Two breeds have the name Welsh corgi – the Cardigan Welsh corgi and the Pembroke Welsh corgi. When viewed separately, you may think the only difference is the presence or absence of a tail.
You would be mistaken. When viewed side by side, the many differences become apparent. The Cardigan and Pembroke are two completely separate breeds with different origins and ancestors. The Cardigan is still used to herd and work livestock. The Pembroke is considered a house pet and is so loved in Great Britain that the breed is now the Royal Dog of England.
History and Origin
Though not as popular, the Cardigan Welsh corgi is considered the older of the two breeds and one of the first breeds in the British Isles. In 1200 B.C. the Celts of central Europe traveled to south Wales, bringing their dogs. Many settled in an area eventually called Cardiganshire, from where the Cardigan received his name. The Cardigan Welsh corgi is thought to be descended from the same ancestor as the dachshund.
In contrast, the Pembroke Welsh corgi is a popular housedog. It is thought that Flemish weavers brought this Welsh corgi to Wales across the Channel in 1107. Many settled in an area called Pembrokeshire, from where the dog received his name. There is no link to the dachshund in the Pembroke. More likely, Keeshond, Pomeranian, spitz and schipperke were used in the development of the breed.
The meaning of the word corgi is often debated. For some, the word is Welsh for dwarf dog. Others feel that corgi is a derivation of cur, meaning working dog. Regardless of the origin of the name, the corgi is a small dog that excels in working with cattle.
Both corgis were originally developed to help their owners with livestock. Unlike herding dogs, the corgi was used to drive cattle. Centuries ago, good grazing land was scarce and extensive fencing to confine livestock was not allowed. This meant that there was significant competition for land usage. If one landowner had good pastures, neighboring cattle could easily migrate and graze, taking this valuable resource. The job of the corgi was to nip at the heels of these cattle, driving them off the owner's land. Eventually, fencing was allowed and the usefulness of the corgi diminished. Thankfully, the corgi was so loved as a pet and guardian that the breed continued to flourish.
In the mid 19th century, crossbreeding between the Cardigan and Pembroke occurred, but in 1934, the two breeds were officially divided and recognized as separate. All crossbreeding stopped. The first corgi arrived in the United States in 1931 and the two breeds were accepted into the working breed group of the American Kennel Club in 1935.
There are many differences between the two corgis but the most striking is related to the tail. The Cardigan Welsh corgi has a tail and the Pembroke Welsh corgi either has a very short tail or none at all.
Both corgis are low set, long bodied sturdy dogs. The Pembroke tends to be stockier with a shorter body and straighter legs. The ears of the Cardigan are erect and rounded. The Pembroke also has erect ears but the tips are more pointed and smaller.
The hair coat of both corgis is double, dense and of medium length. The Cardigan comes in many different colors such as red, sable, brindle, blue merle and tri-colored. The Pembroke is most often red but can be other colors.
The Cardigan Welsh corgi and the Pembroke Welsh corgi both stand 10 to 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 25 to 35 pounds.
The Pembroke is a more successful house pet than the Cardigan. Both are intelligent and loyal dogs but the Pembroke tends to have less herding instincts. Pembrokes are also more tolerant and playful. Some can be possessive, which may result in aggressive tendencies in certain dogs.
Some dogs are great with kids and others can assert their possessive or bossy nature and have a tendency to nip. They are better with older kids (over 6 or 7 years).
Home & Family Relations
Both corgis are devoted and protective, especially around children. The Cardigan is more likely to show herding instincts around children than the Pembroke. The corgi will guard and protect children from anything the dog perceives as a threat.
The corgi needs little training to herd and work with livestock, especially the Cardigan. Both corgis are intelligent and excel at obedience training. As a working dog, they love having a job to do.