White Markings

White markings in Cardigan Welsh Corgis

Traditional Irish Pattern white markings (blaze, collar, white feet and tip of tail) have always been considered aesthetically pleasing in the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. However, opinions differ greatly when it comes to how much white is desirable both on the head and the body. Because the wording of the standards both in the country of origin and AKC / FCI is not that clear, the issue of how much white is acceptable can be confusing both for breeders and judges. By contrast, the standard for the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is much more severe than that of the Cardigan regarding the amount and placement of white markings, and too many judges transfer those ideas over to Cardigans. That is incorrect and will lead to wrong decisions.

To clarify the subject of white markings in the breed we need to split the discussion up in two parts.

Firstly - how much white is accepted in the different breed standards, and how does one judge variations in markings?

Secondly - how does one deal with the issue of white markings as a breeder. How are the patterns of inheritance and how does one base ones breeding decisions when faced with dogs that display much white?

Clarification of the Standards:

FCI & KC Standard

The standard for the Cardigan Welsh Corgi everywhere except the USA says

Any colour, with or without white markings, but white should not predominate.

The KC / FCI standard does not specify permissible markings on the head, but does call for the eye rims to be dark.

A commentary on this breed standard (CWCA 1983 Year Book) explained more clearly what was considered desirable: "White may be found on the muzzle, in a blaze on the head, chest, collar, legs and feet, tip of tail and low on the flanks. More extensive white markings and broken patches of colour are not encouraged."

When judging by these standards one must know when a dog is "predominantly white". The term "predominate" means, "to be the stronger or leading element, to appear more noticeable or imposing than something else, to be of nor have greater quantity," etc. Put more simply, a dog that is predominantly white will appear to be a white dog with dark markings. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi has never been a white dog, and this colour is then by definition a serious breed type fault.

A judge must be able to distinguish between a dog, which is basically white with patches of other colour, and one which is coloured and carrying large white markings. The latter is perfectly acceptable.


When judging white markings on the head there are two considerations that need to be made: Firstly, the breed standard calls for dark eye rims, and so, pink eye rims due to excessive white on the head must be viewed as a fault. Secondly, the head of the Cardigan must also be that of a coloured dog with white markings, not a white dog with coloured patches.

Therefore, when judging a dog with what appears to be excessive white on the head one must consider how much this distracts from good breed type, and fault the dog accordingly.

The KC/FCI standards does not mention white on ears or smaller white body splashes as faults, and these should be considered as cosmetic irregularities, as long as they do not take on such proportions as to make the white seem predominant.

In the UK show ring of today you would hardly see a dog carrying the type of white markings seen on some of the dogs in the past such as Ch. Parmel Digger or Ch. Echium of Hezelclose although the wording of the standard would not prevent such a dog from winning.

Ch. Echium of Hezelclose (born 23.7.1966)

Ch. Parmel Digger (born 05.09.1963)

AKC Standard:

The AKC standard says:

All shades of red, sable and brindle. Black with or without tan or brindle points. Blue merle (black and gray; marbled) with or without tan or brindle points. There is no color preference. White flashings are usual on the neck (either in part or as a collar), chest, legs, muzzle, underparts, tip of tail and as a blaze on head. White on the head should not predominate and should never surround the eyes. Any color other than specified and/or body colors predominantly white are disqualifications.

The AKC standard also calls for dark eye rims.

When judging using the AKC standard one must know what is meant by "body predominantly white" - note that the AKC standard specifies the body of the dog, so the head should not be considered when one is deciding whether to disqualify a dog or not due to excessive white. As discussed in the paragraph on the KC /FCI standard, a dog that is predominantly white is one that appears to be a white dog with coloured markings In the AKC standard a predominantly white body on a Cardigan is considered to be such a serious breed type fault that it disqualifies the dog from the ring.

Secondly, one should understand the issue of white on the head. While not an outright disqualification, nonetheless too much white should be discouraged. Once again, a head which appears to be white with some dark patches is not what is wanted. Note that the Cardigan standard tolerates more white than the Pembroke.

The breed standard calls for dark eye rims, so if there are pink eye rims due to excessive white on the head this must be considered a fault.

Thirdly a judge must know what is meant by "white should never surround the eyes".

The wording of the standard asks for colour to touch the eye rim, so that white does not completely surround it. It even specifies "eyes" in plural, which opens up for the judge to interpret this part of the standard quite liberally. The view that colour must surround the eyes leads to incorrect interpretation of this section of the standard. While such an interpretation is reasonable, it could be considered too severe - the standard only asks for colour to touch the eye. This wording is very open to interpretation, and it must be remembered that it still describes a breed type fault, not grounds for disqualification. On the occasion that white does surround the eyes, judges should treat it as a fault and view its importance against how much it detracts from correct breed type.

The AKC standard does not mention white on ears or smaller white body splashes as faults, and these should be considered as cosmetic irregularities, as long as they do not take on such proportions as to makes the white seem predominant.

While it can rightly be maintained that colour and markings are not important in a working dog, asymmetrical markings on the head can be quite distracting and it often seems as if the eye in the white half of the face is smaller than the one surrounded by colour. A head without any white, on the other hand, can appear rather dull. Asymmetrical markings on the front legs, e.g. a "stocking" and a "sock", not to mention a coloured front leg where only the tips of the toes are white, can give the impression of uneven movement in front. 

How do white markings affect soundness of the dogs,
and how should this be viewed from a breeder's perspective?

Irregular white, or a dog whose background colour was white, was not uncommon among the early Cardigans rescued from Welsh farms or purchased from the few breeders who retained old stock that their ancestors had on the farm, and used as foundation stock in the early 20th century. Thus, irregular white might be considered part of the breed heritage. White markings and/or spots might also have been desirable in a farm dog because it was better visible when out working. Restrictions from those starting points have been introduced, as far as we can determine, mostly from aesthetic preference.

In a feature on the Cardigan breed standard, published in Dog World on 24 September 1976, breeder judge J.E.J. Parkinson (Parmel Cardigans) writes: "Excessive white is not favoured, especially on the body, but the variety of colours with or without white markings add to the appeal of the breed". In 1978 the standard was changed from "Any colour except pure white" to "Any colour, with our without white markings, but white should not predominate".

In all animals species there are certain health problems that can arise from complete lack of pigmentation, so breeders should have some basic knowledge of the inheritance of white markings and the role played by pigment cells in the body, when making their breeding decisions.




Read about: The Inheritance of White Markings in Cardigan Welsh Corgis

Little or no white markings :

Dogs with little or no white markings should not be considered plain, dull and/or inferior, but be judged on the same level as flashy dogs. Lack of markings should in no way be penalised. 

Extensive white markings within breed standard requirements - ACCEPTABLE :

acceptable head & ear white.jpg (9023 bytes)

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acceptable white splash.jpg (9096 bytes)

acceptable markings.jpg (6382 bytes)

White Markings which do not fit with breed standards - UNACCEPTABLE:

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Busy Tri-br Heritage pattern.jpg (17997 bytes)

Martine white head.jpg (12134 bytes)

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