Monday, 30 November -0001

Corgi Crisis: the tail end...

Imagine a world with no corgis. Last year the number of Pembroke Welsh Corgis registered with the Kennel Club was only 274, so are they under threat of extinction? It’s happening, discovers Melonie Clarke

Written by Melonie Clarke
Not since the British bulldog has there been a canine so associated with Britishness. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was first introduced into royal circles by George VI in 1933 when he bought a corgi called Dookie from a local kennel. Originally bred as cattle-droving dogs, the corgi has become synonymous with the Royal Family and Britain ever since Her Majesty the Queen, while still Princess Elizabeth, was given one for her 18th birthday in 1944.

Undoubtedly the most famous of corgi owners, the Queen has had numerous corgis, many of which were descended from her beloved first Pembroke, Susan, whose epitaph reads ‘the faithful companion of the Queen’ (dogs Sugar and Heather have the same epitaph on their own headstones). Susan even accompanied Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on honeymoon in 1947.

The Queen’s love for her faithful companions has been well documented over the years in numerous pictures and paintings. Currently on show at the National Portrait Gallery is Queen Elizabeth II, painted by Michael Leonard for her 60th birthday. In the painting she is pictured with Spark, who belonged to the 10th generation of corgis descended from her much-loved Susan.

Her Majesty currently has two corgis – Willow and Holly – and two dorgis (dachshund-corgi crosses), Candy and Vulcan. But having owned more than 30 corgis (she had a pack of eight at one time) and despite her love of the breed, she has decided that she will not be taking on any more.

That hasn’t stopped people trying to tempt her, however; she was recently given the chance to adopt Beama, a corgi from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Battersea’s head of canine welfare training, Ali Taylor, suggested that ‘he would quite like Windsor Castle’, but the monarch kindly declined. The 12-year-old dog has now been rehomed.


While Her Majesty may be queen of the corgis, she shares the throne with a king, or Stephen King to be precise. The writer currently has a corgi called Molly, whom he refers to as ‘The Thing of Evil’, frequently sharing images with the millions of people who follow him on social media sites Facebook and Twitter. In fact, over half of the pictures the author has shared are of Molly, and he’s also shared a photograph from 1995 with another corgi he once owned, named Marlowe.

The corgi was at the peak of its popularity in the 1960s, when almost 9,000 of the breed were registered with the Kennel Club (the current breed du jour, according to a recent survey, is the Labrador, followed by the Jack Russell terrier), but now they are on the Vulnerable Native Breeds list, meaning there are 300 or fewer puppy registrations annually. ‘The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is one of the country’s most iconic dog breeds,’ says Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club, ‘and it is worrying to see the breed dip to a historic low and become one of our vulnerable breeds for the first time ever,’ says.

So why have their numbers dwindled? Some believe the breed doesn’t resonate with younger people and that the corgi comes across as an older person’s dog. Another reason for their fall in popularity is thought to be the ban on tail-docking. Tails were originally docked when the corgi was a working dog. But as the breed became popular as a pet, docking became more of a cosmetic procedure. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 banned docking unless for medical reasons or for certain working dogs, and since then a number of major breeders have given up on this canine, reportedly feeling that the look of the dog has been spoilt. There are currently 29 breeds in total on the vulnerable list, including the Dandie Dinmont terrier, the Irish red and white setter and the Sussex spaniel.

If you don’t want to live in a world without corgis, there is a solution. We all need to get a corgi in our lives by bringing one into our homes, or by sponsoring. This may not be the end of the tail just yet!

Pembroke vs Cardigan

While both the Pembroke and the Cardigan have medium-sized erect ears, the Cardigan’s are marginally more rounded at the tip.

The Pembroke’s coat is red, black and tan, fawn and sable; the Cardigan’s coat can also come in these colours as well as brindle and blue merle, with white.

The Pembroke is born with a naturally bobbed tail.

The Cardigan is slightly larger and heavier than the Pembroke.

The Pembroke’s feet typically point forward while the Cardigan has a slightly bowed front with feet that point outwards.

The Pembroke tends to be the more extroverted corgi, very receptive to people. Cardigans are also very friendly, but may be slightly reserved with strangers.

Did you know..?

It is believed that the two types of corgi evolved from different breeds: the Pembroke from the spitz family; the Cardigan from the dachshund.

The corgi breed can be traced back almost 1,000 years, to Wales.

Corgi is sometimes translated as Welsh for ‘dwarf dog’. 

Corgis were used as herders, driving cows to pasture by leaping and nipping at their heels.

Stanley Coren, a psychology professor, named the corgi the 11th smartest breed in his 1994 book The Intelligence Of Dogs, able to obey a first command 85% of the time.

In Welsh folklore, corgis are considered the preferred method of transport for fairies patrolling the forests. The markings on their backs resemble a saddle and harness.

In early Welsh settlements, the corgi was a revered dog. Laws were put in place protecting the breed, and dognapping thieves were severely punished.

Pembrokes and Cardigans were recognised together by the Kennel Club from 1925 under the name Welsh Corgis. They were recognised individually and shown as separate breeds from 1934.

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