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 her origins as a hardy working dog. But she is not to be confused with her 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 her 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. And don't forget their adorable booty!
These are short and hardy dogs: At just 10–12 inches tall, they weigh in at up to 30 pounds for males and 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 still expect lots of shed hair—especially during seasonal shedding in the spring and fall.
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While some corgis are born with naturally bobbed tails, most are docked when they are two to five days old—the breed standard calls for a tail that's "as short as possible without being indented." However, tail docking is a controversial practice: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), docking is almost always for purely cosmetic reasons and there's no proven health benefits for the animal.
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 B.C. The Pembroke, on the other hand, originates with the Nordic spitz and can be traced back to 1000 A.D., arriving in Wales with the Vikings, according to the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America. 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 (PWCCA). Van Vleit, who has bred corgis for over 40 years, describes the breed as fun-loving, willful, 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."
Because they are loyal and watchful over their families—and also have a tendency to bark—corgis can make good home alarm systems. Though, that bark alarm will sound off at anything they deem suspicious, including the delivery person or a neighborhood squirrel. They were bred to help herd cattle while also being gentle enough to help with farmers' children or the hens in the courtyard, so they're great with children and seniors, too. However, they can quickly become wary around unfamiliar dogs or cats, so it's best to raise corgis in pairs or slowly introduce new family members.
Van Vleit says 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."
Grooming is a big part of corgi care. They have a thick, weatherproof double coat that sheds regularly, so weekly brushing helps remove excess hair. Because they're seasonal shedders, you'll get a fair bit more hair in spring and fall during coat blowing season. Regular baths will help remove the dead hair.
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 strong-willed, 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 motivated."
Pembroke Welsh corgis are generally quite healthy, though degenerative myelopathy (DM) affects a handful of breeds including the corgi, according to the PWCCA. 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 corgi 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.
It's important that any potential corgi owners do their research and avoid the warning signs of unethical breeding, including:
- The breeder is pushy or tries to create a sense of urgency
- The breeder is selling multiple breeds or hybrid breeds
- They don't supply verifiable health certificates for their dogs
- The kennel offers to ship a puppy
- You're not able to meet the puppy's parents
The Pembroke Welsh corgi traces its distant ancestry to the Nordic spitzes and was brought over into Wales around 1100 AD by Vikings, according to the PWCCA. 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. The ideal farmer's dog 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. Since then, the queen and her corgis have been inseparable and she's owned over 30 of the dogs.
- 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."
- 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.
- Another famous corgi character is Captain Holt's dog Cheddar on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."