The handsome but hard-as-nails Cardigan Welsh Corgi was named for the medieval kingdom of Cardiganshire, Wales, and is the older of the AKC’s two corgi breeds. In fact, they’re among the oldest of all British breeds. The word ‘corgi,’ originally ‘kergie,’ is ancient Celtic for ‘dog,’ and historians surmise that ancient corgis were brought from Central Europe to Wales by the Celts during their mass migrations to Britain some 3,000 years ago. We can say with some certainty, however, that corgis were driving Welsh herds 1,000 years ago.
Cardigans are built low to the ground to best nip at the heels of cattle and avoid being kicked. (Dogs who drive herds to pasture or market in this heel-nipping style are called heelers.) The adaptable Cardigan did double duty on long cattle drives, moving the herd by day and serving as a flock guardian at night. During the breed’s long history, Cardigans have at various times worked as an all-around farm dog, hunting partner, family protector, and athlete. Cardigans were long associated with Britain’s crofters (tenant farmers) who depended on their dogs to help scratch a meager living out of the pasture land permitted them by the crown.
Cardigans and Pembrokes were at one time freely interbred, and until as late as 1934 they were considered a single breed in the United Kingdom. The first pair of breeding Cardigans arrived in the United States in June 1931. The AKC granted full recognition to the breed four years later.
About the Breed
The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is a masterpiece of the breeder’s art: Every aspect of its makeup is ideally suited to moving cattle, and yet it is so friendly and sweet-faced that it would be a cherished companion even if it never did a day’s work. Long, low-set dogs with sturdy bone, short legs, and a deep chest, Cardigans are powerful workers of deceptive speed and grace. Cardis can weigh anywhere from 25 to 34 pounds, with females at the lower end of the scale. They come in several coat colors, from red to the popular blue-merle pattern. The quickest way to distinguish Cardis from their cousins, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, is to check out the hindquarters: Cardigans have tails; Pembrokes do not. Cardis are trainable, faithful, and vigilant guardians with a ‘big dog’ bark. Well-socialized Cardis are especially fond of kids and agreeable with other pets. These athletic, rugged herders have a love for the outdoors, and they thrive on mental stimulation and physical activity.
The Cardigan is, in general, a very healthy breed, and responsible breeders will screen their stock for health conditions such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and degenerative myelopathy. And as with any ‘long and low’ canine, one must be cognizant of potential back issues. Avoid letting the Cardigan jump off the bed or couch; stairs can also be a hazard. See the vet immediately at the first sign of any distress or discomfort. The sooner a problem is caught, the quicker the recovery.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Degenerative Myelopathy (Common Variant) (DM) – DNA Test
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Rod-Cone Dysplasia 3 (PRA-rcd3) – DNA Test
A good brushing at least once a week should keep the Cardigan’s coat healthy and looking its best. Keeping the hair trimmed on the bottom of the feet helps to reduce the amount of dirt an animal can bring into the house daily. The nails should be kept trimmed as well. Some pet owners mistakenly feel they should have their dog cut short for the summer. When the coat of the Cardigan is correct for the breed, this isn’t necessary. The correct coat has the essential characteristics to maintain proper body temperature as long as conditions are expected. It should be noted, however, that a black dog will absorb more heat on a sunny day, and care should be taken to avoid overexposure during hot weather.
The Cardigan is noted for being a very adaptable dog. If you want to hike and go on adventures, they are all for that. Or if you want to watch TV and eat popcorn, no problem, Cardigan is there for you. Cardigans thrive on regular socialization, so walking in the neighborhood is essential for many reasons. It provides fun for both you and the dog, as well as much-needed exercise. When your Cardigan unexpectedly starts to do ‘power runs’ through the house and over the couch, it is his way of saying, “Hey, Mom, I really need to burn off some Let’s go play ball!” And, yes, most Cardigans are ‘ball-o-holics.’
Use that to your advantage. Remember to avoid jumping and stairs, which can cause back injury.
It cannot be stressed enough that early and regular socialization is of the utmost importance in developing a happy, healthy Cardigan. Gently expose the pup to various people, places, and situations. This process goes on for a lifetime, but the rewards of a well-socialized dog are lovely. Go to training classes, and let all members of the family participate. Don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior, and don’t hesitate to seek the help of a qualified trainer or behaviorist if there’s a problem you can’t correct. A little effort early on will reward you with a dog whom you and all who meet him will love.
Cardigans are known to become overweight very easily. Careful monitoring of their weight is essential. One must feed a high-quality dog food based on the Cardigan’s activity level and nutritional needs. Two smaller meals a day rather than one large one will make for a better digestive process. In addition, don’t overdo giving treats. Yes, Cardigans can hear a cheese wrapper from 50 yards’ but that doesn’t mean you give them an entire piece. Feel the ribs, and if you can’t feel them easily with your fingertips, then your dog in most likely overweight.