Thanks to celebrities like England’s Queen Elizabeth II and Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowsi, the Corgi has been steadily growing in popularity since the mid-1900’s. Today, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is the 16th most popular dog breed in America, according to the American Kennel Club.
And it’s no wonder they’ve gained such popularity – they’re adorable, especially as puppies. Just look at those fluffy little butts, and those tiny legs!
But before you run out the door and spend $1,200 USD (or more) on arguably the cutest puppy in the world, it’s a good idea to do your research to make sure that a Corgi is the right fit for your lifestyle and wants.
Everything you need to know about the Cardigan Welsh Corgi:
The AKC recognizes two distinct breeds of corgi – the Cardigan Welsh and the Pembroke Welsh. While only recognized as two distinct breeds in the late 1800’s, the history of the two are believed to be very different.
The Pembroke was first bred in 1107 AD, when Flemish master weavers were invited to settle in Wales by King Henry I. Having an agrarian lifestyle, the weavers brought with them everything they’d need to sustain their lifestyle, including their livestock herding dogs. The dogs they brought were sturdy and short legged, yet incredibly agile, creating the foundation for today’s Pembroke Corgi.
On the other hand, the ancestors of the Cardigan are a bit more unclear. Some believe they were brought over by Nordic settlers. A dog of similar proportions, the Swedish Vallhund, can be found in Modern Scandinavia, giving credence to this theory since they could share a common ancestor. Other’s believe that the Celts brought the ancient corgi to Wales from Central Europe as early as 1200 BCE. The only thing that can be said with almost certainty is that corgis were herding in Wales at least 1,000 years ago.
Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire, the regions giving these breeds their names, are adjacent counties in Wales, so while they have definitely evolved into two distinct breeds, they were free to interbreed until the early 1900’s, resulting in similar characteristics of the two.
The final transition for the Cardigan into what we have today began in the late 19th century. The resident farmers of the region made a switch from cattle to sheep, and the existing herding dog wasn’t suitable for the job. So the farmers began to crossbreed with the Welsh Sheepdog. This decision is what introduce the blue merle coloration into the lineage, but more on that later.
Cardigan’s are described by the AKC as “long, low-set dogs with sturdy bone, short legs, and a deep chest.” A medium sized breed, they are 10.5 – 12.5 inches tall at the shoulders, and weigh 25-38 pounds, with the females at the lower end and males at the higher end. They come in a variety of colors including shades of red, sable and brindle, black, with or without brindle points, blue merle, with or without brindle points, and all typically include white throughout.
Compared to their more famous cousin, Cardi’s are larger, with bigger, rounder ears, but most noticeably, they have a long foxy tail while Pembrokes have none.
They have a double-layer water resistant coat and are prone to seasonal shedding, but overall fairly easy to maintain as far as grooming goes. Routine bathing and nail trims, plus a good brushing once a week is all this little guy needs.
While Cardigans have great overall personalities, they can be a bit of a handful if not properly trained at an early age. They are intelligent, highly trainable, friendly, loyal, and often downright goofy, going out of their way to entertain their humans. When well socialized, they love children as well as other household pets. Designed to herd, they’re rough and tumble, rugged outdoor types. A bit bossy and possessive, they’re exceptionally vigilant guardians, but this is where the trouble can begin if not properly trained.
4. Exercise Needs
Cardigan’s are very adaptable. Want to go for an adventurous hike? They’re up for it. Prefer a night in with a movie on the couch? They’re down to be your snuggle buddy. This makes them great for all living environments, whether it be studio apartment or a 300 acre farm. However, they do require regular exercise as well as mental stimulation.
If your Cardi doesn’t receive enough exercise, you’ll know it because they’ll ‘power run’ in the house, running laps around the living room. If a lack of exercise and mental stimulation become a regular thing, they’ll turn to mischief and destructive chewing. They can also become overweight very easily, so exercise cannot be emphasized enough.
Regular socialization from an early age is of utmost importance for rearing a happy and healthy Cardigan. As puppies they should be exposed to as many people, places, and situations as possible. Every family member needs to participate in training, and undesirable behavior shouldn’t be tolerated at all. Corgi’s are smart and while agreeable, if you even once let them believe they can call the shots, you’ll no longer be running your own house.
Corgi’s are very alert and attentive, recognizing even minor changes in their environments. If you leave a sock on the floor where there usually aren’t any, a Corgi wants you to be as aware of the inconsistency a she is, so she’ll communicate this to you the only way she knows how: by barking. And she will. not. stop. Until you’ve picked up the dang sock.
6. Health Issues
Overall, the Cardigan is a healthy breed, with an average life expectancy of 12-15 years, though there are three more common ailments that pop up. The National Breed Club recommends that breeders have their puppies screened for hip dysplasia, in addition to running degenerative myelopathy DNA tests and progressive retinal atrophy tests (clearance through parentage is also considered acceptable).
Wait, blue merle is a color pattern, right? It is. So why is this listed under health issues? Merle is a gene in many dog breeds that creates a mottled coat pattern and blue eyes or odd-colored eyes (known as heterochromia), and can affect all coat colors – but blue is most common as it’s become the most desirable.
Because merle is genetic and not an entirely dominant gene, sometimes a dog that carries the gene doesn’t display the merle pattern. To increase the likelihood of merles showing up, irresponsible breeders will breed a merle with another merle. Unfortunately, when bred this way, one out of every four puppies will possess two merle genes, usually resulting in health complications like eye defects and deafness.
I mention this as a warning. Blue merle is a highly sought after coloration, largely because of the blue or partially blue eyes that result. But the truth is, the blue eyes might not even show up in a double-merle pup, while the medical issues do. If you’re in search of a blue merle, do your research. Make sure the breeder is knowledgeable and responsible. If the coloration is of vital importance, you’re better off on a waiting list with a responsible breeder than buying just any ol’ blue merle. Trust me – your wallet, and your bleeding heart – will thank you when you’re not dealing with health complications.
Adorable, intelligent, quirky, and loyal, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is a great companion for most, so long as you’re willing to commit to proper training, socializing, and exercise routines. They make great family dogs, as they love children and other household pets. That said, because they do require strict training and exercise regimins, they’re probably not a great pick for a first time owner.
While currently a writer and editor, Anne Marie spent her early adulthood working in both veterinary and zoological care of animals. She has cared for everything from cats and dogs to tigers and apes. She’s had five dogs, most recently a Rhodesian Ridgeback. A native of Florida, she is a bit of a nomad, currently residing in the Netherlands.