Pembroke Welsh Corgi
With their perky ears, stubby legs, and huge grins, it’s easy to see why the Pembroke Welsh corgi has so many fans. Bred as herding dogs in Wales, the Pembroke Welsh corgi’s full haunches and adorable waddle belie its origins as a hardy working dog. The New York Post calls them “the most bootylicious dog breed” and named them the hottest dog of 2019. The Pembroke Welsh corgi is not to be confused with their slightly larger, long-tailed cousin, the Cardigan Welsh corgi, which is an entirely separate breed.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is easily recognizable: Pair that foxy face with its perky ears; add in a sturdy, long body and short legs; and finish it all off with a full coat around the shoulders and haunches. The current AKC breed standard for Pembroke Welsh corgis calls for a tail docked “as short as possible without being indented.” While some corgis are born with naturally short tails, most are docked when they are 2–5 days old.
These are short and hardy dogs: At just 10–12 inches tall, they weigh in at up to 30 pounds for males and up to 28 pounds for females. Their medium-thick double coat comes in four standard colors: black and tan, fawn, red, or sable. You’ll need to make sure that your corgi is brushed regularly, but expect lots of shed hair—especially during seasonal shedding in the spring and fall.
While Pembroke Welsh corgis might resemble the Cardigan Welsh corgi, the two breeds were actually developed at different times and come from separate lineages: The Cardigan is much older, originating from the German Teckel lineage that came to Wales with the Celts around 1200 BC. The Pembroke, on the other hand, originates with the Nordic spitz and can be traced back to 1000 AD, arriving in Wales with the Vikings. You’ll notice that the Cardigan has a slightly heavier build (up to 38 pounds) and a long, fox-like undocked tail.
“They’re a big dog in a little package,” says Marilyn Van Vleit, the Judges Education Chair for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America. Van Vleit, who has bred corgis for over 40 years, describes the breed as fun-loving, stubborn, kindly, and extremely intelligent. “They have a wonderful, wonderful sense of humor, and they love their toys,” she says. “They love to interact with their people.”
As they are both loyal and protective of their families—and also have a tendency to bark—corgis can make good watchdogs. They were bred to help herd cattle while also being gentle enough to help with the children or the hens in the courtyard, so they’re great with children and seniors, too. However, their protective instincts can kick in with unfamiliar dogs or cats, so it’s best to raise corgis in pairs or slowly introduce new family members.
Pembroke Welsh corgis have a moderately thick coat that protects them from weather extremes, but they are indoor dogs that enjoy curling up on your bed or your couch just as much as they will enjoy a hike or a long walk. Because of their short legs, they’re not built for keeping up with bikes. Van Vleit notes that while corgis may enjoy splashing in puddles, their physiology isn’t necessarily the best build for swimming. “They’re not a natural water dog,” she says, “but they can swim in a safe, shallow area without a problem.”
It’s important to help Pembroke Welsh Corgis stay active. “Every dog needs a job to do,” says Van Vleit. Corgis were bred as working dogs on farms and are extremely intelligent, so keeping them both physically and mentally engaged is important.
Van Vleit says that while they can be very stubborn, the corgi is very trainable. “If you don't have an owner that is smarter than the dog, that can create an issue because the corgi has the upper hand,” she says. “But most of the time you're going to find them very willing, interested, and always food motivated.”
She suggests kindness, direction, routine, and a clear definition of right and wrong are important when training a corgi. “They very much are pleased with getting it right.”
A healthy corgi will live to be 12–13 years old. Some corgis have the potential for weight gain, so it’s important to keep treats in moderation and make sure they have plenty of exercise.
Pembroke Welsh corgis are generally quite healthy, though Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) affects a handful of breeds including the corgi. DM causes spinal cord degeneration in older dogs (the average age of onset in corgis is 11 years). The disease is not painful to dogs, but over time, the dog becomes paraplegic.
There are currently no treatments for the condition, so it’s up to responsible breeders to select for the healthiest dogs and slowly eradicate the condition—something that Van Vleit points out might be lacking oversight with the surge of corgi popularity. “The concern is that in order to meet the demand, the people that will be supplying the puppies will be puppy mills,” she says.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi traces its distant ancestry to the Nordic spitzes and was brought over into Wales around 1100 AD by Vikings. Over time, the thrifty Welsh farmers bred a versatile dog to fit their needs: “[Farmers] needed a dog that could be strong enough and have enough endurance to be able to go get the dairy cows,” Van Vleit says. The corgi’s short legs are built for keeping it out of the way of wayward hooves. It also needed to be a smaller dog that could eat scraps and curl up on the hearth. “[They] needed a dog that was gentle enough to help with the children or with the hens in the courtyard, but yet fast enough to catch a rat,” she adds.
The result? The versatile, sturdy, and friendly corgi. The Pembroke Welsh corgi was recognized as a breed in England in the 1920s and in the U.S. in the 1930s. They were also launched to popularity when Queen Elizabeth II got her first corgi in 1933.
- According to an ancient Welsh legend, the Pembroke Welsh corgi was actually gifted to humans by the fairies, who used corgis to pull their carriages and ride into battle. It’s why the darker patch of fur some corgis have on their shoulders is sometimes called a “fairy saddle.”
- Queen Elizabeth II was the first to broadly popularize the breed: She received her first Pembroke Welsh corgi in 1933 and has owned 30 of the dogs since.
- One of the most famous corgis is actually a fictional, cartoon character named Ein in the anime Cowboy Bebop. But you’ll find corgis all over the Internet: A few corgi influencers include Geordi La Corgi, Breadloaf, and Donut.