There are two breeds of Corgi, more formally known as the Welsh Corgi, recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC): The Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
These are considered distinct breeds, and because each has its own distinct appearance, characteristics and ancestry, it is important for potential owners to understand the differences and similarities. Corgis were recognized as pure-bred dogs in the United Kingdom in the 1920s. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was first recognized by the AKC in 1934. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi was first recognized by the AKC in 1935.
The Pembroke and the Cardigan are both low-set dogs. Each breed has a sturdy structure with strong chests and short legs. Pembrokes are shorter than Cardigans. Both are strong workers, and enjoy herding activities. It is said that their small size made them perfect for nipping at cattle feet to keep them moving in the correct direction. Both are considered to be excellent companion dogs, with agreeable temperaments and loyalty to their families. Both are easily trained and intelligent. Both tend to live long and respond well to gentle handling. Both excel in dog sports, doing well with obedience and herding tasks.
Pembrokes do not have tails. Cardigans do.
Welsh corgis come in many different colors, such as red, fawn, sable, tan and black. Some have white markings, while others do not. There are brindle patterns. There is also a blue-merle pattern which is popular.
Corgis love to practice their work behaviors, even when they are not working dogs. This means that they will nip, poke, bark and chase with their family members. They are doing what comes naturally to them, so it will take patience to train them so these behaviors do not disrupt the family.
Some say that the Flemish weavers who came to live in Wales during the reign of Henry I brought the ancestors of the Pembroke with them. Some say that the Vikings brought their Vallhunds, which were Swedish cattle hounds to Pembrokeshire and these were the ancestors of the Pembroke Corgis. Both tales surround the belief that the breed dates as far back as the tenth century.
There is a Welsh legend that describes the Pembroke as enchanted because it served the Fairy kingdom as a working dog, pulling fairy coaches, serving as fairy horses, and keeping the fairy cattle herded. The spry little faces of the Pembroke resemble the Finnish Spitz or Norwegian Elkhounds. The Welsh have used Pembrokes for generations as guardians of their farms, family companions and herding dogs.
In the British Isles, the Cardigan is one of the earliest dog breeds, coming to Wales in 1200 B.C. The Cardi came with the Celts to its homeland, the Cardiganshire. It was named for this land, and has been there longer than 3,000 years. The Cardigan is one of the dog lines which originated with the Dachshund. As such, it is older than the Pembroke and a completely distinct line from it.
Pembrokes have a well-deserved reputation for being fearless and independent herding dogs. They are known to be sensitive so they do well in training. They are also smart and enjoy challenges. As members of a family, they are loyal and love their owners. They need to have plenty of time together participating in family activities. It is common to see them herding youngsters, as well as cattle. Their bark is loud, though their size is small. They are excellent when serving as the family watchdog, as they tend to be extremely alert.
Cardigans are known for being excellent at herding cattle. They were bred for this task and their nature is to be faithful to their work and their owners. Easy to train, they get along well with children and household pets. Though their faces are sweet and they are wonderful companions, they guard their territory with barks as loud as larger dogs. Enjoying meals is one of their favorite pastimes so they need to have regular exercise and meal monitoring, otherwise they can become overweight.
Size and Exercise
Male and Female Pembroke Welsh Corgis range in height from 10 to 12 inches tall, measured from the withers.
- Male Pembroke Welsh Corgis weigh 27 to 30 pounds.
- Female Pembroke Welsh Corgis weigh 25 to 28 pounds.
Male and Female Cardigan Welsh Corgis range in height from 10 ½ to 12 ½ inches tall, measured from the withers.
- Male Cardigan Welsh Corgis weigh 30 to 38 pounds.
- Females Cardigan Welsh Corgis weigh from 25 to 34 pounds.
The Pembroke and the Cardigan both need to have daily exercise. Because they are both compact in size, they do equally well living in apartments or out in the country, but they are energetic and that energy needs to be channeled into walks and romps rather than destructive activities. They should not roam away from their own yard, so it should be fenced. They may have play times in enclosed areas, but must be protected from larger dogs they could encounter otherwise. They are also curious and can get themselves into trouble if left on their own.
Health Issues and Living Conditions
Pembrokes are a chondrodysplastic breed. This means that they are true dwarves and smaller in size than larger dog breeds. Though they are small, their structures are evenly proportioned.
Health concerns for Pembrokes include:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Cardiac health
- Eye disorders
- Degenerative myelopathy
- Von Willebrand Disease (blood clotting)
Cardigans are also chondrodysplastic. One of their common conditions is intervertebral disk disease, due to their unusual skeletal structure. Paralysis can result from this condition, and it is more common in Cardigans than any other breed. As with Pembrokes, they also suffer from hip dysplasia and Von Willebrand Disease.
Health concerns for Cardigans include:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Eyelash abnormalities
- Luxating patella (loose knees)
- Allergies leading to pyoderma (skin infections)
- Immunoglobulin deficiency (rare but serious)
Corgis do best when living with the family they love. They are built like average size dogs, except for their very short legs. But, they are active and can adapt to living in an apartment, a home in the suburbs or the country. Their main requirement is fresh food and water, loving owners, a moderate amount of daily exercise.
Both Pembroke and Cardigan Corgis have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
Corgis have short legs and a low to the ground profile. Both breeds need regular weekly brushing to keep their double coats in good shape. When seasonal shedding occurs, it will be much easier to brush a Corgi that already has a brushing routine in place. One of the easiest ways to brush a Corgi is to train him to lie down so that you can reach the sides and undercoat more easily. Brushing in the direction the hair grows will help to remove any tangles. The outercoat has longer hairs, but brushing in small sections and parting the hair as you go will make it easier to reach the undercoat. Gently brushing chest, legs, face and ears is the last of the routine.
When its bath time, use warm water and a high quality dog shampoo. Use cotton balls in the ears to keep water and possible infection out. Mixing the water with the shampoo, massaging it into the coat works well. Rinse out all dirt and shampoo until the water is clear. Then, towel dry and use a hairdryer set on low to finish.
Most owners should consider having any nail trimming done by a professional groomer. The toenails need to be clipped and the stray hairs that grow on their paws needs to be removed. But, the Corgi’s toes are webbed, needing special care. Also, the Corgi’s double coat should never be shaved.
Caring for Corgi Puppies
Corgi puppies need to be housebroken, crate trained, checked regularly by a veterinarian, given plenty of high quality food and fresh water, given chew toys and treats, and plenty of love. They are affectionate toward their owners and do best with lots of affection as they grow up.
Before Taking Your Corgi Puppy Home
- Learn about the temperament of both sire (father) and dam (mother) of your prospective puppy
- Research the tests and work of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
- Ask the breeder if the puppy’s parents have been tested for hip dysplasia
- Ask if the puppy has had a PennHIP evaluation to rule out hip problems
- Talk with the breeder about potential inherited disorders
- Confirm that a certified veterinarian ophthalmologist has cleared the puppy of eye conditions
- Stock up on puppy food recommended as best for your new Corgi
- Buy dishes, treats, chew toys, a collar and leash for walks
- Buy a training crate so your puppy can have a dedicated rest and sleeping spot
After You Bring Your Corgi Puppy Home
- Keep your puppy at home until it has its rabies shots, vaccinations complete and is 4 months old
- Show the puppy its crate and start to use it right away for training, sleeping and resting
- Take the puppy outside to its toilet area every hour, on the hour, the first day
- Give the puppy chew toys or rawhide toys to distract it from nipping fingers
- Take the puppy to its first veterinarian check-up right away
- Keep the puppy from extreme cold and heat
- Train the puppy to wear its collar and leash every day
The Corgi is a popular breed, so many hybrids have been created with other breeds. Some of the more common ones include:
- Aussie Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd
- Basset Hound, Beagle, Black Lab, Border Collie
- Chihuahua, Chow, Cockapoo
- Dachshund, Dalmatian
- English Bulldog
- German Shepherd, Golden Retriever
- Jack Russell
- Long Haired Dachshund
- Papillion, Pomeranian
- Sheltie, Shaba Innu
- Toy Poodle
- Yellow Lab, Yorkie
These possible mixes are not recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Other names for the breeds:
- Welsh Corgi
Individual Breed Recognition
The Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh Cori Club of America, Inc. (National AKC breed club)
Canadian Canine Registry (CCR)
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America, Inc. (National AKC breed club)
Recognition for Both Breeds
- American Canine Association Inc. (ACA)
- American Canine Registry (ACR)
- American Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI)
- Australian National Kennel Club (ANKC)
- Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)
- Continental Kennel Club (CKC)
- Dog Registry of America, Inc. (DRA)
- Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
- Kennel Club of Great Britain (KCGB)
- National Kennel Club (NKC)
- New Zealand Kennel Club (NZKC)
- North American Purebred Registry, Inc (NAPR)
- United Kennel Club (UKC)