The GGPWCF is the oldest regional affiliate of the
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America
The GGPWCF is an AKC Licensed Club

Different Corgis

Welsh Corgis - Pembroke or Cardigan? What's the difference?

Cardigan vs. Pembroke: An Interesting Heritage

Queen Elizabeth II’s love of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi has made the breed a household name. But Pembrokes aren’t the only corgi that hails from Wales. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is another sturdy little herding breed from the same country. Although there are some obvious differences between these two affectionate and intelligent members of the Herding Group, people often confuse the two breeds.

The Cardigan and the Pembroke both worked with farmers to take the cattle to grazing land and to guard the barnyard, but they don’t share a common ancestor and come from different sections of Wales. Cardigans were found in the rough, rocky terrain of Cardiganshire in southwest Wales. Pembrokes were found in the flatter, easier terrain of Pembrokeshire in southern Wales.

The two breeds also have completely different origins, with the Cardigan, one of the oldest breeds in the British Isles, being older by over two thousand years. Their ancestors were brought to Wales by the Celtic tribes of central Europe. They descended from the German Teckel lineage (which also gave us the Dachshund) and arrived in Wales in roughly 1200 BC.

As for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, they arrived in Wales with the Vikings and are descended from the Nordic Spitz breeds. The relatively younger breed’s appearance can be traced back to 1000 AD. Except for a brief period in the 1930s, the two corgis have never been interbred. In 2006, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the names of the two breeds as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi rather than the Welsh Corgi (Cardigan) and the Welsh Corgi (Pembroke).

Originally an all-purpose barnyard dog, the Pembroke was once invaluable to farmers in Wales. The perky four-legged farmhands escorted cows to common grazing land, watching over them, and making sure they were back home in time for milking. Other tasks the Pembroke happily performed included rodent control, guarding other livestock, and protecting the human family—basically any task that didn’t require legs longer than 12 inches.

The Pembroke is a member of the spitz family—that Nordic group of dogs distinguished by a sharp-pointed muzzle, foxy face, erect and pointed ears, and a high set, gaily carried tail. Nearest relatives likely include the Swedish Vallhund, the Norwegian Buhund, and the Schipperke.

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1936 Young Princess with Dookie
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1936 Young Princess with Dookie and Jane
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1944 Princess Elizabeth with her Corgi pup

"Never has a legacy been so intrinsically linked with a pet as that of Queen Elizabeth II and her royal corgis"

In England, after Pembrokes and Cardigans became separate breeds in 1934, the soon-to-be Queen Mother, Catherine Bowes-Lyon, acquired a Pembroke as a pet for her daughters Elizabeth and Margaret. Later, Susan, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi was a gift to the then-Princess Elizabeth, eldest daughter of King George VI, for her 18th birthday. Registered as “Hickathrift Pippa,” the dog at first went by Sue, which evolved into Susan. Susan and Elizabeth became so attached to one another that Susan accompanied the princess on her honeymoon with Prince Philip, hidden under blankets in the royal carriage. Now, we know that Susan is the common ancestor of all Queen Elizabeth’s Pembrokes, an incredible genetic legacy. Two of her final pups, Holly and Willow, appear to have been the 14th generation of Susan’s descendants. 

The first Pembroke Welsh Corgis arrived in America in 1934 with Mrs. Lewis Roesler of Massachusetts, a well- known breeder of Old English Sheepdogs. Her two English Corgis, Little Madam and Captain William Lewis, became the first and second Pembrokes to be registered with the AKC, and Little Madam went on to become the first American champion in 1935.

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