The Breed History
In early history, and arising from the same type of dog that gave rise to the Dachshund, the progenitors of the modern day Cardigan Welsh Corgi were brought to Cardiganshire in Wales around 1200 BC. Other bloodlines that may have contributed to the corgi type include Shipperke, Swedish Valhunds, and Finnish Spitz dogs. Breeders split the breed into Cardigan and Pembroke Corgis around 1934. In 1931, Cardis were first brought to the US, and the AKC registered them in 1935. The name Corgi is thought to be a Celtic word for dog or perhaps a Welsh word for dwarf dog.
Breeding for Function
These dogs were valued as guarding dogs, and were used to manage cattle by driving and dispersing them on the common pastures. They were also valued as a vermin hunter. They perform well in agility and herding competitions, and have become a popular companion pet.
Height at Withers: female 10.5-12.5 " (26.5-31.5 cm), male 10.5-12.5 " (26.5-31.5 cm).
Weight: females 25-34 lb (11.5-15.5 kg), males 30-38 lb (13.5-17 kg).
Coat: The double coat of medium length should never be primarily white. Blue merle may have pigmented points, and black, red, sable, and brindle coats may have white on chest, legs, neck, face (except around eyes), and tail tip. A tri-color coat is also sometimes seen. They are not clipped for show.
Longevity: 12-15 years.
Points of Conformation: These sturdy, low-set muscular dogs with great agility and intelligence have a very alert expression. Their forefeet normally are displaced laterally and legs bowed due to chondrodystrophic conformation. Their eyes have dark pigmentation at the palpebral margin and the eyes are dark except in the blue merles, where blue eyes are acceptable. The face has a moderate stop, and the muzzle is tapered. Moderate length of neck, and well-sprung ribs with moderate tuck up in loins are evident. The long back has only a slight slope down towards the tail base along the topline. The tail is long and thick and rear dewclaws are generally removed. The Pembroke is shorter, has straighter legs, ears are smaller and more pointed, and the tail is docked short in comparison.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Loyal, protective intelligent dog, they learn quickly, and are active dogs. They are wary of strangers, and are an excellent alarm barker. Early training and socialization to people and other pets are important for these dogs. They may try to herd children by nipping at the heels, but can be trained away from this behavior. If left alone for long periods, these dogs tend to chew or bark. They benefit from daily moderate exercise, and are generally calmer than Pembrokes. They are high shedders, but require low to moderate grooming.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 19.1% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported at a high rate, but too few Cardigan Welsh Corgis have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 3.2% affected.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Autosomal recessive rcd3 form of PRA occurs in the breed. Begins with night blindness by 6 months of age, and total blindness by 2-3 years. A genetic test is available, showing 8.5% testing carrier. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 5.5% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 4.71% of Cardigan Welsh Corgis CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2007.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 4.20% of Cardigan Welsh Corgis CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Age of onset 3 years. Reported in 2.53% of Cardigan Welsh Corgis presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Identified in 1.91% of Cardigan Welsh Corgis CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Cardigan Welsh Corgi with a cataract.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis at an average age of 11.4 years. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. Reported at a frequency of 1.51% in Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Unknown mode of inheritance. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however, only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. OFA testing reports 39% carrier and 10% homozygous "at risk" for DM.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal folds and geographic retinal dysplasia are seen in the breed. It is questionable whether focal folds can lead to disease, however dogs with the geographic form should not be bred. Reported in 0.76% of Cardigan Welsh Corgis CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cystinuria/Cystine Bladder Stones: Caused by a metabolic abnormality in cystine metabolism. Welsh Corgis have an increased risk for developing cystine bladder stones. Treat with surgical removal and life-long medical therapy. Unknown mode of inheritance in this breed. Dorn reports a 4.14x increased odds ratio for bladder stones versus other breeds.
Perineal Hernia: An Australian study identified the Corgi breed as most commonly affected with perineal hernias. The mean age of affected dogs was 9.4 years. Treatment is herniorrhaphy surgery.
Glaucoma: Primary, narrow angle glaucoma occurs in the breed. Can cause blindness due to retinal damage, or secondary lens luxation. Screen with gonioscopy and tonometry. Frequency and mode of inheritance in the breed has not been determined.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Serious neurological condition where disk degeneration and rupture into spinal nerves and the spinal cord causes pain and possible paralysis. Requires immediate veterinary care. Dorn reports a 1.70x increased odds ratio versus other breeds.
Central progressive Retinal Atrophy, Ceroid Lipofuscinosis, and Methemaglobin Reductase Deficiency are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
X-linked Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (XSCID): X-linked recessive disorder was identified in one family of Cardigan Welsh Corgis. Affected dogs cannot generate antigen-specific immune responses. A genetic test was developed to identify carrier females.
Mucopolysaccharidosis VI (MPS VI): PennGen reports MPS VI identified in the Welsh Corgi. This is an autosomal recessive disorder causing skeletal deformities, including defects in the sternum, vertebrae and particularly the hip joints. To varying degrees they may also experience corneal cloudiness and facial dysmorphia. A genetic test is available.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for rcd3 form of PRA is available from Optigen, Healthgene, VetGen, and the Peterson-Jones Lab. at Michigan State University: http://www.cardigancorgis.com/ PRAPressRelease.aspx (517-353-3278) Direct coat color tests for presence of black, "clear red", chocolate and sable colors, and mask are available from HealthGene and VetGen. Direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available from the OFA. Direct tests for SCID is available from PennGen. Phenotypic test for MPS VI is available from PennGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; CERF eye examination, genetic test for rcd3-PRA, and hip radiographs. (See CHIC website: www.caninehealthinfo.org) Recommend patella evaluation, elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Cardigan, Corgi, Cardi
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC , KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 82 (845 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America: www.cardigancorgis.com
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association (UK): www.cardiganwelshcorgiassoc.co.uk
Canadian Cardigan Corgi Club: www.cardigancorgi.ca
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