The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is descended from the Teckel family of dogs which also
produced the Dachshund. The breed is believed to have been in existence in Wales
for over 3,000 years. It was brought in aboriginal form by the Celtic tribes who
migrated to Wales from central Europe. This early dog was a transitional form
between the Teckel and the Spitz families. |
The Cardigan's original work was to go before his master's cattle herd and
clear the way by chasing off potential predators as well as trespassing herds,
providing an area for grazing. Later, the Cardi began to act as a herder,
working behind the master's cattle and as a "drover", driving cattle from the
Welsh farms to the English markets. It is at this time the original Corgi may
have been crossed with local sheepdogs to obtain a more versatile working dog.
The faithful Corgi was put to good use in his heyday, acting as a cattle dog,
family guardian and pet, as well as vermin exterminator.
During the Viking invasion of 1,000 years ago, and subsequent influx of
Flemish weavers, a Spitz-type of dog was introduced into some areas of Wales.
These Spitz were crossed with the original Corgi to produce what is known today
as the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Those Corgis who resided in areas untouched by such
influences, however, retained their basic original blood and were the
descendents of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
In the late 1800's the beginnings of what we know today as dog shows began to
take shape. At this period of time, many breeds' usefulness in their historical
roles began to wane with the advent of machines. If not for dog shows, many of
these breeds would have died out. The Corgi was slow to take the public's fancy.
Near the turn of the century, classes were held at some livestock shows for
"heelers" or "curs" but it was not until the 1920's that the term "Corgi" was
used regularly and any appreciable breed history can be documented.
Beginning in 1925, the Corgi was exhibited under Kennel Club (Great Britain)
jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the Kennel Club did not consider Pembroke and
Cardigan Welsh Corgis as two different breeds and registered them as a single
breed. This allowed for the two breeds to be crossed. At this time there was
considerable strife for the fanciers of both breeds as judges were known to
either prefer one breed or the other, causing considerable dissatisfaction at
the dog shows. Finally, the Kennel Club corrected the error and separated the
two breeds in 1934.
A red and white dog named Bob Llwyd (out of unregistered parents) was the
most influential stud dog in the mid and late '20's and the first breed standard
is said to have been based on him. He sired the breed's first champion in his
red and white son, Ch. Golden Arrow, who was born in 1928 and finished his
championship in 1931. It was shortly after this time that the Pembroke was
selected by the British Royal Family as their pet which brought great fame to
that breed. The Cardigan remained in the shadows of his cousin and only recently
has his popularity begun to rise.
The Cardigan Comes to America
In June of 1931 the first two Cardigan Welsh Corgis were imported into the
United States. The first bitch to arrive in this country was the famous Cassie
who was already a well established producer of high quality Cardigans in
England. She was, in fact, mismarked being white with brindle patches, but her
ability to produce excellent stock superseded her unfavorable coloration. The
first champion of the breed was a red and white bitch, Ch. Megan whelped in
1933. Today, the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America, Inc. holds an annual
contest for champions only, named the Megan Competition.
The following passage was written by one of the early influential breeders
of Cardigans, Marcia Lopeman, who bred under the Kencia prefix:
Mrs. Roberta Bole imported the first pair of Cardigans to this country from
England in 1931. About five years later, they were first recognized by the
American Kennel Club and a group of interested friends formed a club which
became a member of the AKC.
One of my earliest memories was a meeting in the early 1940's with Mrs. Bole,
Mrs. Peter Jay, Kendrick Lopeman and myself at the Hollenden Hotel in Cleveland.
Although we had a corner table, there was an orchestra and the "Old Red Head,"
Arthur Godfrey, was performing and Mrs. Bole with her back to the stage could
care less, but my husband who was one of the gentleman's greatest admirers was
trying to catch the act and concentrate on our deliberations. Well, we did make
future plans and decided as a nucleus club to bring our breed to the forefront
and some recognition. Our club consisted then of the officers - Kendrick Lopeman
as president; Mrs. Peter Jay as vice president; me as secretary-treasurer; and
Mrs. Bole as Chairman of the Board of Directors; the other board members being
the aforementioned officers.
Mrs. Bole who was well versed not only in art and music but also in genetics
was determined that the breed not be commercialized and in consequence inferior
specimens be bred. We decided to start a breeding schedule and to place only the
quality animals in the hands of prospective owners who would exhibit them or
breed conscientiously. To do this we would give, without papers, the less
promising pups to farmers for use on farms or to owners for pets.
Lest I forget to mention it, Mrs Bole was adamant that no dogs with a poor
disposition be used for breeding or exhibited. Also, she felt that since the
breed was a working dog, there should be no alteration of its coat - no cutting
of whiskers, no stripping or clipping or coloring of coat and certainly no
fabrication of quality by Novocain in tails, etc. We believed that in so doing,
we might make the limelight for the moment, but it would be detrimental as the
By Marcia Lopeman, CWCCA Handbook, Volume I, 1975
From that brief but colorful introduction, Mary Nelms (Brymore) brings us
up to the late 1960's:
We were all very much isolated in those early days. My husband and I lived in
Texas in 1938, when I bought my first Cardigan from Mrs. Bole. She was never
bred. To reach a stud she would have had to be shipped two thousand miles, and
there was no passenger aircraft in those days. In the mid-forties, after Mrs.
Bole's death, the Cardigan stock became even more scattered. Some of Mrs. Bole's
Cardigans went to Mrs. Marcia Lopeman in up-state New York; some to her niece,
Mrs. Peter Jay in Maryland; some to Dr. Peterson of Virginia; and to Mr. W. B.
French in Georgia.
Fortunately, at about this time, new enthusiasts entered the scene. Dr.
Peterson was breeding his Bole stock and they were being handled in the show
ring by Mrs. Margaret Douglas. She acquired a Cardigan of her own in 1946 from
Dr. Peterson, a little bitch named Jess whom she showed to her championship.
Jess's son, Ch. Swansea Jon C.D., won three consecutive Best of Breeds at
Westminster and more than one Specialty show. Another Swansea dog, bred by Mrs.
Douglas, was Jim Churchill's Ch. Swansea Busy, the first Cardigan ever to win a
In Philadelphia, Mr. Joseph Frutchey was breeding and showing. In Minnesota,
Mr. George Reed had formed a nucleus of breeders and exhibitors. In the far
west, in California, Mrs. Genevieve Anderson was a pioneer breeder and a
dedicated missionary for the breed. Her friend, Mrs. Marguerite Farley, bred the
first American blue merle, Ch. Farlesdale Silver Pay Day, in 1952. Things were
definitely looking up, but judges, in the main, ignored us; professional
handlers avoided us. And indeed the Cardigan ring, in the late 1950's showed
what may politely be called "diversity of type". With the exception of Mrs.
Douglas, we had no large scale breeders. And for the occasional litter, the stud
used was, in most cases, the handiest. For over a decade no fresh stock had been
brought in from Great Britain.
Then in 1957, Mr. Hal Nelson imported a tricolor bitch, Kentwood Dilys, from
Miss Sonnica Godden. At about the same time Mrs. Michael Pym brought in Ch.
Parmel Bryn. Bryn was bred by the Parkinsons, and was the son of the great Eng.
Ch. Kentwood Cymro, whom he once beat in the ring. When Mrs. Pym bought him he
had just won the Breed at Crufts. But these two imports looked lonely in the
American Cardigan show ring.
They were so different from all the others. The judges didn't seem to know
what to do with them, so they placed them alternately at the top and at the
bottom of their classes. The difference in appearance led to careless talk about
"an American type", a concept that would have spelled disaster for the Cardigan
in the States.
At this critical and dangerous point in Cardigan history, rescue appeared in
the form of Mrs. Pym, herself an Englishwoman and a lady who never does anything
by halves. Her heart was in the breed, and the situation frightened and annoyed
her. So in 1962 she went to Great Britain and chose eleven Cardigans for
breeding stock, bringing eight of them back with her in the Queen Mary, to the
delight and edification of passengers and crew. Subsequently, some of these were
given to other breeders in various parts of the country to improve the
In the meantime, Mr. Nelson's Dilys, now a champion, had not been idle. Bred
the first time to Kentwood Helgi, she produced a daughter who was subsequently
bred to a Swansea stud, Ch. Swansea Punch. From this litter came Ch. Lord Jim's
Lucky Domino, one of our truly greats, winner of groups, of Westminster (and of
5 National Specialties - ed. note). When bred back to his grandmother, Dilys, he
sired two of the outstanding dogs in American Cardigan history: Ch. Springdale
Droednoeth, and Ch. Domino's Beau Jester. Dr. Ed McGough took his Ch. Springdale
Droednoeth all the way to the top, to win the first Best in Show award at an all
breed show in the history of American Cardigans...
By Mary Nelms (Brymore), Cardigan Welsh Corgi Association 1976 Year Book
Although still comparatively rare, the breed has gained public recognition by
appearing in TV and movies. Today there are over 500 members of the CWCCA. The
Cardigan of today holds his own in all breed competition with several specimens
having received Best in Show awards.
In July of 2006, the official breed name became Cardigan Welsh
Corgi rather than Welsh Corgi (Cardigan).
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