Get to Know the Pembroke Welsh Corgi: A Foxy Charmer

The Queen's dog will make any home his castle.


They’re not a big dog in a little body. They’re a big dog in a big body — just with little legs. They have a big personality and big abilities; they can boss around a reluctant cow, a group of flighty ducks — or a family of human servants. Small wonder they rule Windsor Castle!

There are two breeds of Welsh Corgis: the more popular Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the less popular Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Here’s how to tell them apart: The Cardigan always has a tail, and is much more likely to be merle (mottled) colored. The Pembroke almost never has a tail, and are usually red with white trim, or black and tan with white trim. The Pembroke is smaller and finer boned than the Cardigan, with a more fox-like head and expression. The Cardigan has more of a wrap-around front, with forelegs that bow in and then the feet turn out. The Cardigan’s ears are larger. Almost always, just knowing that Cardigans have a tail and Pembrokes don’t will get you to the right identification.

Here’s more interesting things about Corgis:

Breed historians believe the Corgi is a dwarf descendant of the spitz family, from dogs the Vikings brought with them to Wales. They may have been developed as a herding breed as early as the 10th century AD.

The name Corgi may be derived from the Welsh “cor” (dwarf, or sometimes, to gather) and “ci” (dog), although it could also be derived from the word for cur.

Their short stature allowed them to duck beneath the kicking hooves of cattle.

Initially, Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis were shown as the same breed in dog shows, even though they are almost certainly derived from different backgrounds. They were separated in 1934.

In 1933, King George VI presented his daughters with a Corgi named Dookie. Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth acquired her own Pembroke Corgi, Susan, on her 18th birthday. Most of her subsequent 30-plus Corgis descend from Susan. Her influence has helped make the Corgi one of the most popular dogs in Britain, and to a lesser extent, the world.

The breed’s short stature is the result of a genetic mutation causing dwarfism. The same mutation is shared by many short-legged dogs.

Corgis can be born without a tail, with a short tail or with a full tail. Those born with tails are customarily docked with days of birth. A mutation causes tailessness but it does not breed true.

Most Corgis have short hair, but some grow long fluffy coats.

The Pembroke is the smallest member of the AKC Herding group.

Pembrokes have won the group at the Westminster dog show seven times, but have never won Best in Show.

A Pembroke starred in the Disney movie Little Dog Lost. One also stars in a Japanese cartoon, Cowboy Bebop.

The original mascot of was a Corgi named Rufus, who went to work there every day.

Owners include Queen Elizabeth II, Ava Gardner, Stephen King, Dirk Bogarde, Michel Houellebecq, Diane Keaton, Norman Rockwell, Gary Cooper, Kendra Wilkinson and Kiefer Sutherland.

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the 24th most popular AKC breed, about the same as it was a decade ago.

Do you own a Pembroke Welsh Corgi? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Read more breed profiles:

About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

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