Early History of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi:
Because of some comments that have recently appeared on the Internet chat lists, I have decided to take a quick look at what we know about the history of the breed. The two best sources we have are a pair of articles by W. Lloyd Thomas that appeared in the American Kennel Gazette in October and November of 1935, and the first book on Cardigans, The Cardiganshire Corgi, by Clifford Hubbard. Mr. Hubbard grew up in the very region of Wales where Mr. Thomas did his research among the hill men. In addition, Mr. Hubbard is a renowned authority in the literature of the dog. (photo left: Mr.Thomas' dog, Gin, photo right: Mr. Thomas' old style bitch, Peg)
Both those gentlemen agree that the Cardigan Corgi descends from a Tekel type dog that came into Wales with the European Celts. In which Celtic invasion? The one in the Stone Age, or the one 1500 years ago? Who knows? But in that same region in the Cardiganshire hills there are lots of remains of Celtic stonework. Hubbard and Thomas agree that Cardigans and Pembrokes are really not related. During the brief period when they were considered one breed, very little inter breeding occurred, and the Kennel Club was absolutely correct to separate them again. Pembrokes descend from the Norse, Spitz type dog and Cardigans from the Celtic tekel from central Europe. Who’s to say which is older, but the Cardigans were in Wales long before the Pembrokes.
About 1915, Mr. Thomas, who had grown up with corgis, went into the hills of Cardiganshire to talk to the old farmers about the dogs. It was in the region of the village of Bronant that he found the last few specimens of the old corgis that he calls the Bronant type. He credits Mon with being the last true full blooded example of the old corgi and says that 70 years before, in the last quarter of the 19th century, Mon would have been the type of dog the hill farmers had in mind when the talked about corgwyn. It was during the last quarter of the 19th century that agricultural practices changed from small farms that used Crown lands as a common pasture area to farms with fences where every farmer owned his plot.
The original corgi was a long bodied, heavy boned, low to the ground dog with a blocky head, strong muzzle and a very definite stop. The front was very crooked, the breastbone prominent, and the ears, while rounded, were drop. This dog possessed a wonderful nature, brave and gallant beyond their stature, courageous in the protection of their owner’s holdings, and so delightful and friendly that they were allowed to live in the house. The Bronant corgi weighed between 30 and 40 pounds. They may have turned spits, but mainly they were heelers who rushed at other cattle to drive them off so that his owner’s cattle could graze. The corgi was sort of a fence. At the end of the day, he might help to bring the cattle home, but only if they would go along together. If they scattered, this corgi was not one to go and round them up, and that fact was his downfall.By the end of the 19th century, farmers wanted dogs that would herd. The first candidate was the Red Herder, a dog with a very skittery, nervous disposition, but one that herded. Crosses with the Bronant type corgi were not very successful as that poor temperament came through. The Brindle herder, on the other hand, had large prick ears, stood about 20 inches at the shoulder, and had a mild friendly disposition, but lacked courageous tenacity needed to herd cattle. So the farmers crossed the Brindle Herder with the corgi and found a very satisfactory long, low dog with prick ears, a crooked front, and the lovely nature of the original corgi. Although, the Brindle Herder itself did not prosper, it may have given a great deal of style and refinement to the corgi.
It is not surprising then, that some of the dogs of the ‘20’s and ‘30’s were rather long legged and many had the very sloping stop of the Brindle Herder. By the way if you ever are unlucky enough to get one of those nervous unsociable temperaments, think of the crosses with the Red Herder. In fact so confused did the meaning of the word corgi become that some Red Herders were sold as corgis as were some corgi collie crosses. The Bronant corgi body style is very dominant. Mon was killed by an automobile in 1929, but he left four litters and fortunately, several hill men who had valued what had been lost and had made several close breedings on Mon to preserve as much true corgi blood as possible. Cassie was his granddaughter and it took eight years and the combined efforts of Mrs. Bole, Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Thomas to persuade the AKC to register her.
The AKC finally relented, even though her progenitors were unregistered, on the grounds that few corgis in her day had been registered.
We want modern corgis to have a definite stop and the deep body of the original Bronant corgi, and of course we want the erect ears of the Brindle Herder. So when you see those sloping stops and straight fronts, remember you’re seeing the Brindle herder influence. We want short legs, but I do want to say that they should not be too short. These dogs should not be very low. A man’s fist, or shall we say 4 ½ inches, should fit under the lowest point of the brisket.
The one of the first really dominant popular sires was Withybrook Brock and he was a low dog and definitely more corgi in type. His son, Kentwood Dewin, was even more widely used than Brock, and between the two of them, they set the Cardi type we see in England today. A successful sire like Pantyblaidd Pip has Dewin thirteen times behind him and Brock, sixteen. In the United States, the first two were Kencia’s Rocket and his son, Swansea Jon. It is hard to say how we got lowness from most of my Grandmother’s imports as most of them were fairly long legged The only one that I know was as short as we like today, was Cadno. Although I have pictures of most of her imports, I do not have many pictures of the dogs that resulted from their crosses. Megan had quite long legs, but Mionci’s were short. Whatever. The early breeders in this country generally chose the shorter legged sires when they came along.
This is an overview of all the work and research Mr. Hubbard put into his book and Mr. Thomas into his two articles. I urge every true student of this breed to read and reread both sources. Keep in mind that breeds evolve and ours has, however, I feel that our dogs today owe a great deal to Mon and the Bronant corgis.
The pictures are three that were sent to my Grandmother by Lloyd Thomas. The one of the old farmer appears in his article in the AKC Gazette. The dog with him is not purebred but shows the strong influence of the Tekel stature.