Cardigan Welsh Corgi

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial on Jun. 30, 2009

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is the older of the two Corgi breeds. Like the Pembroke, the Cardigan is low-set with a deep chest. Originally used as a farm dog in South Wales, the breed remains a small and powerful companion today.

Physical Characteristics

This breed has a friendly, gentle, watchful and alert expression. The moderately heavy-boned and low-set Cardigan’s length is approximately 1.8 times more than its height. Even though it is small, it is a powerful dog that has the endurance, speed, and agility required for driving cattle for a length of time, nipping at the feet to keep the cattle moving. If the cattle kick their feet, the Corgi can easily dodge around the large animal’s hooves because of its small size.

Its smooth, effortless and free gait enable it to cover ground quickly. The dog’s double coat, meanwhile, is comprised of a thick, soft undercoat and a moderately long and somewhat harsh outer coat that can be found in variety of colors, including red, black, and blue merle. One of its immediately recognizable physical differences from the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is its tail, which is long and full, as opposed to short, as it is with the Pembroke. The Cardigan is affectionately referred to by many as "the Corgi with the tail."

Personality and Temperament

This tough, tireless, and agile breed can play throughout the day. At home, it behaves very well but tends to bark. It also has a tendency to be reserved with strangers and aggressive towards other dogs. The easy-going, high-spirited, and fun-loving Cardigan is an amusing and devoted companion.


The Cardigan Welsh Corgi requires a lot of exercise for its small size. Its exercise needs are best met with a good herding session, but a vigorous play session or a moderate walk is also sufficient. It can easily live outdoors in cool or temperate weather, but it serves as an excellent house-dog and is at its best when allowed to spend time in both the yard and home. Its coat requires brushing once every week to remove dead hair.


The Cardigan Welsh Corgi, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, may suffer from degenerative myelopathy and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). This breed may also be prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and urinary stones. To identify some of these conditions early, a veterinarian may recommend hip, eye, and DNA tests for the dog.

History and Background

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi was among the first breeds to arrive in the British Isles from central Europe. It was brought to Cardiganshire in South Wales. The breed’s origin is obscure, but extinct turn-spit dogs of England may have influenced the low-bodied and short-legged dogs that turned spits in kitchens. Originally, the Cardigan Welsh Corgis were used as family protectors and helpers in hunting, but it wasn't until later that the Corgi found its true calling.

There was a time when the amount of land occupied by cattle determined how much land would be provided to tenant farmers. Thus, the farmer had far-ranging and scattered stock. A dog was required that would drive instead of herding the cattle. The Corgi was best suited for this purpose, as it would nip at the heels of the cattle and duck their kicks. The word Corgi, in fact, is said to be derived from "Cor," meaning to gather and "Gi," which means dog.

The original Corgi was the size of a Welsh yard or a little more than an English yard, from the tail-tip to nose. In some parts of Cardiganshire, the dog was known as the Ci-llathed or "yard-long dog." Later, when the Crown lands were split, fenced, and sold, there was no need for drovers and the Corgi was left unemployed. Some kept it as a companion and guard, but few could afford it. Soon it was on the verge of extinction. Breeders tried to inter-breed it with other dogs, but the results were not successful. However, one exception was the inter-breeding with the brindle herder, which led to the production of the modern Cardigans.

The first Cardigans were publicized in the 1920s. However, until 1934, the Pembroke Welsh Corgis and the Cardigan were regarded as one breed, and crossing the two was a common practice.

The first Cardigan Welsh Corgi was seen in the United States in 1931, and four years later the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. Sadly, the Cardigan does not enjoy as much popularity as the Pembroke Corgi, but it still remains a tireless, well-behaved, and devoted companion.

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