No, You're Not Seeing Double—Here's How to Tell the Difference Between the Two Types of Corgis
We totally get it—corgi butts drive you nuts! But do you know there are actually two types of corgis and one has a tail? (Gasp!) Does this posterior protrusion reduce the level of adorableness? Not by a long shot!
The corgi family tree has two distinct branches: a Pembroke Welsh corgi and a Cardigan Welsh corgi. They're not corgi mixes, but cousins from different regions of, you guessed it, Wales in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, both have:
- Expressive body language, with alert, fox-like faces, natural smiles, and sparkling eyes. And check out those ears!
- A high level of intelligence that simply begs for daily enrichment activities (like this corgi playing basketball!) and positive reinforcement training.
- Generally bold but good-natured and spirited personalities, full of love for all creatures—and an impish sense of humor!
If you're being polite and not checking out their behinds, these spunky puppers might make you do a double-take as they scamper by. We asked an expert for a few tips to tell these two types of corgis apart.
A Little History Behind the Two Types of Corgi Breeds
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
The Pembroke Welsh corgi, descendent of Nordic spitz breeds, is a native of far-southern Wales (Pembrokeshire) along the Bristol Channel. Cattle farmers needed a swift herder low to the ground to avoid hoof kicks but also hardy enough to keep up with the larger animals.
Pembroke family history is a bit muddled regarding a 1,000 year old Viking connection with this breed. Some canine historians believe the Swedish vallhund—which is often mistaken for a different type of corgi and strongly resembles one—was the favored Viking dog first, and so the two breeds are second cousins.
Who's the greatest fan of this pooch? Queen Elizabeth II, who has famously loved, bred, and raised Pembroke Welsh corgis her entire life.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi
It's easy to think southwestern cattle and sheep farmers along St. George's Channel in Cardiganshire, Wales simply took a trip farther south, spotted Pembroke corgis and said, "Hey, I like the look of those little dogs! Let's put a few in the wagon!" However, Cardigan Welsh corgis are actually much older than Pembrokes.
These pups descend from German teckel lineage approximately 3,000 years old. A Cardigan corgi's second cousin is a fellow German dog, the Dachshund—and the two combined make a dorgi, which some people might think of as a type of corgi, since it's a mixed breed.
'Cardis' joined Celtic migrations from Europe to Wales around 1200 BC. This heritage provides Cardigan Welsh corgis with great endurance as a herd 'drover', hoof-avoiding agility, and vermin control, plus the ability to keep watchful eyes on their people and animals.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi vs. Cardigan Welsh Corgi: What's the Difference?
Before we get to the tail reveal (We know! We know!), let's talk a little bit about the personality differences of the corgi dog breeds.
Sara Austin, DVM, is the owner of Austin Veterinary Hospital in Beaufort, N.C., as well as a breeder at Salty Creek Cardigan Welsh Corgis. She says personality might be one way to tell Pembrokes and Cardigans apart. "You're more likely to be actively greeted by a Pembroke than a Cardigan," she says. "Cardigans tend to be the more reserved dog, whereas Pems are more outgoing." She adds that according to written standards for the breed, neither should be shy nor aggressive.
Austin also notes that she finds Cardis to be a bit more low-key than Pems and for her, easier to train, but they still won't go out of their way to please you.
Other differences you might notice between these two types of corgis concern health. Austin says because both of them are chondrodysplastic/dwarf breeds, they're at risk for intervertebral disc disease. They are also both prone to elbow and hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and degenerative myelopathy.
"However, health issues do seem more prevalent in Pembroke Welsh corgis due to their overwhelming popularity," she adds. "Additional diseases found more commonly in Pems than Cardis are exercise-induced collapse and canine von Willebrand disease, which is an internal bleeding disorder. In terms of lifespan, Pembrokes usually live 12–13 years, and Cardigans up to 15 years.
And now, the moment you've been waiting for: which of these types of corgis has a tail? Take a look!
So to submit the winning answer to the trivia question, "Do corgis have tails?" make sure to wave your hand wildly and shout out "Cardigan Welsh corgis do!"
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America notes this breed's poofy, fox-like tail as standard. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America "believes it is and always has been an important part of our breed to have docked or natural bob-tailed dogs." So Pem tails are banded shortly after birth.
And while both corgi breeds have large, rounded ears, some people see the Pembroke Welsh corgi's being a tad more rounded at the tip, while the Cardigan Welsh corgi's are more rounded at the base. Next time you catch two side-by-side, whip out a tape measure!
Another subtle difference in appearance between these two types of corgis includes their paws. Look closely, and you'll notice Cardis inherited a slight frontal bow-leggedness with turned-out toes from their teckel ancestors—similar to a Dachshund or basset hound.
You might also observe that:
- Pembrokes are a tad more slender, and weigh about 21–31 pounds compared to the more stocky Cardigans, who are about 25–38 pounds.
- Pems are a smidgen shorter than Cardis by a wee bit, but they both range 10–12 (ish) inches tall.
What's in a color? A lot, actually! For example, if you're not familiar with the term 'markings', Embark explains that markings on a dog's coat highlight areas where color pigment is different.
Austin says the only accepted colors for Pembroke Welsh corgis are red/sable or tricolor, which is black with tan points. The big swath of white across their neck and down their forelegs is a marking, designating where their primary coat ends and another begins.
She adds that the preferred, naturally-occurring colors of Cardigan Welsh corgis are red/sable, brindle, tricolor (with brindle or tan points), and blue merle. Their markings are more extensive, including a black mask or a mask in another primary coat color. Such a little bandit! Along with that, they often have an additional marking of white flowing from their paws, up their chest, and around their shoulders, depending on the primary coat pattern.
Both Pems and Cardis are double-coated breeds, which means they'll shed a little all the time. So charge up the robot vacuum and establish a weekly brush and snuggle routine. This should all be great practice for blowing coat season, which is when massive fur tornados hit your home in the spring and fall.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi or Cardigan Welsh Corgi: Is One of These Dogs Right for You?
You love their antics and find them positively irresistible—does this mean you should dash out and get a corgi? As tempting as this might be, let's first review a few things.
"Mental stimulation and engagement are of the utmost importance. Both breeds require it, so the ideal homes are active and engaging," Austin says. "Both also prefer to have jobs. They're working breeds, so they may not be the ideal dogs for new pet owners or those who aren't interested in some type of training."
So either a Pembroke Welsh corgi or a Cardigan Welsh corgi might be your preferred pup if:
- You're ready to enable them to be really super-duper good dogs right away with early socialization and puppy kindergarten.
- The family can get in on the amusement of teaching these two types of corgis tricks, games, no-jump agility courses, and other fun activities to boost their mind power.
- You can meet their moderate exercise needs, which include daily walks, frolicking in dog parks, and romps in well-fenced areas. Austin says she even takes her Cardis kayaking and paddleboarding. Pems and Cardis love adventure!