Why the Queen loves Welsh Corgis
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 May 2016
It's a small world for Welsh corgis and as the Queen celebrates her official birthday this month, Martin Pilkington meets some Cheshire fans of Her Majesty's favourite breed.
It would seem that Corgis, more than any other breed of dog, catch the eye of those who don’t own them, and enter the blood of those who do - few of us for example would know the Queen loves cocker spaniels, but everyone’s aware of her corgis.
Mia Gough from Sandbach is another proud corgi owner who a year ago co-founded the UK Corgi Club: ‘They’re a good way to meet people, you often get noticed with them, though strangely almost every time I take my dog Leo out I hear people say “Oh you don’t see corgis much nowadays.” If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that I could buy another five of them.’ Given pedigree pups can cost £1,500, that’s saying something.
Walkers at Brereton Heath a few weeks ago could observe a small fortune in corgis from Cheshire and beyond as the UKCC held a meet-up there, the second at the venue with the likelihood of more. ‘We’d love to have more Cheshire members,’ says Mia, keen to enlist across the age spectrum: ‘While there’s a spread of ages we’ve seen more and more younger people getting corgis, which is helping to dispel the myth corgis are an older person’s dog.’
There are actually two breeds of corgi, the Pembrokes that the Queen keeps, and the slightly larger Cardigan. Pembrokes are generally sandy red with some white or black; Cardigans come in a greater variety of shades. Cheshire is apparently something of a corgi powerbase, partly because there are two top breeders in Winsford.
The famously stubby shape previously proved useful to cattle farmers. ‘The shortness initially came about from a genetic fault, but they kept breeding it in so if they were kicked by a cow they wouldn’t go flying – they’d roll. And they have really flexible ribcages so if they were to be hoofed by a cow it wouldn’t do much damage to them. They’re sturdy little beasts. A couple of farms in Wales apparently still use them to herd cattle, and it’s more common in America.’
Breeding has continued to change the corgi: ‘The Queen has been well-known for having completely red corgis, the sort seen historically in pictures of her dogs, but the breed has developed a lot over the last 30 or 40 years. Now having a totally red Pembroke would be unusual. In that scene at the opening of the London Olympics where Bond came to the palace you saw her actual corgis at the time, looking totally different from her corgis of the 1970s.’
For most corgi owners, of course, their suitability for cattle herding is rather less relevant than their endearing character, something reflected in the approach of the UKCC: ‘My dog is loving and kind, very quick to learn and responsive, but whether or not he conforms to any breed standard I’ve no idea,’ says Mia: ‘At the UK Corgi Club we’re more interested in their personalities and the fun they bring than the ins and outs of some physical standard. There are associations involved in showing corgis, but we just like having a nice time together with people who understand our love for the breed.’
The club’s administrators in Cheshire, London and Scotland organise gatherings around the country, not for shows, but for owners to talk about life in general and all things corgi, and for the dogs to play together. They’re energetic, and it takes a lot of energy to keep up with and look after them.
The Queen has always been very actively involved in caring for her corgis, and apparently she even took a favourite on honeymoon with her and Prince Philip! She has enjoyed walking in the countryside with them, but now that she is 90 that is becoming less practical: ‘She let it be known last year that she won’t have any more after the two she has now,’ says Mia: ‘But she is definitely still very much a corgi lover.’
Mia admits the little dogs have a big influence on their owners: ‘I live in Sandbach, and when we were first looking to move from Macclesfield we saw somebody walking one along the street here and I thought “This is obviously a great town!”’
The very young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret fell for the corgis owned by family friend Viscount Weymouth, so their father obtained one named Dookie in 1933. Princess Elizabeth was given a corgi named Susan for her 18th birthday.
The Queen has bred corgis at Windsor Castle since the 1950s. In her Golden Jubilee year a crown coin was minted featuring the Queen with her corgis.