The Corgi from Pembrokeshire has a rather colorful history. Its ancestors were brought to England from the mainland by Flemish weavers in 1107. They eventually settled in Haverfordwest in the southwestern corner of Wales, where they built replicas of the homes and farms of their homeland. The early Corgis that came with the Flemish settlers reportedly resembled Schipperkes and descended from the same family that includes the Samoyed, the Keeshond, the Chow Chow, the Pomeranian, the Finnish Spitz and the Norwegian Elkhound. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi was originally bred and used as sheep- and cattle-herding dog and farm guardian. Because of their small height and low-slung shape, Corgis were prized for their ability to nip at the heels of livestock and still avoid being kicked. They also were used to herd large flocks of geese to market. Over time, they so endeared themselves to their masters that they became beloved household companions as well.
The resemblance between the Pembroke and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is not a matter of chance. The two breeds were crossed sometime in the 1800s, when Cardigan puppies were sold to farmers in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. Many matings between the two breeds occurred during the first half of the 20th century. Modern breeders no longer cross the two Corgis and are conscientiously keeping a pedigree distinction between the Pembroke and the Cardigan.
The English Welsh Corgi Club, recognizing only the Pembroke, was founded in 1925. The Cardigan Club was formed in 1926 and later was renamed as the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi were recognized as separate breeds by The Kennel Club (England) in 1934. Queen Elizabeth II is one of the breed’s most ardent admirers, although having nippy cattle dogs in Buckingham Palace has brought its fair share of challenges. The royal Pembroke Corgis reportedly have nipped the ankles of palace staff, and even those of the Queen Mother herself. When then Princess Elizabeth acquired her first Pembroke, Rozavel Golden Eagle or “Dookie,” in 1933, the breed sky-rocketed in popularity and today is almost eight times as popular as its Cardigan cousin.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in 1934, as a member of the Herding Group. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America was founded in February of 1936, during the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. There were 18 charter members. The Bylaws of the club and the Standard of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi were approved by the American Kennel Club in March of 1936, and later that year the PWCCA was formally accepted as a member of the AKC. The breed standard was revised in 1972 and reformatted in 1993.
Today’s Pembroke Welsh Corgi excels not only in the conformation show ring, but also in obedience, agility, herding and other performance and field disciplines. He makes an active and alert watch dog and a highly affectionate family member.
The average life span of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is 12 to 15 years. Breed health concerns may include degenerative myelopathy, Ehler-Danlos syndrome (cutaneous asthenia), glaucoma, hip dysplasia, intervertebral disk disease, progressive retinal atrophy, refractory corneal ulceration, cataracts, hypochondroplasia (accepted as a breed standard; short legs but normal-sized skull), renal telangiectasia, ectopic ureters and von Willebrand’s disease.