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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.

Cardigan vs. Pembroke: Easily Confused

Many a Cardigan owner has had to explain that her corgi is not a Pembroke cross, but rather a breed all his own. Vivian Moran, member of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America’s Judge’s Education Committee and 30-year Cardigan breeder, says, “People see a short dog with a long body and say ‘Corgi?’” As people are more familiar with the Queen’s tail-free Pembrokes, the Cardigan’s long tail throws them off. “We have to work hard to explain there are two corgis and what the differences are.”

Anne Bowes, 50-year breeder/owner/handler of Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Judge of Pembrokes, Cardigans, Shelties, Pugs, and Junior Showmanship, says people often confuse the two breeds. “They hear the word ‘Corgi’ and they think both breeds are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Cardigan vs. Pembroke: An Interesting Heritage

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. Anne explains, “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.”

Cardigan Welsh Corgi
Cardigan Welsh Corgi

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,” says Vivian. 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, Vivian explains, “Pembrokes 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).

Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Cardigan vs. Pembroke: Physical Qualities

Physically, the Cardigan and Pembroke are both dwarf breeds with large heads and heavy, long bodies on short, thick legs. They both have upright ears, although the Cardigan’s are larger and more rounded, and their double-coated fur requires little grooming besides regular bathing and brushing.

However, if you look closer, the differences are many. Besides the tail – Cardigans have a long, foxlike tail whereas Pembrokes have their tail docked close to their body – Cardigans are slightly larger with heavier bone. Male Cardigans weigh up to 38 pounds while Pembrokes only weigh up to 30 pounds. The basic structure of the two breeds is also different. Pembrokes have oval bone and a squared-off rear end giving them a more linear and rectangular feel. On the other hand, Cardigans feel curvier due to round bone and a sloping rear.

The acceptable coat colors are more varied for the Cardigan. They come in brindle, black and white with brindle or tan points, red and sable with white markings, and blue merle. The only coat colors for the Pembroke are red, sable, and tricolor with white markings. Cardigans are also less restricted in their white markings than the Pembroke.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breed Standard Illustration
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Breed Standard Illustration

Cardigan vs. Pembroke: Personality

Both the Cardigan and Pembroke share a love of their people and are happiest when they can spend time with you. They are delightful companions, enjoy time with children, and adore participating in whatever their humans are doing. Because both the Pembroke and the Cardigan are so smart, training is essential. But they learn quickly and thrive when they have a daily job to do.

These two breeds were developed to nip and bark at cattle to move them along, and sometimes this behavior is expressed with small humans as well. Plus, those big ears make them excellent watch dogs that will bark at any unexpected sounds.

When it comes to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Anne says, “They are high energy, friendly (even effusive), affectionate, happy and funny at times.” She believes they are the more outgoing of the two breeds. Cardigans are more reserved in new situations, but they “warm up quickly,” she says.

Vivian agrees that Cardigans tend to be more laid back and a touch quieter. “A Cardigan will generally assess a situation before he decides to take part. A Pembroke always seems ready for a party.” Cardigans are also less high-energy and although they won’t turn down a long hike, are satisfied with a short romp in the yard.

According to Anne, “Pembrokes are the “CAN-DO” dogs – they want to do whatever it is that their owners want to do – and they CAN do it.” They are wonderful to live with and are content to be with their owners twenty-four hours a day. “Walking with a Pembroke is like walking with a friend—they stay right with you,” she says.

Vivian thinks the defining characteristic of the Cardigan is their adaptability. She describes them as a combination of serious and funny, adventurous and settled, and loving and independent. “If you want a dog that you can do everything with, a Cardigan is that dog. They love to travel and have new experiences. But they are also homebodies – lying on the sofa next to you or under your desk chair as you are working.”

Next time you see a corgi, you will hopefully be able to tell whether you are looking at a Pembroke or a Cardigan. These adorable breeds have a lot in common but a lot of differences too. And if you ever forget, just look at the tail.

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