Many Breed Standards for purebred dogs refer to geometric shapes like a wedge-shaped head or square body proportions to describe the exhibit’s perfect conformation. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi does not have any mention of these types of shapes in the Standard.
If you were to invite a group of prospective judges to draw the outline of a Cardigan prior to listening to the educational presentation, you would find that many use sharp lines to delineate the silhouette of our unique breed. Although it is not directly mentioned in the Cardigan Standard, this version of the Corgi is a culmination of flowing lines with no sharp angles. The Pembroke is much different, and I suggest you review its Standard in detail to learn those major and subtle differences. They are two distinct breeds.
Although it is not directly mentioned in the Cardigan Standard, this version of the Corgi is a culmination of flowing lines with no sharp angles.
Our friends across the pond refer to German Shepherd Dogs as “Alsatian” dogs. Why do I bring this up? Older, experienced breeders know that Cardigans and Alsatians share some common characteristics.
I’ll never forget attending the judges’ education for the German Shepherd when the presenter made the following comment: “If you placed a drop of water on the head of a Shepherd, it should be able to roll completely off the body at the end of the tail. It would not be stopped by a sharp angle, because the body is nothing but flowing lines.”
Certainly, I am not suggesting that the Cardigan is nothing but a smaller version of the Shepherd. We don’t share the same topline, and indeed, not the same front assembly or movement. But, when it comes to gentle curves without brusque angles, the two breeds are very similar.
Another characteristic that the Standard doesn’t directly address is the existence of two distinct lines that judges need to look for and reward when adjudicating the Cardigan. We are all familiar with the need for a level “topline.” The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Standard simply says, “Topline level.” One should evaluate that topline not only on the table but also on the move. Is it steady when moving, or is it roaching with a constant bounce?
The other silhouette line that is just as important, but often overlooked, is the underline extending from the deep keel of the brisket, back to the tuck-up. This upward slope is called a “positive line.” Skilled handlers and/or groomers will often trim in this characteristic on their exhibit to accentuate this feature. Remember that the Standard clearly states, “Trimming is not allowed except to tidy feet…” If that underline has been obviously trimmed in, please penalize the exhibit. It shouldn’t be created with scissors but should appear naturally on a quality animal.
Another lesson I remember from my attendance at various judges’ education programs is one that has always stuck with me. If you place a breed at the end of a football field, you should be able to confidently identify that breed based on silhouette alone. I will admit that there are some breeds that are very similar and may be difficult to differentiate at that distance, but those within the AKC’s Herding Group shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a good eye for a dog.
The Standard sets the stage for the Cardigan immediately at the beginning of the General Appearance description: “Low set with moderately heavy bone and deep chest. Overall silhouette long in proportion to height, culminating in a low tail set and fox-like brush.” If you have utilized the features we have discussed in this article, you should be able to quickly identify a proper Cardigan at 100 yards, let alone in a typical dog show ring when judging.
In general, our breed has significantly improved over the years, and Cardigans are now a force to be reckoned with in the Group ring and in Best in Show. But that Breed ring is ever so important to the breeders, both old and new. When less-than-desirable exhibits are rewarded points, it encourages those participants to continue down the same path, failing to recognize the inconsistencies of their exhibits.
When the judge just goes through the motions and awards in this manner, it says to the exhibitor that if this judge likes my dog, I must be doing something right. I am reminded of all-breed judge George Hietzman, God rest his sole, who once told me that he deliberately would hold a ribbon upside down when getting a photo with a dog that he wasn’t that enamored with. (I am sure a bunch of you are now rummaging through your old show photos with George to see if, indeed, you were one of those chosen ones!)
Now that you’ve soaked in some Cardigan knowledge, we will give you a clean sheet of paper and ask that you draw, once again, that unique outline. Even if you are not a skilled sketcher, you will easily recognize the culmination of flowing lines in your rendition. Remember this when you see that Cardigan Welsh Corgi on the table, with proper topline and underline and that drop of water coming off the end of the tail. Okay, down and back and send them around.