Welsh Corgis – Welsh wonders

Breed facts: Pastoral group

In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly provides you with all you need to know about Welsh Corgis. Discover if a ‘Cardi’ or a ‘Pem’ could be just what you’re looking for.

If you are seeking a big dog on small legs that carries the royal seal of approval, then check out Pembroke (Pem) or Cardigan (Cardi) Corgis, the former being a firm favourite of the Queen. Corgis are cracking little dogs yet, sadly, you don’t see many of them around. Like everything else, fashions change and Corgi popularity has fallen by the wayside with ‘designer’ breeds taking precedence, to the detriment of many traditional breeds that appear to be on the wane. In fact, so few are the Cardigans today, that the Kennel Club has placed them on its ‘Vulnerable Native Breed’ list. Only 68 Cardigan puppies were registered with the KC in the year 2006-2007, while Pembrokes were higher at 471. That’s not many at all for either type, considering that there were over 45,000 Labrador pups registered in the same 12-month period.

Welsh Corgis
Welsh Corgis

Little nippers?
Corgis, undeservedly, have a reputation as a ‘nipper’; but this could not be further from the truth. Any breed may bite if provoked or is not socialised or trained correctly; but, some years ago, because

the Queen’s Corgis gained a great deal of negative media attention for nipping guardsmen and other palace staff, this unfortunately tarred all Corgis with the same brush. In general, however, Corgis are perky, extremely goodnatured, jolly and great fun to be with and have around. They simply love company and to be busy helping you with whatever you are doing. Equally, they are quite happy to curl up by your feet or on your lap when you are taking things easy.

Since written records do not exist, the history of how both Cardis and Pembrokes were developed is a bit of a mystery. There are theories as to what breeds were used to create the Welsh Corgis, with the Cardis reckoned to have evolved from the Dachshund family (which includes the Basset Hound), while Pems are said to have evolved from the Spitz family (which includes the Samoyed). According to W Lloyd- Thomas, an authority on Welsh farm dogs, foundation stock for the Pembroke Corgi were brought to the Pembrokeshire area of Wales by Flemish weavers during the 12th century. Says the Welsh Corgi League (WCL; formed in 1938 and devoted to Pembrokes only): “After its introduction into Wales, possibly via Ireland, it was bred as a cattle dog. Today, although some can still be seen showing their natural herding instincts, the majority are found in our own Royal Family.” Cardigans are the older of the two types and were also used as cattle dogs. W Lloyd-Thomas theorised that the breed’s ancestors were introduced into Wales by Celtic tribes from central Europe in around 1200BC.

Exercise & training
Whatever your requirements from a Corgi companion, this breed is very much an enthusiastic all-rounder. Of Pembrokes, the WCL says: “The stamina of such a small dog makes it an ideal walking companion, while its intelligence and alertness makes it very amenable to obedience training.” Says Corgi breed expert Diana King: “Trainingwise, I think that Pems are sometimes a bit too intelligent for their own good. They are trainable with the right techniques and handling, and one or two people do obedience competitions with them. However, I had one a few years ago and you’d tell her to do something and you could see it clicking over in her brain and her thinking ‘Do I really want to do that?’ “A game little dog, a Pembroke will have a go at anything, including agility. Exercise-wise, if you want to go on a 10-mile hike he’ll come with you; if you just want to go for a walk around the block, he’ll be quite happy with that as well.” “Cardigans are also an energetic breed who love to go on a long walk,” comments a spokesperson for the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association (CWCA). “This does not mean, though, that owners have to take a five-mile walk every day, unless they want to! “Cardigans are easy to obedience train. Take a puppy to obedience classes in your vicinity for basic obedience, as this will teach you how to handle your Cardi in addition to training your pup. An obedient dog is a joy to own and Cardis like nothing better than to please their owners.” Says Cardi show judge Karen Hewitt: “Training-wise, Cardis are bright dogs, but are not like, say, Border Collies who will just obey. If you have a Cardi that doesn’t want to be obedient, he won’t be! I have two that are at complete ends of the spectrum: one I have trained to retrieve, but the other boy kind of just looks at me as if to say, ‘Well you threw it, love, you go and get it!’ and won’t do it. But with everything else I’ve wanted to do with him, he’ll do with good grace and enthusiasm.”


  • Small
  • Long-lived
  • Busy & perky
  • Practical & tough
  • Keen watchdog
  • Fun all-rounder
  • Good family pet
  • Low maintenance coat
  • Loves people
  • Town or country living
  • Low exercise requirement
  • Intelligent
  • Quick to learn
  • Can be self-willed

Pems v Cardis – the difference
The main difference between the two types of Corgi is the size. Says Diana King: “Cardigans are a bigger Corgi with a different front construction, whereas the Pembroke’s upper arms are more moulded round the chest and it has more of a terrierlooking front, while the Cardi’s front feet turn out, giving it a ‘Queen Anne’ look. “The heads are different too – the Cardi is flatter between the ears and the head is bigger. Some would say that the Cardis are not as pretty as the Pem, but look more of a big dog on short legs.” Cardis were always instantly recognisable due to their long tails. Early Pems did not have a tail, but got the tail gene from the Cardis when the two breeds were crossed to improve Pem conformation. Long-tailed Pems were then docked, although some had naturally occurring short tails, referred to as ‘bobtails’. As docking is now banned in the UK, Pembrokes generally have full tails.

Family life
Says the Welsh Corgi League: “Pembrokes are active and sociable. They love being where the action is and will play with children, or simply be a companion for an elderly person. They learn quickly, but if left to their own devices they will get up to mischief – mainly chewing something they shouldn’t. Pembrokes are good house dogs and will bark furiously at the door bell, although excessive barking should not be encouraged. “The Pembroke is a big dog in a small body and can become bossy if not trained with a firm but gentle hand. A lot of new owners make the mistake of treating the Corgi as a toy breed. The Corgi is intelligent and will test authority, so you must enforce your position as head of the house; once this is established the Corgi once this is established the Corgi will go about his business quite happily and entertain you with his antics and droll sense of humour.”

Useful contacts
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association Mrs Karen Hewitt (secretary), tel. 01788 812156.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Society Ireland Ms E Stewart (secretary), tel. 00 353 (0)684 8358.
Devon & Cornwall Welsh Corgi Club Mrs D May (secretary), tel. 01209 210582.
Eastern Counties Welsh Corgi Club Miss J Millar (secretary), tel. 01502 740274.
Midland Welsh Corgi Club Mrs Joy Whitehead (secretary), tel. 0121 744 3493.
Northern Counties Welsh Corgi Society Mrs J M Littlefair (secretary), tel. 01642 710356
Pennine & Yorkshire Welsh Corgi Association Miss T J Irving (secretary), tel. 01204 793631.
South East Corgi Association Mrs Sheila Baker (secretary), tel. 01892 722251.
South Wales Corgi Club Mrs W Rees (secretary), tel. 01792 773544.
Welsh Corgi Club Mrs D Stevenson (secretary), tel. 01633 875554.
Welsh Corgi Club of Cambria Miss E Eby (secretary), tel. 01327 261664.
Welsh Corgi League (Pembrokes only) Mrs Margaret Hoggarth (secretary), tel. 01915 294118.
West of England Corgi Association Mrs S Coulson (secretary), tel. 01980 65348.

KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Corgi?
Here’s what to look out for.

Cardigan: Sturdy, tough, mobile, capable of endurance. Long in proportion to height, terminating in fox-like brush, set in line with body. Pembroke: Low set, strong, sturdily built, alert and active, giving impression of substance and stamina in small space.

Cardigan: Alert, active and intelligent. Pembroke: Bold in outlook, workmanlike.

Cardigan: Alert, intelligent, steady, not shy or aggressive. Pembroke: Outgoing and friendly, never nervous or aggressive.

Head & skull
Cardigan: Head foxy in shape and appearance, skull wide and flat between ears tapering towards eyes above which it is slightly domed. Moderate stop. Length of foreface in proportion to head 3:5, muzzle tapering moderately towards nose which projects slightly and is in no sense blunt. Under-jaw clean cut. Strong but without prominence. Nose black. Pembroke: Head foxy in shape and appearance, with alert, intelligent expression, skull fairly wide and flat between ears, moderate amount of stop. Length of foreface to be in proportion to skull 3:5. Muzzle slightly tapering. Nose black.

Cardigan: Medium size, clear, giving kindly, alert but watchful expression. Rather widely set with corners clearly defined. Preferably dark, to blend with coat, rims dark. One or both eyes pale blue, blue or blue flecked, permissible only in blue merles. Pembroke: Well set, round, medium size, brown, blending with colour of coat.

Cardigan: Erect, proportionately rather large to size of dog. Tips slightly rounded, moderately wide at base and set about 8cm (3½ins) apart. Carried so that tips are slightly wide of straight line drawn from tip of nose through centre of eyes, and set well back so that they can be laid flat along neck. Pembroke: Pricked, mediumsized, slightly rounded. Line drawn from tip of nose through eye should, if extended, pass through or close to tip of ear.

Both: Jaws strong, with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite (upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws).

Cardigan: Muscular, well developed, in proportion to dog’s build, fitting into well sloping shoulders. Pembroke: Fairly long.

Cardigan: Shoulders well laid, angulated at approximately 90 degrees to upper arm; muscular, elbows close to sides. Strong bone carried down to feet. Legs short but body well clear of the ground, forearms slightly bowed to mould round the chest. Feet turned slightly outwards. Pembroke: Lower legs short and as straight as possible, forearm moulded around chest. Ample bone, carried right down to feet. Elbows fitting closely to sides, neither loose nor tied. Shoulders well laid, and angulated at 90 degrees to the upper arm.

Cardigan: Chest moderately broad with prominent breast bone. Body fairly long and strong, with deep brisket, well sprung ribs. Clearly defined waist. Topline level. Pembroke: Medium length, well sprung ribs, not short coupled, slightly tapering when viewed from above. Level topline. Chest broad and deep, well let down between forelegs. Both: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Cardigan: Strong, well angulated and aligned with muscular thighs and second thighs; strong bone carried down to feet, legs short; when standing, hocks vertical, viewed from side and rear. Pembroke: Strong and flexible, well angulated stifle. Legs short. Ample bone carried right down to feet. Hocks straight when viewed from behind.

Cardigan: Round, tight, rather large and well padded. All dewclaws to be removed. Pembroke: Oval, toes strong, well arched and tight, two centre toes slightly advance of two outer, pads strong and well arched. Nails short.

Cardigan: Like a fox’s brush, set in line with the body and moderately long (to touch or nearly touch ground). Carried low when standing but may be lifted a little above body when moving, not curled over back. Pembroke: Short, preferably natural. Docked: short. Undocked: set in line with topline. Natural carriage above topline when moving or alert.

Gait & movement
Cardigan: Free and active, elbows fitting close to sides, neither loose nor tied. Forelegs reaching well forward without too much lift, in unison with thrusting action of hindlegs. Pembroke: Free and active, neither loose nor tied. Forelegs move well forward, without too much lift, in unison with thrusting action of hindlegs.

Cardigan: Short or medium of hard texture. Weatherproof, with good undercoat. Preferably straight. Pembroke: Medium length, straight with dense undercoat, never soft, wavy or wiry.

Cardigan: Any colour, with or without white markings, but white should not predominate. Pembroke: Self colours in red, sable, fawn, black and tan, with or without white markings on legs, brisket and neck. Some white on head and foreface permissible.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

Where to get a Corgi puppy
Generally, you will have to put your name down on a waiting list for both Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis, from a reputable breeder. If you are looking for an older dog, then the rescue and rehoming associations linked with each club  may be able to help, although they only usually get the occasional one in. Clubs are only too happy to help with any queries about Corgis and to provide advice to prospective owners, so do take advantage of all available knowledge before going ahead and purchasing a pup.

5 Corgi facts
Says Diana King: “As regards longevity, Pems do go on quite a long time. The average age is about 12 years, but I’ve had a couple who have gone on to 14 and I know of many who have been older than that when they died.” Karen Hewitt says of Cardis: “We lost a Cardi last year and she was just under 15 years. She had a tumour in her spine, but before that afflicted her she was flying around all over the place, slower but still doing everything she’d done before. Fifteen or 16 years is not unusual for a Cardi at all.”

Says Diana King: “Generally Pems don’t have too many health problems. Breed clubs have kept a check over the years to see if there was anything cropping up in the breed that really needed to be addressed, but so far there hasn’t been anything.” Comments Karen Hewitt: “Health-wise, Cardis fare very well. Progressive eye atrophy was a problem some time ago; it flared up in Europe but we now have a genetic test for that. All the puppies that are born in this country at the moment are ‘Code of Conduct’; we can’t breed from any animals that have not been clear of hereditary ailments. They are a breed that’s bred to be out working, so they have to be pretty tough really.”

Height & weight
Cardis: Height: ideally 30cm (12ins) at shoulder. Weight in proportion to size with overall balance the prime consideration; around 11-17kg (25-38lbs). Pems: Height: approximately 25-30cm (10-12ins) at shoulder. Weight: dogs 10-12kg (22-26lbs); bitches 9-11kg (20-24lbs).

“Pems tend to be little gluttons,” says Diana King, “so it’s quite easy for them to become overweight if you don’t keep a check on their food intake. Generally they are pretty good doers and are easy to maintain.” Where Cardis are concerned, Karen Hewitt says: “Generally, they’ll eat anything.”

“Providing you groom them regularly, a Pem coat is no bother,” says Diana King. “They do moult twice a year, as do most breeds, but brushing them two or three times a week alleviates the problem. Pems have a water-resistant coat, comprising a harsh top coat with a dense undercoat so that when they get wet they should be able to give themselves a good shake and they’ll be dry.” “Cardis are quite low-maintenance as regards grooming,” says Karen Hewitt, “although they moult heavily twice a year. A good brush every other day is all they need, or as often as you like because they enjoy it and it’s a good bonding exercise.”

Thanks Special thanks to the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association and the Welsh Corgi League for information provided for this feature.