There is plenty of love in the world for the noble Corgi dog. Both Cardigan Welsh Corgis and Pembroke Welsh Corgis have their own history, and each dog breed is unique in its own way. They are, unfortunately, often mixed up. This is typically because Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis have extremely similar appearances and personalities, despite being two separate breeds. Following this short introduction, we look to unfold the mysteries behind the notorious fairy dogs that are these two Corgi breeds, and finally separate them into two distinct categories.
Breed History: Cardigan Welsh Corgi vs Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Although their breed names and appearances would lead you to believe otherwise, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi are not at all related. Each Welsh Corgi may hail from the same country, but the history of both breeds is separate. In fact, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi breed has been around for approximately two thousand years longer than the newer Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed. Interesting, considering that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the more recognizable breed.
Descended from the same family of dogs as the Dachshund, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi first came into existence in Wales, approximately three thousand years ago.
It is said that the original version of the breed came over to Wales with the Celtic tribes who migrated there from central Europe. Back then, the breed would have been made up of features that related to the Teckel and Spitz dog families.
Cardigan Welsh Corgi dogs would have originally been used as a kind of guard dog; it was their job to walk paths ahead of any livestock and clear the way if there were predators around. This allowed the livestock to graze in the cleared area. Later, they were used as herding dogs, nipping at the heels of livestock to get them to move when needed.
It may have been during this second career that the ancestors of today’s Cardigan Welsh Corgi dogs were crossed with sheepdogs. This would have produced a dog that had more skills suitable for a range of working environments.
When Vikings invaded, they brought with them a Spitz dog that ended up in some parts of Wales. The original Corgis who didn’t get crossed with the Spitz dogs are today’s Cardigan Welsh Corgi dogs – remaining much of their old appearance and genetics. Any Corgi dogs that were crossed with the Spitz dogs back then are today’s Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
The British Kennel Club recognized Corgis as a breed to be exhibited in their shows back in 1925. Before this time, if a Corgi was shown at a Kennel Club, they were under a working category of dogs – there were shows for dogs that were “Heelers” and “Curs”. Heelers being a variety of cattle dogs, and Curs being multipurpose working dogs.
The term “Corgi” started being used more in the 1920s, which is also when the breed’s history started being documented more. Though Corgis now had their own section in the Kennel Club, the Kennel Club still didn’t recognize Cardigan Welsh Corgi dogs and Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs as their own individual breeds, and lumped them together in the same category.
Because both breeds were registered as one breed of dog, both the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi were cross-bred at times. This actually caused more issues because some judges did prefer one breed of Corgi over the other. Their mistake was corrected almost 10 years later in 1934, when they separated the breeds in the registry.
Shortly after the success of a Corgi named Golden Arrow, who became a champion holding pup, the Royal Family of Britain chose to take on Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs as their pets. Queen Elizabeth II made Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs incredibly popular because she was constantly seen with her dogs.
The Royal Corgis, as they’re known to the public, have been many in number. Queen Elizabeth II has owned over 30 Corgi dogs since she became Queen, and there has always been at least one Corgi at her side since 1933.
Those Royal Corgis have been publicized globally for years, and it is thanks to that popularity that the public seem to prefer Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs over their older cousin breed, the Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
That said, the Royal Family have owned other dogs, but never as many as the Corgis that they have been the owners of over the years.
Corgis in Popular Media
We are a society that consumes media frequently and excessively. Films and television shows are literally available at the touch of a few buttons, or the slide of a finger across a touchscreen smartphone to open Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube etc.
When dogs are shown in media and that media becomes popular, the dogs become popular, too. Just look at the rise in sales of wolf-like dogs and Wolfdogs during the Game of Thrones hype.
There are several recent appearances of the Corgi breed in popular entertainment media.
The first is Brooklyn Nine Nine, where one of the characters – Captain Raymond Holt – is often seen with his Corgi dog Cheddar. Cheddar appears several times throughout the series, and there’s even an entire episode where the pup goes missing and is searched for by several of the show’s main characters.
The second example is the Netflix series The Crown. The Crown is a historical drama where the story unfolds around the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Therefore, it only makes sense that there would be a few companion animals running around – and yes, there are a couple of Corgis that make an appearance in The Crown.
The interesting thing is that both shows used Pembroke Welsh Corgis rather than any other Corgi types. This could be for several reasons, but speculation could say that it’s because Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs are more recognizable, despite the Cardigan Welsh Corgi dog’s longer history.
How to Tell Types of Corgis Apart
There are only two true breeds of recognized Corgi in the world. These are both Welsh Corgi dogs. However, there are so many similarities between the two breeds that they are difficult for the average person to identify unless they know what traits to look for to figure out which Corgi breed a particular dog is.
To identify a Corgi, the easiest thing someone can do is look at the dog and its features.
Owners of Corgis will, typically, know which breed their dog is, but a dog sitter/walker or a family member may not know that there’s a difference.
The main way to tell Corgis apart by looking at their appearance is to check out the tail of the Corgi in question. A long, fluffy, almost fox-like tail would indicate that the Corgi you’re looking at is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Whereas, a short tail, similar to a bunny rabbit’s tail, would belong to a Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog. Even as a puppy, the Corgi wouldn’t be hard to identify by checking their tail.
Alternatively, you could look at the overall shape of the Corgi and its features. A Cardigan Welsh Corgi has large, rounded ears, while a Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s ears are more pointed. Those can be difficult to tell apart, though, so try looking at the dog side-on for a glance at their profile. Pembroke Welsh Corgi dogs appear closer to the floor because they carry more weight in the front and have a rounded behind. Their fur is also longer, which makes their legs look shorter.
Cardigans have a slightly slimmer look. They aren’t as rounded as Pembrokes. Indeed, Cardigans seem to have more shape to them than the squat, blocky appearance of Pembrokes.
Another way to tell them apart is their face. It’s subtle, but Pembrokes have shorter muzzle and a softer look overall – compared to the longer, more pointed muzzle of Cardigans.
To summarize, here is a quick list of what you can look for:
Cardigans – Longer muzzle, rounded ears, long tail, larger and heavier, sloping rear, appears more shapely.
Pembrokes – Shorter muzzle, ears aren’t as rounded, short tail, squared-off rear that gives the dog a rectangular look, long fur on underbelly may make the dog appear closer to the ground.
Even though it can be difficult to tell Cardigans and Pembrokes apart, the two dog breeds do have some differences in coat colors, too.
Cardigan Coat Colors
For Cardigans, they can be found in a range of coat colors – more then Pembrokes, certainly. These include:
- Black (with or without tan/brindle points)
- Blue merle (marbled black and gray)
Pembroke Coat Colors
For Pembrokes, these coat colors are more common:
- Black and white
- Black and tan
While blue merle is an accepted color for Cardigans being registered with the American Kennel Club, Pembrokes should not have this coloration. Having white markings on any of these coat colors, however, is accepted for both breeds of dog.
When it comes down to Corgi vs Corgi, both Cardigans and Pembrokes have relatively similar mannerisms and personality traits.
However, of the two of them, Cardigans are certainly the more laid back of the Corgi dog breeds. They’re cautious and will assess situations before making a decision. They will commit to this behavior around new people, other dogs, and in environments they aren’t used to.
Both dogs are energetic, affectionate, and friendly, though Pembrokes are more energetic and can be quite funny to have around.
When meeting a Corgi for the first time, if they hang back and seem to be wary, you may very well be face to face with a Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
Raising a Corgi Puppy
Dogs do usually calm down as they age, so you can expect a lot of energetic jumping around from young Corgi puppy dogs.
If you’ve adopted yourself a Pembroke, you should expect an overly energetic dog who is going to be by your side all day, every day. That doesn’t mean that a Cardigan puppy is going to be any less happy to be around you, they’re just slightly more cautious.
The main thing that new Corgi owners should know is that Pembroke Corgis are high-energy and have a can-do attitude to everything, while the Cardigan Corgi is adaptable and more independent.
As they grow, both breeds are going to be as loving, and as affectionate towards their owners as each other. They’re wonderful, funny, adventurous breeds. Once they’re settled, they become the best companion animals around.
When it comes to training, you may find that Pembroke dogs take to it a little faster than the Cardigan dwarf dog does. This is down to their personality traits – while a Pembroke will stick by your side every minute of every day and will attempt to do everything their owner asks of them, the Cardigan may be more cautious and take time to understand what’s going on around them before continuing. Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis are both incredibly smart and extremely trainable.
It should also be noted that because of their cautious nature, Cardigan breed Corgis are more vocal. This may be something that breeders or owners address during training or with a professional trainer where they can get training tips to help them with any behavioral issues.
In fact, it’s often recommended to seek out training tips from a professional when you’re new to being a dog owner and aren’t sure how to train your dog.
Care and Exercise
Cardigan and Pembroke breeds both need daily exercise to help burn off their energy. As dogs that are descended from herding and working breeds, they are capable of walking long distances without tiring. They’re the perfect pups to put into agility training and potentially go into competitions if the owner is so inclined to do so.
While caring for your Cardigan and Pembroke, know that these breeds are prone to injuries of the back and a few other health problems. When they’re still young puppies, they need to be watched as much as possible to ensure that they don’t suffer any nasty falls that could harm their skeletal development.
To pick up a young Corgi, be sure to support their rear and their front legs. Never pick up a young, developing Corgi dog from the front without supporting them properly.
As well as possible back injuries, Corgis are also prone to Intervertebral Disc Disease and Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
Both Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis make perfect the family pet. Their coat is weather resistant, but that doesn’t mean they are outdoor dogs that don’t come inside – no domestic dog is. Your Corgi needs a lot of human interaction, exercise, and a good amount of room to play.
They’re great pets for children after they’ve finished growing (you don’t want children trying to pick up a young puppy and accidently causing any damage). The life expectancy of either of the two Corgi breeds is also 12 to 15 years, which is a very respectable and long life for a dog to live.
As companions, Corgis will thrive in any environment where they are cared for and have room to run around and be curious about the world.