When the Queen of England was given a corgi puppy in 1933, she became partly responsible for the rise in popularity of the (at that time) little known Welsh cattle dog. However, there are two distinct breeds of “corgis” which, despite interbreeding through the years, have retained enough differences to be considered two separate breeds.
The Queen was given a Pembroke Welsh Corgi,r and the Pembroke has always remained the staunch favorite both in the UK and in America. The breed is named for its homeland, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is thought the breed may have come to Wales from Belgium about 1100 AD. Another theory makes the Pembroke the descendent of the Swedish valhund, a dog that came into Wales with Viking raiders.
The other type of corgi is the Cardigan Welsh Corgi from—you guessed it—Cardiganshire, Wales. The “Cardi,” as he is often called by his admirers, is a slightly larger dog than the Pembroke and is distinguished by his long tail; the Pembroke has only a stump.
The Pembroke stands about 10 to 12 inches high and can weight between 22 to 33 pounds for males and females. They are a long-lived breed with relatively few health issues. Many people are used to seeing red and white or buff and white colored corgis, but Pembrokes can come in red, sable, fawn, black, and tan, with or without white markings. They are almost always born with a tail which is docked a few days after birth. The coat is similar to a German shepherd’s, a thick undercoat with a slightly longer, harsher outer coat, however like German shepherd dogs, Pembroke corgis can also come with a “plush” or longer than standard coat.
Many people who love or breed German shepherd dogs have also taken up Pembroke corgis; there are a lot of similarities in the two breeds. In fact, before it was updated, the old American Kennel Club standard for the breed called the Pembroke “a German shepherd with short legs.” This is a bit of a stretch, but both breeds share many herding breed traits.
Pembroke Welsh corgies are cute, playful, and smart as the dickens, but they do have their challenges. They are prodigious shedders and are known to be noisy. Many of the herding breeds can be barkers, especially when excited, as this was helpful for them in their use as herding dogs. But in a suburban home, both shedding and barking can be problematic. As well, the corgi’s temperament is complex; they are quick thinking, loyal, and happy. But again, like many herding breeds, they need a bit of supervision with children and strangers and are happiest when they get a goodly amount of exercise daily and have a job to do.
Despite the challenges, the Pembroke corgi ranked 15th in popularity with the AKC in 2017 and had moved up to 10th by the end of 2019.
The Cardigan Welsh corgi is a slightly larger animal than the Pembroke. Breed experts claim the “Cardie” is a far older breed than the Pembroke and has its origin in herding dogs brought to the UK by the Celts. Before that, it is considered feasible that the breed originated with the same European family of dogs that include the Dachshund with a touch of Northern spitz type dog added. The name corgi is derived from the Welsh “cor gi,” meaning “dwarf dog.”
Cardies stand about 10.5 to 12.5 inches at the top of the shoulder. Females weigh between 25 to 34 pounds, males 30 to 38 pounds. They have heavier bone structure than the Pembroke and have a long tail. Their fur is harsher, and ears are more rounded than the Pembroke. Their coat is similar to the Pembroke but does come in some unique-to-the-breed colors. These include brindle, black with or without tan or brindle points, and blue merle (black and grey marbled).
Cardies have never been as popular as the Pembroke, probably due to the Queen’s ownership of the Pembrokes. Where its Pembroke cousin ranks in the top ten in the AKC popularity, the Cardie is a distant 68.
Corgies are generally a healthy breed, though they can suffer from spinal disc disease, being a long-backed dog. Those interested in obtaining a corgi puppy must be careful to make sure the breeder they choose has had the very basic health testing recommended for both breeds, which is x-rays for hip or elbow dysplasia and eye testing.
Both breeds of corgis have a long history as herding dogs in Wales. The history of the Cardie may reach back more than 3,000 years. Their genetics are strongly molded to the job of moving cattle and sheep. Like the best-known herding dog, the Border collie, the corgies are smart, quick thinking, quick acting, barky, nippy, loyal dogs which make excellent watch dogs. They do adapt well to home life, but don’t let the short legs fool you—they want daily exercise that includes running. They can be obsessive about ball play and if bored are prone, like other herding breeds, to less than positive methods of relieving their boredom.