How Are Cardigan Welsh vs. Pembroke Corgis Different?

Updated October 27, 2021
Pembroke corgis in autumn park

Despite their similarities, Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are recognized as distinctive breeds by the American Kennel Club (AKC). Queen Elizabeth II's interest in the breed helped establish the popularity of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi, which is thought to descend from Nordic spitz breeds. Meanwhile, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is one of the oldest breeds in the British Isles, with origins extending back more than 2,000 years, likely descending from German dogs that also developed into the Dachshund. Although there are several differences between the two breeds, they are sometimes confused due to their commonalities.

The Cardigan Versus Pembroke Welsh Corgi

If you've never seen a Welsh Corgi before, their unusual appearance may be perplexing. They somewhat resemble the offspring of a German Shepherd and a Basset Hound, but this is not the case.

The Cardigan and the Pembroke both worked with farmers to move livestock out to graze, and also served to help protect the farmhouse and barn. The breeds are not related, and the modern versions originate from different parts of Wales. Cardigans were first known in Cardiganshire, in southwest Wales, where the terrain is more difficult. Pembroke Welsh Corgis come from southern Wales in the more gentle terrain of Pembrokeshire.


The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the younger of the two Corgi breeds. Pembroke Welsh Corgis -- also known as Pembrokes, PWCs, or Pems -- are the smallest of the AKC's Herding Group, as well as the United Kennel Club.

Pembroke Welsh corgi dog in a country field of summer wildflowers


The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a charming dog with a folkloric past. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is said to have originated in the lairs of fairies and elves, according to Welsh tradition.

According to folklore, two children were looking to their family's cattle in the countryside when they came across a couple of puppies. The kids mistook them for foxes, but after seeing something unusual about them, they packed them up and took them home. Their parents immediately recognized the pups as dogs rather than foxes, and informed their children that the pups were a gift from the field fairies. They were utilized by the fairies to pull their carriages and to go into war.

The parents pointed to the coloration on their backs where the fairy saddle had been placed on their shoulders as proof that Pembrokes were truly fairies' version of horses. The kids were overjoyed and adored their puppies. The dogs were beloved companions as they grew older, and they learned to assist the children in caring for the family's cattle.

For those who are skeptical of fairy tales, historians claim that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is descended from Vallhunds brought to Wales by the Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries. Others believe they are descended from dogs that were introduced to Wales in the 12th century by Flemish weavers. Though there are many theories of the Pembroke's origins, they are here now as beloved companions to many.


The head of a Pembroke is somewhat fox-like, with slightly rounded ears held erect. This dog carries a deep, broad chest between fairly straight legs that are just a scant inch shorter than those of their Cardigan cousins. The feet point directly forward, and their long back ends in just the slightest nub of a tail. They are known to stand between 10 to 12 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 25 and 30 pounds.

Corgi (Canis lupis familiaris) sitting in a blue room

Pembrokes have reasonably soft, thick fur. Acceptable colors include:

  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Sable
  • Black and tan
  • Most colors typically carry white markings

Personality and Training

Pembrokes are still employed as working dogs, but they are now more commonly seen as family companions. They are recognized for being cheerful, caring, and intellectual, yet they can also be stubborn or independent. Although they are easy to train, don't expect your Pembroke to be submissive. They enjoy being able to think for themselves and do carry a somewhat stubborn streak.

Pembrokes have a special affection for children, although their herding tendencies cause them to nibble at kids' feet or ankles. However, Pems are quick learners and may be trained out of this habit at a young age.

As far as including other cats and dogs in your household, as long as you have socialized your Pembroke with other pets in the house, they're usually fine with these living arrangements.


The Welsh Corgi dog breed is the elder of the two Corgi dog breeds, with dogs of this variety thought to have existed in Wales for almost 3,000 years. Cardigans, like Pembrokes, belong to the AKC's and UKC's Herding Group.

Two cardigan welsh dogs in a field


Like the Pembroke, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi also carries their own folklore. Stories tell of fairies riding miniature, long-backed dogs over a moonlit sky in Wales, through a tiny fairy-tale kingdom filled with misty mountains and mysterious standing stones. The fairies' canine treasure was discovered by a few lucky people, who acquired the dogs for themselves. Similar to the Pembroke's story, fairies were responsible for this breed, as well, but rather in a different environment.


The Cardigan Welsh Corgi looks slightly different from the Pembroke, with a longer muzzle and very large ears that have distinctly rounded tips. The Cardigan is also longer in back than the Pembroke and has quite a good sized tail.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi in forest

The Cardigan's front is also slightly different. The front paws turn out just a bit. They stand between 10.5 to 12.5 inches tall at the shoulders, weighing between 25 and 38 pounds. They are known to be slightly larger than the Pembroke.

Cardigans carry a double coat that is harsher on the outside than a Pembroke's coat, but the undercoat is quite thick and soft. Cardigan colors include:

  • Red
  • Sable
  • Black
  • Black and tan
  • Brindle
  • Black and brindle
  • Blue merle
  • Colors are frequently accompanied with white markings.

Personality and Training

Cardigan Welsh Corgis -- commonly known as Cardigans, Cardis, or CWCs -- have a friendly, alert demeanor. Cardigans are full of energy, but they are still very intelligent. Their devotion to their family is unquestionable.

Cardigans have a tendency to be distrustful of outsiders, giving them a bit more of a wary demeanor than those of Pembrokes. They are also often more territorial than Pembrokes and make great watch dogs, though they are not suitable for the role of guard dog. If they can, they will defend their people, although many will be injured in the process. Cardigans, like Pembrokes, adapt well to instruction and make excellent companions.

Cardigans are gentle with children, though, like the Pembroke, their herding tendencies may cause them to lightly nip at a child's feet or ankles. They will quickly learn, however, that this is not acceptable behavior.

As long as they've been socialized with other pets in the house, Cardigans are usually friendly toward cats and other dogs. They can be aggressive toward dogs that aren't family members, but they appreciate having a second or third dog to play with, especially another Corgi.

It's not uncommon for a family to have both a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi in the same household.

Similarities in their Need for Company

Corgis are very similar in terms of their desire for companionship. They shouldn't be left alone for the entire day. They were raised as herding dogs, so they are accustomed to being in the company of other animals as well as their owner. If you need to leave the house, ask a friend if they can look after your dog. Dogs, like humans, can become lonely and depressed when left alone, in addition to experiencing separation anxiety.

Health and Longevity

There are a few health issues that all Welsh Corgis have in common. If you overfeed these dogs, they can easily become obese, so make sure they get enough activity and watch their meal portions. Obesity in this breed can lead to spinal problems.

Eye issues are also common in these dogs, with glaucoma and progressive renal atrophy -- eventually leading to blindness -- being the most common. Even so, with proper care, these dogs can live to be 12 or more years old.


Corgis shed twice a year and need very little maintenance in between. Giving your dog a thorough brushing once or twice a week will keep them in good shape. Bathing should be limited in order to protect the natural oils that help these dogs' coats repel water.

Welsh corgi pembroke dog at grooming table

Main Differences Among the Two Breeds

To sum up their differences, Cardigans have a long, foxlike tail, whilst most Pembrokes have their tail docked short, near to their body. Cardigan Welsh Corgis are slightly larger with heavier bone. The fundamental structure of the two breeds differs as well. Pembrokes have a squared-off rear end and oval bone, giving them a more linear and rectangular appearance. Cardigans, on the other hand, have a curvier appearance due to their round bone structure and sloping back.

The Cardigan has a wider range of acceptable coat colors. Brindle, black and white with brindle or tan points, red and sable with white markings, and blue merle are some of the colors available. Red, sable, and tricolor with white markings are the only coat colors for the Pembroke. Cardigans also have more freedom with their white markings than Pembroke Welsh Corgis.

The ears are the most visible distinction between the breeds. The Pembroke's are upright and pointy. The Cardigans' tail is also substantially longer than the Pembroke's, and the Cardigan's tail is more rounded.

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is also known to be the more popular of the two breeds. The Pembroke is more friendly with strangers, whereas the Cardigan is more wary.

Corgis Make Great Companions

Both breeds are excellent pets. Intelligence, low maintenance, and family devotion make the Welsh Corgi a wonderful choice for a companion. If you're looking for a dog that is smaller and more friendly with strangers, the Pembroke may be the way to go. If you're searching for a dog that is wary of strangers and more likely to alert you to intruders, a Cardigan may be your best choice. Regardless of which breed you choose, be sure you will be able to give them a home for life because they will become very attached to you and will likely be with you for many years to come.

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How Are Cardigan Welsh vs. Pembroke Corgis Different?