Sometimes referred to as the Corgi without the tail (being one of two “Welsh” Corgis, the other, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, baring a prominent tail), the Pembroke Welsh Corgis (or Corgis from the county Pembrokeshire in South Wales) draw their roots from the earliest of herding breeds. In modern times, a more popular breed than its larger cousin the Cardigan Welsh Corgi, admirers of the Pembroke include the reigning monarch of Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth the Second, who is said to keep at least four Pembrokes at all times.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis, as the name implies, begin their history with the Corgis proper. Though thought to be Cousins, the Cardigan and the Pembroke are actually two distinct lines, with Pembrokes descending from the Norse, Spitz type dog and Cardigans from the Teckel family of dogs (the same family of dogs that produced the Dachshund) that arrived with the Celts moving from Central Europe. Indeed the Cardigan’s presence in Wales precedes that of the Pembrokes by centuries. The Pembroke possesses none of the identifying Tekel characteristics of the Cardigan.
Though some believe the Corgi originally arrived in Wales either in 8th with the Vikings or the 11th century with the Flemish; most authorities on the subject, including both W. Lloyd Thomas and Clifford Hubbard (considered amongst breeders and clubs alike as histories premier chroniclers of the Corgi), maintain that the first Corgis to lay their paws upon Welsh soil did so in the 12th century as loyal dogs of the Celts. Such vast historical, genetic and anthropologic evidence exists to support the latter theory that most consider other theories preposterous.
There is; however some dispute over the origin of the breeds name; some holding to the opinion that the word “Corgi” may have derived from the Celtic word for dog or wolf: “Concho”. As time progressed it would form the basis for Old Irish words like “Conchobor” meaning "Wolf Kin", "Lover of Wolves" or "Lover of Hounds"; going on to become the source of the Irish names Conor, Connor, Connors, Conner, and O'Connor. Another theory is that the name derived from the Welsh “cor”, meaning “dwarf” and “ci”, meaning “dog”. By process of normal linguistic mutation the “ci” would eventually become “gi”; thus forming corgi. Another variation on this theory is that the Welsh word "cor" actually meant "to watch over or gather" owing to the breeds long history as small cattle herders and homestead guardians.
Both are possible; however, the most likely theory and the one that appears to have the most historical support is that the breeds name is a derivative of “cur dog” or “Cur”. Evidence of this interpretation can be found in early documents of the 16th century such as Wyllam Salesbury's "A Dictionary in Englyshe and Weslhe", London, 1574, in which there is reference made to the "Korgi ne gostoc", that is, Corgi or curre dogge; at this time it was perfectly acceptable to use a “K” in the place of a “C”. Other earlier works in the form of cywyddau (a type of Welsh traditional poetry), dating to the 14th and 15th centuries, make reference to the breed as “Corgwn”; a plural use of Corgi, that was pronounced Corg’n.
During this time “Cur” simply meant a dog of low breeding or a working type of dog as opposed to the sporting and luxury or ladies' lap dogs of the day; it did not carry the negative connotation associated with it today. The oldest surviving references to Cur dog are contained in Ancient Welsh Laws, codified by Hywel Dda about 920. These laws recognized three distinct types of Cur: the Shepherd Cur; the Watch Cur; and the House Cur. This recognition provides evidence that usage of the word “Cur” during this time defined dogs as types based upon their role: the Shepherd dog; the watch dog; the house dog.
Some of the confusion surrounding the name may arise because, as mentioned, the Pembroke and Cardigan, though similiar, come from two separate lines of dogs: the Pembroke’s history can be traced to the 11th century, when weavers from Belgium (the Flemish) began to immigrate to the region to meet expanding Medieval Britain’s need for the craft. Premier Flemish practitioners of the craft were actually paid by the Monarch at the time, Henry the 1st, to move to Wales. These Flemish weavers brought with them their own Spitz-type dogs (the ancestors of the present-day Schipperke, Pomeranian, Keeshond, and the Samoyed); dogs that were crossed bred with the original Corgi to produce what is known today as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The Pembroke Corgi was then used by farmers in the flat lands and fields around Pembroke, Wales.
The Cardigan, however, having arrived with the European Celts was used in the hills and mountains around the town of Cardigan. The two towns (Pembrokeshire and Cardigan) geographically isolated from one another by a mountain range make it unlikely that the two types were ever intermingled during their initial stages of development. In fact prior to improvements in transportation during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Wales; the two breeds developed in relative isolation and it was only after these improvements that their paths finally crossed. As theorized by the aforementioned W. Lloyd-Thomas (breed historian and expert on Welsh farm dogs), the crossing which brought about changes to the Pembroke type and accounts for the similarities in the two breeds can be attributed to the actions of enterprising young boys who during the latter part of the 19th century sold Cardigan puppies to the farmers of Southern Wales (Pembrokeshire area); which allowed the two types to cross.
Henry the 1st became the first royal admirer of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi– a trait that was to continue across two distinct ruling British families; the Plangent line (to which Henry the 1st belonged) and the Windsor line (to which Queen Elizabeth the 2nd belongs, as did her father, King George the 6th, another noted royal owner of Pembroke Corgis. Many fans of the breed credit this royal affiliation for the Pembrokes decided popularity over its Cardigan sibling. With their arrival with Flemish weavers the Pembroke made a home for itself in Wales both as a working dog (on the farm or in herding) and also as a pet. Even as Europe crept slowly towards the modern era large swaths of Wales remained untouched – and the Pembroke continued to work the herds as loyal dog to the herder.
The early 20th century was a time of great change and confusion for both types; 1925 saw the creation of the Welsh Corgi Club (WCC) for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi and a year later, in 1926, the Cardigan Club (which would later become the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association or CWCA) was formed for the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Both types although technically separate breeds found themselves growing in popularity under the single heading of “Welsh Corgi” and were likewise exhibited as such at Kennel Club (UK) shows of the time. The Kennel Club did not consider the two types to be separate breeds and instead kept them together in its studbook as one single breed which allowed the two types to be crossed.
This created considerable frustration among the fanciers of both breeds as judges of the time were known to more subjective than objective at dog shows by having a preference toward one type or the other. Thereby creating a situation where a perfect specimen of either type would rank lowly at one show and highly at another based on the whimsical preferences of the official in charge. It would take another nine years of lobbying and complaining by the members of both clubs and fanciers alike before the Kennel Club corrected the error and separated the two breeds in 1934. Reflecting the levels of popularity in the two Corgis breeds, in the first years of admissions 250 Pembroke Welsh Corgis were registered in the United Kingdom compared to only 59 Cardigans.
Although not as popular as their Pembroke counterparts, Cardigan Welsh Corgis were the first to arrive in the United States. The first dogs, Cassie and Cando, arrived there in June 1931 with their owner, Mrs. Robert Bole. It would take another three years before the first Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Little Madam, would arrive with her owner, Mrs. Lewis Roesler (later Mrs. Edward Renner) in early 1934. Mrs. Roesler, whose home was in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, was already familiar with the dog world as the owner of Merriedin Kennels (which held a great reputation for producing outstanding Old English Sheepdogs) when she saw her first Pembroke Welsh Corgi on a trip to London in 1933.
While waiting at Paddington Railway Station she came upon a show-bound red and white Pembroke named Little Madam. Having never seen a dog so cute or amusing, her heart was taken and she purchased the dog on the spot. Intrigued with the breed and wanting to get a male to accompany her newly purchased female back home with her to America, she began visiting Corgi kennels in the area; eventually leading to her purchase of a Pembroke male named Captain William Lewis. Although both dogs (Little Madam and Captain William Lewis) arrived in America together, it would be Little Madam that would claim the title of being the first official Pembroke Welsh Corgi in America. As she was the first to be registered when the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed and placed it in the herding group in 1934; a time when both Corgis (Cardigan and Pembroke) were still recognized as two varieties of one breed. Full separation would happen the following year in 1935 when the AKC recognized the two types as separate distinct breeds.
1934 also brought about the first registration of a Pembroke litter with the AKC. The litter, the product of an imported Canadian female Pembroke named "Toots" was owned by Mr. E.M. Tidd of Oakland, California. Of note is that aside from registering the first litter with the AKC, Mr. Tidd also imported the English born Champion Bowhit Pivot in 1935; the first Pembroke Welsh Corgi to have won a Best in Show at a British Open Show. After his importation he was registered with the AKC as Sierra Bowhit Pivot and would go on to have a very successful show career in America by becoming the first American Champion and the first Pembroke to win a Group placing in America. The success of dogs such as this led to the foundation of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America, Inc. (PWCCA) on February 12, 1936 in a meeting held at Madison Square Garden in New York City during the Westminster Kennel Club show. The original 18 charter members of the club, would draft the standard for the breed that was to be accepted by the AKC in March of that year.
Even after the foundation of the club and its acceptance by the AKC, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi remained a relative unknown in the dog world. Entering the 1940’s the Pembroke was dealt a setback with the entry of the United States into World War II as a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941; a time that marked the low point for many breeds, as war time rationing made necessities tough to come by and the keeping of dog was in most cases viewed as an unnecessary expense. The breeds fortune; however, would be reversed post war with the arrival of imports such as Rozavel's Uncle Sam, bred in Great Britain by Thelma Gray, who literally came to America and dominated the show circuit. Going on to become the first Pembroke Welsh Corgi to win an all-breed Best in Show in the United States in 1949 and garnering a large amount of publicity for the breed in the process.
Dogs like Uncle Sam, that were able to bring much needed popularity to the breed literally cemented the future of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in America both as a show dog and as a loveable member of the family. A fact that becomes increasingly evident when viewing AKC registration statistics which reveal that in 1938 only 135 Pembrokes were registered, by 1978 that number had swollen to 2340 and by 1997 the breed was in 37th place among 146 breeds in the United States with 8,281 individual registrations that year. This upward trend shows little sign of letting up; the AKC reporting in 2010 that registrations for Pembroke Welsh Corgis made them the 27th most popular breed in the country.
According to the American Kennel Club standard, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is “low-set, strong and sturdily built”. The low-set impression is given by the elongated body and relatively short height (typically 10 to 12 inches). On average Pembrokes weigh between 25 and 30 pounds, and carry the weight in lean bands across the core body; the standard sets the maximum weight at 30 and 28 pounds for males and females; respectively. The Pembrokes tail is, by tradition, docked from birth.
The Pembroke has very notable ears. Pointed at the top and always standing erect, the ears form, from the front, a “V” shape; giving the animal an alert appearance (justified by it’s equally alert disposition).The skull is wide and flat between the ears. The stop is moderate. The topline is level. The nose is black and the jaw meets in a scissors bite. The oval eyes are shades of brown depending on the dogs coat color. The eye rims are black.
The Pembrokes coat comes in a variety of colors, including red, sable, fawn, and black and tan(all of which can occur with or without white markings).
Pembroke Welsh Corgis are an ideal training dog, as they are acutely intelligent, enjoy activities with humans and are exceedingly loyal, able and willing to please their owners. The breed is so intelligent that author Stanly Coren, listed the Pembroke Welsh Corgi as the 11th most intelligent dog breed in his 1994 book "The Intelligence of Dogs". He described them as an excellent working dog capable of understanding new commands in 15 repetitions or less and as a breed that will typically be able to obey the first command 85% of the time or better. Much of this intelligence comes from their historic use as a herding dog that in the performance of its duties had to outwit, motivate and move animals many times larger than themselves. Although intelligence alone, would not a good herder make; so the breed was given boldness an endurance; to stand up to and work larger animals and to do it all day long.
For some this combination of attributes can be quite a handful, a dog that is intelligent enough to outthink the owner, never shy, and a high energy breed with the endurance of a marathoner. It is for these reasons that training at an early age is a must for this breed as it both enjoys engaging in new activities with its Master, and, if properly rewarded, can remain intellectually engaged for long periods of time. Training will also provide valuable socialization with other dogs and people while at the same time helping the Pembroke channel it's bountiful energy in a positive direction.
In the home Pembroke Welsh Corgis are known to bond very closely with their owners an generally do very well with children. However it is not advisable to get a puppy for a child under the age of five as some Corgis may have dominant personalities that would not be the best choice for a family situation. These more dominant types may become overprotective and/or try to herd people around by nipping at their heels; both of which should be met with firm but kind correction. Pembrokes can get along well with cats and other pets if socialized from a young age, but may not be fond of other dogs and other dogs may not be fond of trying to be herded which could result in an altercation. As with all breeds of dog it is up to the parents to ensure that play between dogs and smaller children or other dogs is closely supervised to prevent the animal from acting out if it is placed in a situation where it feels it is being hurt and/or needs to defend itself.
Although small, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are a protective, sturdy and alert breed of dog, that when combined with their natural wariness of strangers makes them excellent watch dogs. Intelligent enough to know when something is out of place, they will readily sound the alarm to alert their family of any perceived threat. The desire of this breed to both be with and protect the family means that they are ill suited for prolonged periods alone and have been known to suffer from separation anxiety. When isolated from the family a stressed Pembroke may bark excessively, chew or dig at carpets, chew on baseboards or engage in other destructive behaviors. Apartment owners need to consider this propensity toward barking and the effect it will have on neighbors before bringing a Pembroke into the home.
This is a playful and fun-loving breed, that can also be protective and tenacious, a breed that loves attention, and is full of personality. The Pembroke is "a big dog in a small dog's suit." The best description that can be given for the Pembroke Welsh Corgies temperament is found in the breed standard "Outlook bold, but kindly. Expression intelligent and interested. Never shy or vicious."
Pembrokes are extremely heavy shedders; as a result not only is weekly grooming a must, but owners can expect loose hair to drop about the household routinely. This medium-length all-weather coat is, though, easy to brush, and Cardigans are not averse to grooming. They are also diligent self-cleaners, and so while a certain amount of cleaning is inevitable, close attention is not required.
As the Pembroke coat is that of an all-weather coat, it is advisable to use protein rich shampoos and conditioners when bathing the dog. Owners can expect the Pembroke coat to be shed fully twice a year – this does not occur, however, en masse. The coat is naturally water resistant, so excessive bathing of the animal is not recommended. An owner is advised to fully bathe a Pembroke once every three to four months.
The upright ears of the Pembroke can attract bacteria and so should be periodically cleaned to avoid malodor. The nails should also be periodically clipped.
Pembrokes typically live between 12 and 15 years. A rugged breed, the majority of health problems to which the Pembroke is susceptible are genetic; and include degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia, and Von Willebrand's disease. As these conditions are the result of double recessive genes they can be prevented by proper screening of the breeding stock.
Pembrokes are also notorious for gaining weight quickly, particularly if they are not given proper exercise. Just as in humans, obesity can lead to myriad health complications.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis may also develop the following:
Other disorders that have been reported less frequently, and may be inherited in this breed: