The Cardigan is a low-set dog, approximately 1.8 times longer than it is tall, with moderately heavy bone. They are small but powerful dogs capable of the agility, speed, and endurance necessary to drive cattle for extended periods. Their small size allowed them to duck under the cattle’s hooves should they kick at the dog. Their gait is free, smooth, effortless, and ground covering. Their double coat consists of a soft thick undercoat and slightly harsh outer coat of medium length. Their expression is alert, gentle, and watchful, yet friendly.
One of the earliest breeds to come to the British Isles, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi was brought from central Europe to Cardiganshire, South Wales centuries ago. Its derivation is unknown, though it may have been influenced by the extinct English turn-spit dog, a short-legged, low-bodied dog used to turn spits in kitchens.
Initially used as a family protector and even helper in the hunt, it was only later that the Corgi found its true forte. In a time when the land available to tenant farmers was determined by how much acreage their cattle occupied, it was to the farmer’s advantage to have scattered, far-ranging stock. Thus, a dog that would drive, rather than herd, the cattle was an invaluable aid, and the Corgi stepped right into this role, nipping at the cattle’s heels and ducking their kicks. In fact the word Corgi probably is derived from Cor (to gather) and Gi (dog).
The original Corgis were supposed to measure a Welsh yard (slightly longer than an English yard) from nose to tail-tip, and in parts of Cardiganshire the breed was called the yard-long Dog or Ci-llathed. When the Crown lands were later divided, sold, and fenced, the need for drovers was lost, and the Corgi lost its job. Kept by some as a guard and companion, nonetheless, it became a luxury that few could afford, and it became perilously close to extinction.
Crosses with other breeds had been tried, but most were not particularly successful. The exception was the cross with the brindle herder, and present-day Cardigans are the products of this slight herder influence. The first Cardigans were shown around 1925. Until 1934, the Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis were considered one breed, and interbreeding between the two was common. The first Cardigans came to America in 1931, and AKC recognized the breed in 1935. For some unknown reason, the Cardigan has never enjoyed the popularity of the Pembroke Corgi, and remains only modestly popular.
Fun-loving and high spirited, yet easygoing, the Cardigan is a devoted and amusing companion. This is a hardy breed, capable of a day dodging kicks, so they are agile and tireless. At home he is well mannered, but he is inclined to bark. He tends to be reserved with strangers and can be scrappy with other dogs.
The Cardigan needs a surprising amount of exercise for his size. The Cardigan’s needs can best be met with a herding session, but a moderate walk or vigorous play session will also suffice. The coat needs brushing once a week to remove dead hair.