi” actually comes from the Welsh language itself, and means “small dog,” and it an apt description, although leaves out mention of these canine’s large personalities! The Corgi is also synonymous as the dog of choice of Queen Elizabeth II, who keeps four Corgis as pets at any time. These are widely photographed with her both relaxing at one of the Royal palaces, or enjoying outdoor pursuits as part of the Queen’s party at Her various estates across Great Britain!
If you are looking for a small, intelligent and active dog as your next potential companion, the Corgi is definitely worthy of a second look. While these small dogs are not seen out and about as commonly as they once were and their popularity as pets has declined somewhat over the last thirty years, the Corgi is still going strong, and is bred all over the rest of the UK as well as of course in their home country of Wales.
There are two different varieties of Corgi recognised as breeds in their own right: The Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which are each named for their county of origin.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is rather less commonly seen than the Pembroke, and is the larger of the two types of dogs. They have larger, more rounded ears than the Pembroke, and a longer tail that flows in a line from the body rather than curling up. The Cardigan stands at around a foot tall, and weighs on average around 30lb.
The Cardigan is also available in more permitted colour variances than the Pembroke, although the body of the coat should not be predominantly white. They have a double-layered coat, consisting of a soft, thick undercoat and a dense rough textured top coat of a short to medium length.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi’s coat is allowed to be any shade of sable, brindle, red or black, which may include mottled (or “merled”) patches in tan, blue or brindle. Their points may also be tan or brindle, or the dog may be completely self-coloured without significant variations across the colour of the coat. They commonly have white patches around the neck, chest, muzzle and underbelly, and often, a white flash between the eyes and a patch of white hair under the tail.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the more commonly available version of the breed, and is slightly more petite than the Cardigan, weighing in at around 28lb and standing between 10” and a foot tall.
Their ears are rather more pointed than the Cardigan, and they have a more fox-like appearance to their heads, with a significantly shorter tail that is generally curled. The shorter tail is considered to be a desirable trait of the Pembroke breed that is selectively bred for, but historically used to be achieved by docking. Like the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, the Pembroke has a two-layered coat with a thick, soft under layer and a coarser, more wiry topcoat.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is most commonly red, fawn or sable with white markings, or can also come in a black or red tricolour pattern, with the colour pattern consisting of black, red and white (with black being the dominant colour) or red, black and white (with red being the dominant colour) respectively.
The most distinctive coat colour trait that sets the Pembroke Welsh Corgi apart from the Cardigan dog, is the presence of what are known as “fairy saddle” markings, white flashes on the sides of the shoulders that hark back to the legends that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi was the steed of choice for the fairy folk!
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi may also have white markings on the paws, nose, chest and head, and a full or partial collar of white fur around the neck.
The Corgi is one of the oldest dog breeds in Britain, with a documented history going back at least as far as the 11th century, and it is possible that the founding dogs of the breed were introduced to Wales even earlier than this. The Corgi may have their origins in Belgium or Holland, but another theory put forwards is that they came about due to crossing with the Swedish Vallhund brought to Wales by Viking invaders!
Historically, the Corgi was used by farmers as a herding dog, assisting with the herding of cattle and other livestock and general livestock movement and management. They were also prized for their ability in hunting game, and guarding the family homesteads and children in the adults’ absence.
Today, Welsh Corgis are still used to a limited extend for working and herding purposes, but most dogs of these breeds are now kept as domestic pets. They are active, enthusiastic and energetic little dogs, which require a significant amount of exercise and stimulation. They are great family pets for households that enjoy an active lifestyle, and have plenty of access to the outdoors to allow the Corgi to stretch their little legs.
Corgis are also a popular pick for canine sports such as agility, heelwork, fly ball and team sports, due to their high intelligence, impressive turn of speed, stamina and precision. They are able to retain a wide range of different training commands, and take well to puzzles and problem solving challenges.
The Corgi is considered to be a robust and healthy little dog, not particularly prone to suffering from a high incidence rate of inherited and genetic conditions that sometimes plague other pedigree breeds. However, the Corgi dog of both the Pembroke and Cardigan types have slightly elevated risk factors for hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and degenerative myleopathy.
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi also has slightly elevated risk factors for invertebral disc disease and epilepsy.
The average lifespan of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is 12-14 years, and for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, 12-15 years.