A Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the more common of the two breeds of Welsh Corgi
|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Welsh Corgi (//; Welsh for "dwarf dog") is a small type of herding dog that originated in Wales. Two separate breeds are recognized: the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Historically, the Pembroke has been attributed to the influx of dogs alongside Flemish weavers from around the 10th century, while the Cardigan is attributed to the dogs brought with Norse settlers, in particular a common ancestor of the Swedish Vallhund. A certain degree of inbreeding between the two types has been suggested to explain the similarities between the two.
The Pembroke is the more popular breed of dog, with the Cardigan Welsh Corgi appearing on The Kennel Club's list of Vulnerable Native Breeds. There are several physical differences between the two types according to the breed standards, with the Cardigan being a larger overall dog, both in weight and in height. Traditionally, the tails were of different shapes, but docking had been previously used. With regards to their health, according to a 2004 survey, they both had similar life spans although kidney or urethral conditions are more likely in the Pembrokes. Furthermore, Pembroke Corgis were more likely to have eye problems than the Cardigan breed. Welsh Corgis have strong ties to Queen Elizabeth II, who has personally owned more than 30 dogs, either Pembrokes or Corgi/Dachshund crosses.
Welsh Corgis have historically been used as herding dogs, specifically for cattle. They are of the type of herding dog referred to as "heelers", meaning that they would nip at the heels of the larger animals to keep them on the move. Both Pembrokeshire and Cardigan were historically agricultural areas of Wales. The combination of the low height off the ground and innate agility of Welsh Corgis would allow them to avoid the hooves of cattle. The term "corgi" means either cur dog or dwarf dog in the Welsh language, which was not intended as an insult to the dog's means, rather as a purely descriptive term. There is also a folk legend that says corgis were a gift from the woodland fairies, and that the breed's markings were left on its coat by fairy harnesses and saddles.
The geographical distance between the two areas of which the modern breeds are named, may have resulted in separate evolution of the breeds. Different tales have been told of the Corgi's origin, with some believing that the two modern breeds expected to have evolved as part of a shared ancestry, while others attribute the importation of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi to Flemish weavers from around the 10th century. Further theories on the origin of the Pembroke variety suggest that they may have originated from central European herding breeds from the area around modern Germany. Depending on the time period that these dogs were imported to Wales, they could have been either the extinct Deutsches Brachen, or the Dachshund breed.
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi has been attributed to the influences of Nordic settlers in the region. Dogs of similar dimensions exist in modern Scandinavia, called the Swedish Vallhund, and it is claimed by some historians that these two breeds share a common ancestor. Farmers in Cardigan began to switch from cattle to sheep in the late 19th century, but the existing breed was unsuited to working the sheep flocks. Crosses began to take place with the Welsh Sheepdog, and this is where the merle colour pattern originated from in the breed. The subsequent similarities between the two types of Welsh Corgis have been attributed to cross breeding between the two, or simply selected breeding from farmers who wished to have the Cardigan variety appear closer in nature to the Pembroke breed.
The first recorded date for corgis appearing in the show ring in Wales is 1925. Captain J.P. Howell called together a meeting of breeders of both the Pembroke and the Cardigan varieties, and formed the Welsh Corgi Club with an initial membership of 59 members. A general breed standard was drawn up, and Corgis began to appear in conformation shows. Until this point, neither breed had been specifically bred for looks. They were primarily interested in the Pembroke variety, although those from Cardigan did also appear. At this point the breeds were referred to as the Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire varieties, later becoming shortened as time passed. There were a number of rows between breeders of the two types in early shows, as judges who were breeders of one type would often favour them in deciding who won in certain classes. The Welsh Corgi appeared at Cruft's for the first time in 1927.
The first Championship was granted at a Cardiff show in 1928, with the prize awarded to a red and white Pembroke bitch named Shan Fach. The breeds continued to be judged together until 1934, when The Kennel Club recognised each breed separately. In that initial registration, some 59 Cardigans and 240 Pembrokes were listed in the pedigree books. The decisions about which breed each dog formed part of was left to the owners on some occasions, who had the freedom to choose whichever they felt was the most appropriate. The first dog to be named Best in Show at an open conformation show was Ch. Bowhit Pivot.
Cardigan Welsh Corgis continued to be rarer than Pembrokes, with only 11 registrations made in 1940. Both breeds survived the Second World War, although the Cardigans registered with the Kennel Club numbered only 61 by the end of the war. Pembrokes became very popular during the post war years in the United Kingdom; in 1953 it was ranked as the fourth most popular breed by the Kennel Club, behind the English Cocker Spaniel, the German Shepherd and the Pekingese. In 1955, the reserve Best in Show at Crufts was the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Kaytop Maracas Mint, who was beaten by the Standard Poodle Ch. Tzigane Affri of Nashend. The Corgi breeds declined in popularity, with veterinary physician Brian Singleton's view in The Times in 1963 suggesting this was due to issues with their temperament.
When the Kennel Club created their list of Vulnerable Native Breeds in 2006, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi was among those breeds. This list is for those breeds which register less than 300 dogs in any one year; there had been 84 Cardigan Corgis registered in 2006. After an initial increase, this declined to 46 in 2010 but then rose to the highest numbers since the list began in 2015, with a total of 124 puppies registered. In 2013, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi was also added, as there had been only 241 puppies registered that year. While the Kennel Club blamed this on the importation of foreign dog breeds, The Daily Telegraph blamed the decline on the ban on tail docking introduced six years prior. However, 2015 saw an increase of 34% in the number of Pembroke registrations with the popularity of Corgis on Instagram credited for the change. Pembrokes were subsequently removed from the Vulnerable Native Breeds list in 2016.
In 1933 the first Welsh Corgis were brought to the United States by American breeder Mrs. Lewis Roesler, for her Merriedip Kennels in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. She had previously been well known for breeding Old English Sheepdogs. Roesler purchased a Pembroke bitch, Little Madam, at London's Paddington Station for £12. Wanting a mate for the dog, she visited several Corgi kennels and bought a dog called Captain William Lewis. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first registered Welsh Corgis in 1934, as a single breed, and Little Madam was the first registered animal of the breed. The first litter was registered later that year, by Mr E.M. Tidd in Oakland, California, from a bitch named Toots who he had purchased in Canada.
Tidd imported Ch. Bowhit Pivot for his breeding lines in 1935, registering him with the AKC as Sierra Bowhit Pivot. In addition to his British titles, he became the first Corgi to be awarded Champion status in America and the first such dog to be named Best of Group at a conformation show in the United States. A month after those achievements, Little Madam repeated his victories. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi club was formed in 1937, and the first show was held at Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge's Gilralda Farms in New Jersey. Following the Second World War, imports were brought from the United Kingdom, including Rozavel Uncle Sam who dominated the show circuit for Corgis. In 1949, he became the first Pembroke winner of Best in Show at an open conformation show in America. By 1998, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi had become the 37th most popular breed of dog in the United States.
A pair of Cardigan Welsh Corgis were imported to America in 1931, but the first member of the breed to be registered with the AKC was Blodwen of Robinscroft in 1935. They have never had the draw in the United States given to the Corgis of the Pembroke type. In 1997, some 752 Cardigan Welsh Corgis were registered with the AKC, compared to 8,281 of the Pembrokes.
There are two breeds of Welsh Corgis, the Cardigan and the Pembroke, each named for the county in Wales where it originated. The dogs share several similar traits, such as their coats, which are water resistant and shed on average twice a year. The body of the Cardigan is slightly longer than that of the Pembroke; both breeds have short legs, placing their bodies close to the ground. But they are not as square in outline as a typical Terrier, or have an elongated body as great as that of a Dachshund. There are only minor differences in the shape of the head, both appear fox-like. The head of a Cardigan Welsh Corgi is typically larger than that of an equivalent Pembroke, and has a larger nose. It can take a few days following birth for the true colour of a Corgi's coat to appear, and this is particularly evident in those with tricolour or black and tan markings.
Corgis in the modern era often compete in dog agility trials, obedience, showmanship, flyball, tracking, and herding events. Herding instincts and trainability can be measured at non-competitive herding tests. Cardigan and Pembroke corgis exhibiting basic herding instincts can be trained to compete in herding trials – known colloquially as a "mad run". Welsh Corgis were once used to guard children.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The differences between the two breeds include bone structure, body length, and size. Cardigans are the larger of the two breeds, with large rounded ears and a 12 inches (30 cm) long fox-like, flowing tail set in line with the body. Though the Cardigan is allowed more colours than the Pembroke, white should not predominate in its coat. The Cardigan is a double-coated dog where the outer coat is dense, slightly harsh in texture, and of medium length. The dog's undercoat is short, soft, and thick. According to the breed standard, the breed stands between 10.5–12.5 inches (27–32 cm) at the withers, and should weigh between 30–38 pounds (14–17 kg). The skeletal structure of the Cardigan differs from the Pembroke, in that there is a more exaggerated bend in the front two legs, which fits around the ribcage of the animal. In addition, the Cardigan is more heavily set than the Pembroke, with denser bone mass.
There are a greater number of colours of coat present in the Cardigan breed than the Pembroke, with the breed standard allowing for a variety of shades of red, sable and brindle. White markings are expected on this breed of Corgi, and one with a black coat is allowed to have tan or brindle points under conformation show rules. Merle markings are present in the breed, although this is normally restricted to blue merle. There are several disqualification criteria in the breed standard for the purpose of conformation showing. This would include drop ears, a white coat, blue eyes or non-solid black noses in dogs without merle colouration.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembrokes feature pointed ears, and are somewhat smaller in stature than the Cardigan. They are low-set, intelligent, strong and sturdy with stamina sufficient to work a day on the farm. The common height at the withers is between 10–12 inches (25–30 cm), while a dog of this breed should weigh more than 30 pounds (14 kg), and a bitch 25 pounds (11 kg). The tail is shorter than that of a Cardigan, which can be accomplished through breeding or docking. Historically, the Pembroke was a breed with a natural bob tail (a very short tail), and today, if the Pembroke has a tail at all, it is usually curly. Due to the advent of tail docking in dogs, the bob tail was not aggressively pursued, with breeders focusing instead on other characteristics, and the tail artificially shortened if need be. Given that some countries now ban docking, some breeders are again attempting to select dogs with the genes for natural bob tails.
Fewer colours of coat appear in the Pembroke breed. These include red, sable, tan, fawn and black, each of which can be with or without white markings. Plain white or grey coats can also be seen, but these would be considered to be a serious fault for the purposes of conformation shows. However, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi has no specific disqualification criteria present in the breed standard.
According to the Kennel Club Purebred Dog Health Survey conducted in 2004, the two breeds had similar average lifespans with the Pembrokes having a median age at death of 12 years and three months, whereas the Cardigan Welsh Corgi had a median age at death of 12 years and two months. The main causes of death were similar in both breeds, with the primary cause being canine cancer and old age. However, the Pembroke breed showed a higher proportion of deaths attributed to either kidney failure or a urethral obstruction.
The survey showed that the breeds suffer from similar rates of ongoing health conditions, with one exception. Whereas more than a quarter of Pembroke Welsh Corgis surveyed suffered from some type of eye condition, only 6.1% of the Cardigan Corgis did. Eye conditions typical in the Corgi breeds include progressive retinal atrophy, which occurs more often in dogs over six years of age, and canine glaucoma, which again is more common in older dogs. Similar percentages in the survey were seen in both breeds for issues relating to reproduction, such as dogs requiring caesarian sections and having false pregnancies. Further similarities were also seen related to musculoskelatal issues, including arthritis. However, Hip dysplasia, common in some types of dogs, is rare in the Corgi breeds.
Queen Elizabeth II has long been associated with Welsh Corgis. After a visit to Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath in 1933, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret made it well known to their family that they liked the Corgis owned by the Marquess. Their father, Prince Albert, Duke of York (later George VI), purchased the Pembroke Corgi Rozavel Golden Eagle, from the Rozavel kennels in Surrey. It was renamed Dookie.
Princess Elizabeth was then given a Pembroke Corgi of her own, named Susan, for her 18th birthday in 1944. She had a strong connection to the dog, which was hidden under rugs in the Royal Carriage following her wedding to Prince Philip. Susan became the progenitor of the Corgis owned by the Royal Household since. The Queen has bred ten generations of dogs from Susan, owning personally more than 30 of the dogs which were either pure-bred Pembroke Welsh Corgis or crossbreed Corgi/Dachshunds called Dorgis.
Corgis have also appeared on screen, stage and in novels. Corgis as characters were incorporated into the storybook fantasies Corgiville Fair, The Great Corgiville Kidnapping, and Corgiville Christmas of American author and illustrator Tasha Tudor. In 1961, a Corgi featured in the Walt Disney film, Little Dog Lost, which led to an increase in popularity for the breed within the United States. A theatrical adaptation took place of Welsh author Roald Dahl's The BFG which toured the UK in 1991 required several different Corgis to perform on stage as those of Queen Elizabeth.
In the anime Cowboy Bebop, the main characters have a super-intelligent Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Ein, on their ship. The Top Shelf graphic novel Korgi plays on the folklore tradition of the Corgi as a faerie draft animal. It features the "Mollies" (fairy-like beings) who live in close relationship with the land and their Korgi friends, who are based on and resemble the Welsh Corgi breeds.
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