Corgis originally were bred as drover dogs for the small Welsh cattle kept by farmers in Wales, however, their usefulness on the farm in general, made them popular choices for guarding the barnyard fowl and driving geese to market, as well as for killing rats and other vermin. Although they are brave little dogs perfectly capable of tracking badgers to their dens -- which they have been known to do -- that was not their primary role, historically.
History of the Corgi Breed
Because of its resemblance to several dog types from different regions, there is some confusion over where the Welsh corgi originated and from which breed stock it sprang. The wildfowler's dog on the Welsh coastline, a spitz-type dog, is one likely candidate, as is the Scandinavian “lundehund” with similar ears. The Swedish vastgota-spitz or “vallhund” (farm dog) is another strong possibility, although it raises still another question to muddy the waters, since the origin of the vallhund, itself, is a bit of a mystery. Whether Vikings brought the corgi to Sweden where it became the vallhund or the Swedish vallhund mixed with the original wildfowler's corgi to become the Welsh corgi of today is unclear. The variations between the Pembroke and Cardigan corgis may stem from crosses between corgi-like dogs of similar, but slightly different origins.
Cardigan or Pembroke Corgi
Aside from its somewhat heavier-muscled legs and slightly longer body, the Cardigan Welsh corgi is most often known as the corgi with the tail. The Pembroke Welsh corgi is usually bob-tailed, either naturally, due to a bob-tail gene, or through surgical docking. Both are small, agile, alert, intelligent and friendly dogs with sturdy bodies, short legs and heavy, double coats. In America, the American Kennel Club standard lists the acceptable colors for the Pembroke corgi as “... self colors in red, sable, fawn, black and tan with or without white markings.” However, a white main color or bluish-gray color is a serious fault -- along with blue eyes. The AKC standard for the Cardigan corgi says colors can be “all shades of red, sable and brindle; black with or without tan or brindle points; blue merle (black and gray; marbled) with or without tan or brindle points...” With specific exceptions, white as a main color is also a fault in Cardigans.
Corgis As Family Pets
Few people keep small cattle or need to herd geese to market these days, so the corgi has transitioned from primarily a working dog to a family pet. Like many dogs trained to an active working life, corgis need plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep them mentally and physically healthy, so make better pets for those willing to exercise and interact with them on a regular basis. Corgis are smart and train easily but need a lot of attention to prevent boredom that may lead to destructive behavior or other behavioral problems. They are also long-lived dogs with an average life span of 12 to 15 years, which requires a long-term commitment. Relatively inactive people or those with busy schedules away from home should consider a less active breed of dog.
Corgis as Working Dogs
Of course, if you do own a farm and need an active and diligent helper whose strength, endurance and drive more than outweigh her diminutive size, a Welsh corgi of either type is a perfect dog for you. The traits that made corgis excellent farm and ranch dogs are still there in the family pet. Corgis remain strong instinctive herd dogs, and can do the job today as well as they did for farmers centuries ago.