So you ask, what exactly is a Cardigan Welsh Corgi? Trying to descripe one leads you to analogies such as " A big dog in a little dog suit," or "Picture a basset, sheltie and dachshund all mixed together". When in reality a cardigan is a very ancient breed, originating from the Cardiganshire section of Wales in the British Isles. The origin breed came over from Europe with the Celts and can trace their heritage back further to the ancient Teckel type dogs from France(early dachshund and bassets) The name corgi comes from the Welsh, "Cor" for dwarf (or perhaps "cur" for working dog) and "gi" (with a hard "G" sound) for dog. Also called a "ci-llathed" or "yard-long" dog, they were prized for their versatility and at one time, harming one of these little dogs could cost you greatly.
As with many breeds, over the centuries, refinements were made in the breed, many of which pertained to the use of the dog at the time. The addition of the native herding breeds, specifically the red and brindle heelers, created a more consistent type of dog. Above all, these dogs were bred to be small and easy to keep. Hard workers who did a mulitide of jobs, not limited to herding, but also working as a family companion, ratter, guardian and hunter.
Today Cardigans are the ultimate versitile dog. You can find them in nursing homes, hospitals, day cares, schools and libraries. There they work as therapy and reading dogs, service animals and K9 Ambassadors. Show dogs, working dogs, breed ambassadors, hunting, you name it, they can do it.
Many breeders are helping to preserve the breed by keeping their original working behaviors intact. Herding whether it's on a working farm or at competitive trials is very big in the breed. Also on working farms, many dogs tend to the flocks, chase off unwanted critters and keep barns and sheds clean of vermin. You can also find a select few dogs that also add to their work regimine by flushing and retrieving game. Tracking, SAR work and of course the ultimate task of herding and minding the children of the family.
Descriptively the breed should appear as a rectangular shape dog, always longer then then tall. A low fox like appearance with a brush tail. Yes this is the corgi with the tail. Approximately 12" at the shoulder, females weighing between 24-34 lbs and males 30-38lbs. Never coarse looking, they should look as though they can work all day long. Agile, hardy, yet easy going in style and movement. A long lived breed, it is not unheard of for a well cared for dog to live until they are 15-17 years young.
Health issues abound in any breed, some more then others. Cardigans for the most part are a healthy, low risk breed. They do do carry the PRA(progressive retinal atrophy) gene but most responsible breeders either carry lines clear of PRA or only breed to carriers of the gene to noncarriers and test all puppies. It takes two carriers to produce the disease and only someone totally irresponsible will allow that to happen. DM-a degenerative disk disorder now has a genetic test for carriers of the disease but more studies need to be undertaken as this test does not tell you if your dog will actually end up with the old age disease or not. Hip and elbow dysplasia as with most other breeds occurs as well as thryroid, heart and other degenerative disorders. Overall, the breed has very few serious health issues, the majority of issues are ones that occur in any breed of dogs, regardless of the age, size or herditary status. Your best bet is to talk to the breeders where you are considering purchasing your puppy from, ask about and request copies of all testing done on the parents of the pup and ask them to explain why they did the breeding if there are any health issues present.
Colors range from reds and sables, to the tiger striped brindle(dark black to bright red), black and white with either tan or brindle points and blue merle. The only limitations in color breeding, per the Code of Ethics of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America is that any color can be breed together, but blue merles. Blues may only be bred to black and white dogs. As with many of the breeds that have the merle gene, many unknowns still exist and therefore due to health issues that may occur in blue to blue or blue to any other color breedings, it is against the COE to do such breedings.
The coat of a Cardi should be weather resisitant, containing a double or insulating under coat. Extremely short coats or those lacking an under coat are penalized as is an extremely long, fluff, soft or curly coat. Out of the show ring, dogs with these types of coats still make perfect companions, performance and working dogs.
A word of warning about a Cardi coat or even just Corgi coats--they do shed. At least twice a year the breed sheds quite a bit of it's coat, but it is a year round shedding breed.
Temperment as noted above with their working abilities, should be even with an happy outlook on life. Many dogs can be a little warry of strangers as that can be a fall back on their guardian traits of long ago. This should not be confused with a dog that is unsocialized and spooky. As with many guardian type dogs, as soon as the master acknowledges that a stranger is okay, the dog should greet them appropriately. Cardigans are very people oriented and suffer greatly if isolated or left to their own accord. They want to be involved with a family and blossom in an environment that is stimulating and pleasant.
A very trainable breed, Cardigans enjoy working in performance events. Agility and obedience are great avenues to explore with your cardi and by providing structured exercise, can keep them from finding fun of their own. Though not as active as say a border collie, when left to their own devices, these little fox like dogs can be mischeiveous and destructive, though not at any fault of their own. Destuffing toys, chewing on shoes, rearranging furniture are all things that happen to any dog when left to entertain itself, but herding dogs in particular need structured mental and phyiscal stimulation on a regular basis.
Overall, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, isn't the breed for everyone. Though many live life as devoted couch dogs, feet warmers and bed snugglers, others need to run an agility course once a week, herd a few ducks into a pen or notify you when a jogger passes the window. If you are a neat freak, watch out. They love nothing more then a good wallow in a mud puddle, dive in the creek or rolling in something that most certainly smells wonderful only to them. Make sure to find find a breeder who is open and willing to talk to you about many aspects of the breed.
One last warning, like potato chips, you usually can't have just one. Cardigans worm their way into your heart. Once you have one, it will be very hard to not have one in your house, or two or three.....
More information on the breed can be found at the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America website: www.cardigancorgis.com , the Canadian Cardigan Corgi Club: www.cardigancorgi.ca , or at the American Kennel Club, www.akc.org