Early in the last century a young Princess named Elizabeth became enamored by a short legged, large eared, fox faced dog called a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Corgi for short. Over sixty years and many dogs later, the Queen of England has become the world’s most famous Corgi owner. The Queen has owned more than thirty Corgis in her lifetime, including Susan, who was a gift for her eighteenth birthday in 1944. A good proportion of her dogs have been direct descendants from Susan. Her Majesty currently has three corgis – Swift, Emma and Linnet.
Queen Elizabeth is known to feed her royal canines herself, cutting their food into little cubes and placing it in silver bowls. The dogs have the run of the palace as they mill about the feet of the reigning sovereign of Great Britain. Royal watchers contend the Queen likes her Corgis more than her own children. And why not? They’re loyal, smart and do what they’re told, unlike the queen’s unruly children and grandchildren.
What is it about these diminutive dogs that has a ruling monarch bowing to their every whim? The answer is a combination of personality, moxie and magic.
The origin of the Corgi is shrouded in mystery. According to legend, Corgis were the working dogs of fairies. The magical creatures used Corgis to pull their coaches and carry the Fairy Queen. If you keep your mind open and your eyes clear, you can see the saddle marks between the shoulders of Corgis. Alas, the fairies set the Corgis free to join the real world in exchange for their loyal work.
Modern Corgis are believed to be related to the Swedish Vallhund, brought to Wales in the 10th century by Vikings. Others site Flemish weavers as the source of Corgi dogs. The farmers of Wales used Corgis to herd their cattle and sheep. In the 1920’s Corgis were recognized as pure-bred dogs in the United Kingdom. In 1934 the Pembroke and Cardigan Corgis were recognized by the English Kennel Club as separate breeds. American Kennel Club recognition of the two distinct breeds also occurred in that same year.
The Corgi has two distinct sub- groups named after villages in Wales. Cardigan and Pembrokeshire. The main difference is the tail. Cardis have a tail. Pems don’t. The Pems are the more popular of the two breeds as they tend to be a bit more outgoing and personable than their cousins.
The word corgi means ‘dwarf dog’ in Welsh. The average corgi stands just 11 inches high, but is commonly two and half feet long. The breed standard calls for a long, low dog with large, erect ears, a broad flat skull and a fox like head. There is no tail as they are docked at a few days old. This practice has been outlawed in Britain, but continues in the United States and other countries. The Pems eyes should be dark and the nose is black.
The fur is extremely thick and water resistant. Corgis don’t just shed. They ‘blow their coat’ biannually. This means huge chunks of coat and undercoat floating around the house. Corgis come in a variety of colors. Red being the most common, but also sable, fawn or black and tan, also known as tricolor. Most have white markings on their bodies and their heads.
Besides being mischievous and adorable, Corgis are a working breed. Their original function was to herd cattle. Be prepared to have your Corgi skimming your ankles whenever you walk around the house. They are an extremely curious and bright breed. They’re a bit nosy and can be bossy. You would be too if you were bred to watch cattle and make sure they didn’t roam off the ranch. They tend to patrol the perimeter of a yard or house watching for signs of discord. Corgis like working. Therefore, they need a job or they will become little pranksters. More than one Corgi owner has come home to chewed up shoes and missing socks.
Corgis make excellent guard dogs as they have a huge bark and are very devoted to their families. They are great with children, although toddlers who run might be considered livestock by the dogs. Corgis have been known to nip at heels and although this trait can easily be trained out of them, children need to learn how to behave around a Corgi
Today Corgis make excellent confirmation, obedience and agility dogs. Urban Corgis can compete in herding trials to keep their inner herder in tact.
If you are interested in becoming a Corgi owner check out the National Pembroke Corgi Association at pembrokecorgi.org. These sensitive intelligent dogs may be short in stature but they are big in heart. You’ll wonder how you ever survived without your Pembroke Welsh Corgi.