There are two corgi dog breeds and both originate from Wales: the Pembrokeshire Welsh corgi and the Cardigan Welsh corgi. Both breeds are so similar that at one point they were considered one and the same breed, but there are some variations between the two. The word "corgi" is thought to mean "gather dog" in ancient Welsh, according to "Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds."
A Corgi's Job
Corgis originally referred to as any short-legged dog that helped farmers round up and drive livestock to market. Over time, this type became two very similar breeds. The dogs have such short legs which make them small enough to not get kicked by cattle. The corgis would herd and drive cattle often by nipping at the cattle’s heels. They were also small enough to hunt rats, even when the rats went into their burrows. Modern corgis still compete in herding competitions and dog sports like agility, but are mostly bred to be pets.
Corgis are thought to descend from the short-legged Swedish Valhund and the spitz brought by Viking invaders and crossed with a local, but now extinct, type of dog known as the "turn-spit dog." These small dogs were harnessed to a spit that rotated meat over a fire. Cardigan Welsh corgis were named for Cardaginshire in Wales. All corgis were Cardigan Welsh corgis until 1934, when the Kennel Club of the UK decided that Pembrokeshire Welsh corgis were different enough to warrant being their own breed.
Pembroke Welsh corgis, the most common of the two corgi breeds, reach an average height of 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh 25 to 27 pounds. The Cardigans are a bit larger, averaging 10.5 to 12.5 inches high and an average weight range of 25 to 38 pounds. For both corgis, the males tend to be larger and heavier than the females.
Pembroke Welsh corgis destined for the show ring are not allowed the wide color pallet of the Cardigan. Pembrokes are only allowed to come in solid red, fawn (a light tan similar to a deer’s hide) and sable (these colors with a generous amount of white markings). They are also allowed to be black and tan like a German shepherd. In contrast, Cardigans can be all of these colors plus brindle (orange and black striped) and merle, which is a combination of blue, black and white.
Both corgi breeds grow long, bushy tails that often are white-tipped. However, the fashion in England was to dock the tails of Pembroke Welsh corgis. When Queen Elizabeth II became enamored of the breed and was often seen with Pembrokes, they all had docked tails. Although tail docking is still done in America and Ireland, it is now illegal in the UK and many European countries.
By Rena Sherwood
"Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds;" D. Caroline Coile, Ph. D.; 2005
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America: History, Origins and Other Interesting Facts
Welsh Heritage and Customs: Whiskey the Turn Spit Dog
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America: General Info
Pembroke Corgi Rescue
Dog Breed Info: Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Dog Breed Info: Cardigan Welsh Corgi
About the Author
Rena Sherwood is a writer and Peter Gabriel fan who has lived in America and England. She has studied animals most of her life through direct observation and maintaining a personal library about pets. She has earned an associate degree in liberal arts from Delaware County Community College and a bachelor's degree in English from Millersville University.