WITH THE CORGWYN
by G. Andersen
It is an amazing but accurate statement to say that the body of the English people did not learn of the existence of a breed called Corgi until as late as 1925. This despite the fact that the breed had survived in the mountains of Wales for more than two thousand years. It is understandable only in the light that inter-traffic between Wales and England was not general since it was retarded by lack of transportation facilities. Neither were the English and Welsh overly fond of each other. A world of difference not measured by miles existed between them.
However, a Corgi was "the dog" of Wales farther back than memory or records could go and was claimed at one time to be the only working dog known in Great Britain, extending farther back and pre-dating the three original Welsh Sheepdog breeds. Cattle were raised and tended long before sheep made their advent in Wales, and were the valued stock of even Neolithic man. While the ancient cattle of Wales were black, more ancient than these were the white ones with black ears and that was a very long time ago indeed! Odd to relate, the Corgi dog inclined to take on the colors of the cattle he tended, and to a degree the color of the soil on which he worked and lived.
But, however numerous and valued the Corgi dog had been in older days his usefulness had greatly diminished with the fencing of the Crown lands which began about 1875. First, he had been used to "go before" - that is to clear the way of wild animals and bandits for the cattle. As these dangers lessened he was trained to "go behind" and drive the cattle to the best pastures, also to clear and drive afar the cattle of other farmers. He was then called the "heeler" and very adept and canny he was at his job!
But fences infringed more and more upon his territory until only the most isolated uplands were left immune. Few crofters could afford to keep a dog which could not pay for his feed in work, so the Corgi became very scarce indeed and other breeds for sheep and herding were used. But in the most isolated districts, the Corgi in a pure form was maintained, though not too plentiful in numbers. At the turn of the century the outlook for the survival of the Cardigan Corgi was very bleak. But here is where our inspired group of devotees took a hand to preserve the valiant little worker they had known in their childhood. It was found that in the Bronant district and the Plylimon mountains the finest and purest specimens of the original Corgi were to be acquired, so it was largely from this area that the best Cardigans were gathered and systematic breeding began. In this breeding program which gained force around 1920, we find that certain dogs well known in our pedigrees may be called the foundation dogs of our breed.
The Cardigan advance since the initial start has been much slower than the Pembroke and has been due to many factors, not to any lesser quality in the dogs. First of all, the Pem was made popular because it was the Queen's breed. But mainly, the Cardigan advocate had not the money nor influence that the Pembroke promoters had. So many were farmers who had little time to exhibit because of their duties, and cash was even less plentiful. Welsh farmers are not wealthy. But they had enthusiasm and love for the breed, plus an eye for a good dog. Their lands had fostered the Corgwyn breed since time immemorial. They knew wat a Corgi should be. Progress in the breed might be slow but it was put upon secure footing with careful selective breedings. Nothing can stop the breed now - it is on its way.
(As published in Dog World, February 1951)