Corgi means “dwarf dog” in Welsh and is synonymous with the terms “terrier” or “retriever” when referring to a specific type of dogs. While both breeds share the suffix to their name, they are no more related to one another than a Scottish Terrier is to a West Highland White Terrier, which also developed within the same region and yet undoubtedly differ in appearance and temperament. Cardigans and Pembrokes are not interchangeable with one another and those who believe them to be the same dog have not spent enough time with either to appreciate their unique qualities.
Cardigans are small, hardy dogs that have been around for centuries with its ancestors having been around for over 3,000 years. They were developed in Wales as a companion, guardian, driver of cattle, and all around farm worker. Considered a valuable member of working families, ancient Welsh law provided severe penalties to those who would steal or bring harm to them as their talents provided much support to the economic status of their owners.
While too often confused with Pembroke, they are two different breeds that came down from separate lines of ancestors. Cardigans came from a type of dogs known as the Teckel family which branched off to develop other long/low breeds such as the Dachshund and Basset Hound, whereas Pembrokes originated from Spitz-type breeds that migrated to Wales during the Viking invasion over 1,000 years ago.
While these Spitz crossed with the original corgi dogs in some parts of Wales to develop the Pembroke, there were still parts of the country that remained untouched by the influence of these crossbreeds and the remaining dogs of this region carried were the descendants of the Cardigan.
There was a period of less than a decade when the breed was beginning to gain recognition in the Kennel Club (of Great Britain) where both breeds were registered as two variations of one breed. This was done in error, and while it allowed the two breeds to be crossed, the vast majority of fanciers of the breeds held preference of one over the other and maintained the purity of their lines to keep the division of the two breeds.
Despite their smaller size, the Cardigan was gifted with a big
personality and a big heart to match. Full of fun and affection,
they are a breed that want nothing more than to be involved with their families and deserve a family that is equally willing to involve them in their activities. Naturally intelligent, alert, and responsible, their roots as a guardian and companion have made them devoted and caring towards their people, especially children. While some may withhold their favors with strangers until they've gotten to know them better, they should never be shy or aggressive.
Cardigans come in a variety of unique colors paired with white markings on their face, neck, feet, belly, and tail tip. No one color is better than the another, as it is their loving temperaments that make the breed so desirable, but here are some examples:
Reds - are genetically sable (red with black hairs within the coat), but some have a more
traditional sable pattern with a "monks cap" or "widows peak" pattern forming on their head and more prominent shading appearing on their shoulders and other parts of their body.
Brindle - can come in a variety of shades, ranging from nearly black to bright red with a striped pattern of light and/or dark hairs running through their coat.
Tri - is black and white with either tan or brindle points on their face and legs. Cardigans genetically do not come in a "bi-black" color like Border Collies, so all black and white appearing cardigans have some amount of "points" to them.
Blue Merle - is a modified Tri-color where the merle gene affects the black hairs on the dog to make them appear a blue color with irregular spots. They can range from a dark steel to a pale grey color. This gene also affects the pigment of the eyes and nose which means they may have blue (or partial blue) eyes and pink on their nose.
There is a new trend appearing where unreputable "breeders" are crossbreeding Pembrokes and Cardigans to introduce the merle gene into the Pembroke and attempting to pass them off as purebred. This practice is not supported by the CWCCA, PWCCA, their members, or any true preservation breeder or lover of these breeds.
A healthy Cardigan can easily live an average 12-15 years.
They are generally an active dog with the stamina to handle walks and romps, but doesn't necessarily require more exercise than he can get around the yard. However, one should be careful
with puppies and young dogs as too much strenuous activity early on can damage their joints.
They are a double-coated breed, meaning they have a harsh,
weather-resistant "outer coat" and a soft insulating "under coat". Their protective coats generally stay clean in all seasons, only requiring bathing as needed, but otherwise will shed dirt and debris and may only require a toweling off in the wetter times of the year. They will shed most of their undercoat usually twice a year, but will often shed small amounts throughout the year, so do not consider this breed if you are unwilling to accept that hair comes part of the package deal. With regular brushing and occasional bathing (and a good vacuum cleaner) the shedding can be easily managed.
Nail trimming should be a regular upkeep for overall well-being and should be done a minimum of every 3-4 weeks, but 1-2 is recommended.
Overall the Cardigan is a healthy breed, but there
are things to consider when it comes to their unique
Great care must be taken with young dogs as their
distinctive front assembly, while perfect for traversing
the hillsides of Wales, can be easily damaged if allowed
to jump off of furniture or go downstairs before their
growth plates have closed. Be prepared to carry them down stairs until they are six to twelve months old, as it will prevent injury and discomfort later on.
Cardigans are a sturdy breed, but due to their long backs, activities that could potentially cause injury should be avoided. Jumping or falling from heights, rough play with other (especially larger) dogs, and leaping for toys are all potential causes of disc injuries and limiting these situations will help keep them safe. However, close monitoring of their weight is the best way to prevent physical problems in a Cardigan. Any extra weight they carry can cause stress on their back and joints and because of their love of food this is a common issue.
Other health concerns in Cardigans:
PRA - Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a degenerative disorder of the eye that causes blindness and is commonly tested in many breeds of dogs.
Hip/Elbow Dysplasia - An abnormal formation of the joints that cause lameness and arthritis. This is a polygenic trait that is often screened for, but can also be affected by environmental factors such as diet, exercise, etc.
DM - Degenerative Mylopathy is a progressive disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. While very few confirmed cases have been found in Cardigans, the new availability of the test allows us to screen for genetic markers to identify dogs that are "At Risk" to develop the disease. It affects dogs between 8 and 14 years of age and causes gradual paralysis.