Cardigan Welsh Corgi breed: the fox-like puppy that once herded cattle

László Enikő

2023. August 1 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Although not as popular as its Pembroke cousin, made famous by the Queen of England, the Welsh Cardigan Corgi is no less wonderful.


In Wales, a fairyland of misty mountains and mysterious standing stones, fairies rode small long-tailed dogs, following the hunt across the moonlit sky. A few lucky mortals learned of the fairies’ four-legged treasure and acquired the dogs for themselves. Known as corgi, they are one of the oldest herding breeds. The saddle on their backs is still visible on the coats of some of them, with a distinctive dark pattern on their fur. Although there has always been a mystique about corgis, Pembrokes are much more popular as they were a favourite of Queen Elizabeth II. But now let’s meet their long-tailed cousins, the Cardigans.


The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is a descendant of the Teckel family of dogs, from which the Basset Hound and Dachshund are descended. The breed is thought to have existed in Wales for over 3000 years. It was brought in its original form by Celtic tribes who migrated to Wales from central Europe. This early dog was a transitional form between the Teckel and the Spitz. According to some sources, the word corgi means dog in ancient Gaelic. The name was later shortened to curgi and then cur, meaning mutt. Others, however, believe that corgi in Welsh is derived from a compound of the words cor, meaning dwarf, and gi, meaning dog. The term first appeared in the 14th century.

The Cardigan’s original job was to get in front of his owner’s cattle herd and clear the way by driving away potential predators and intruding herds, providing a grazing area. The breed later became a herding breed, working behind the farmer’s cattle and ‘driving’ cattle from Welsh farms to English markets. His small stature was ideal for this, as he could not be kicked by the cattle when the dog nipped at their ankles. At this time, the original Corgis may have been crossed with local sheepdogs to make a more versatile working dog. In its heyday, the faithful Corgis were put to good use as cattle dogs, pets and pest control dogs.

During the Viking invasion 1000 years ago, and then the Flemish invasion, a sniffer dog was introduced into parts of Wales. They were crossed with the original corgi to produce the breed known today as the Pembroke Welsh corgi. However, the corgis that lived in areas unaffected by these influences retained their original blood and remained the Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

The first dog shows appeared in the late 1800s. During this period, the usefulness of many breeds began to decline with the advent of machinery. If there had been no dog shows, many breeds would have died out. From 1925 onwards, the Corgi was registered under the jurisdiction of the Kennel Club (Great Britain). Unfortunately, the Kennel Club did not consider the Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh Corgis as two different breeds and registered them as a single breed. This allowed the two types to crossbreed. At this time there was considerable discord between fanciers of both breeds, as judges were known to favour one breed or the other, causing considerable discontent at dog shows. Eventually the Kennel Club corrected the error and separated the two breeds in 1934.

Breed standard

The breed standard often compares the Cardigan Welsh Corgi to the fox in some traits. For example, its head and tail. The small herding dog is 91 cm from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, and is sometimes called a yard dog because its body is one yard long. Its skull is quite broad and flat between the ears. The muzzle tapers towards the tip. The muzzle is black, the jaw is medium strong with a distinct pattern. Bite scissor-shaped. Eyes of medium size, eyes lively, alert. They are usually brown in colour, but may be grey in blue merle individuals. Ears erect, large, set 8-9 cm apart. The neck is muscular and proportionate in length to the body. Shoulders strong and muscular, chest moderately broad. Trunk long, strong. Limbs short, strong. Paws round, relatively large. Tail medium long, fox-like. Coat hard to the touch, weatherproof, short to medium length, preferably always straight. May be of any colour except pure white. Height at the withers 30 cm, body weight about 9-12 kg depending on sex. Life expectancy is 12-15 years.


The breed doesn’t spend much time herding cattle these days, although it still has the instinct. With an adaptable personality and responsible nature, it is a family companion and show dog. The Cardigan often lives with horse owners who appreciate his help in loading their horses into trailers. True to his herding heritage, he is a vigilant watchdog and is somewhat reserved around strangers. Expect him to give a warning bark at any unusual sight, smell or sound.

He is a good friend to children and his intelligence makes him highly trainable. Despite this, he is an independent thinker and often does things his own way. Some say he has a more balanced personality than the pembroke, and is also less prone to nipping at people’s ankles (a trait that may stem from his cattle-herding past).

Ideal environment

Although he used to be a hardy working dog on the pasture, few people use him for this purpose anymore. Ideally suited to being a pet, he still loves long walks. Because of his long body, stairs are not recommended, and proper exercise should be remembered. Without it, he may gain weight, which is particularly dangerous for a dog with shorter legs. He is happy in both gardens and flats, loves children and generally gets on well with other pets.


Its weatherproof coat does not need much care, just a good combing once a week. During the molting season, it is best to do this more often. Claws should be trimmed if they become too long. It is also important to keep the eyes and ears clean.

Common health problems

While the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is generally a very healthy breed, it can be affected by some diseases. These include hip joint dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and degenerative myelopathy (DM), a disease that causes progressive paralysis.

(Literature: János Szinák – István Veress: A világ kutyái II., David Alderton: Kutyák, Joan Palmer: Advisor’s Guide to Choosing a Small Dog, Dr. Pál Sárkány: International Dog Encyclopaedia, Paul McGreevy: Dogs, Sarah Whitehead – Beverly Cuddy: Dogs, Dr. Klára Király: Poems, Legends and Wisdoms for Dog Lovers).

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