In spite of its royal association, the corgi has been struggling in popularity. With puppy registrations finally on the rise, Matthew Dennison celebrates this lively, faithful breed that devotees insist won’t, in fact, be snapping at your heels.
Of all the dogs on the Kennel Club’s (KC) Vulnerable Native Breeds list, none has the celebrity endorsement of the Pembroke Welsh corgi. These handsome, busy little dogs have been the favourite breed of The Queen for more than eight decades. It was in 1933 that her father presented his family with chestnut-coated Dookie, acquired from a breeder in Surrey, then, 11 years later, on her 18th birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth received a corgi of her own, eventually called Susan. More than 70 years later, both The Queen’s remaining corgis, Willow and Holly, are Susan’s descendants, a canine bloodline spanning 14 generations.
The royal imprimatur has not guaranteed the long-term safety of this ancient Welsh breed. The KC’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list records British breeds whose puppy registrations fall below 300 puppies a year; the At Watch list records breeds registering fewer than 500 puppies annually. Last year, the red-coated Pembroke corgi successfully moved up to the At Watch list, after increasing its puppy registrations to 366.
Its cousin, the Cardigan corgi, whose coat is typically any colour but red, registered only 124 puppies in 2015 and remains among our most endangered breeds. These troubling statistics are a source of considerable concern for corgi owners and breeders.
‘Corgis are very loyal and very intelligent,’ owner Lucy Badham-Thornhill tells me. Mrs Badham-Thornhill acquired her first Pembroke corgi at the age of 11; she became the inseparable companion of her adolescence. following her marriage, ‘there was only one breed to be considered’ and Mrs Badham-Thornhill’s corgis Millie and Mole, who are mother and daughter, are the third and fourth generation of her current bloodline.
‘I admire corgis because they’re sensible: they know when things matter. And I believe that they can be trained to do almost anything. They have incredible stamina and strong personalities, but they have neither the hound stubbornness nor the terrier hysteria.’
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