Purebred Cardigan is in the House | Those of us that have been in the breed for many years, remember when the long and low dog with the funny looking turned out feet waited at the end of the working group line up, only to be typically ignored by the judging community. Mind you, the purebred Cardigan was first registered with the AKC in 1936 and patiently awaited our turn to shine. With the advent of the group realignment and the creation of the herding group in 1983, many Cardigan aficionados thought they stood a better chance of recognition amongst all of the flash and flare that the other herding breeds exhibited. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Yes, there were exceptions and every once in a while a great Cardigan made its way to the group line up.
One cannot place all the blame on the judges though. Our favorite breed has gone though some evolutionary changes over the years. Sadly, in years past it was not unusual for judges to view the final line up of purebred Cardigans and shake their head in disbelief at the poor quality that was regularly being exhibited. Yes, there were exceptions, but the dedicated breeders met the challenge head-on and worked very hard to make improvements to their breeding programs. They strived for consistency in the conformation of the breed and made some tough decisions about which pup from the litter made the final cut to continue in the show ring.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and suddenly the purebred Cardigan has become a force to be reckoned with. The Cardigan makes its way to the Westminster Kennel Club show and suddenly it obtains a group four. OK, well now at least someone recognizes us and then along comes a much appreciated group two placement and we are gaining some much-loved momentum. Finally, we hit pay dirt when a gorgeous Cardigan by the name of Grand Champion Riverside Telltail Coco Posh, who was shown beautifully by professional handler Lois DeMers at the 2014 Westminster show. Internationally known herding judge Walter Sommerfelt, found Coco to be an exquisite example of the breed and awarded her a herding group one, the first time in the history of the breed. Since that historic event, the Cardigan scored another group two placement in 2018, with Grand Champion Aubrey’s Tails of Mystery continuing the Westminster tradition.
As guardians of the breed, we are excited to finally see purebred Cardigans regularly placing in groups and even coveted Best in Shows all over the country now. Professional handlers are seeing the competiveness of the breed and judges are seeing that correct wrap around front with great reach and drive that we have been striving for now for years. It makes for a memorable occasion when a proper moving example captivates the show ring.
So let’s dissect the purebred Cardigan and see just what makes a great one. They have some unique features that require the utmost attention from those graced with the honor of adjudicating our favorite breed. Of course, there is no substitute for attending a CWCCA (Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America) judges’ education program along with the some quality ringside mentoring from skilled Cardigan mentors, but we can certainly focus on a few of those characteristics that make this 3,000 year old breed one worthy of a closer look by the judging experts. It is that history and the needs of those who depended on the breed to do its job that we have developed the outstanding examples that we see today.
The breed standard is the gospel when it comes to judging any breed. We are going to pick and choose some key portions and expound on those beginning with, “General Appearance: 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. General Impression: A handsome, powerful, small dog, capable of both speed and endurance, intelligent, sturdily built but not coarse.” This statement alone separates the Cardigan from a vast majority of other breeds. The section entitled (Head) is the longest paragraph in the AKC standard, but we do not consider ourselves a head breed in the sense that many others do. In general, the important features are the three parts to five parts muzzle to skull ratio, eyes in harmony with the coat color, blue or partial blue in merle dogs only, those wonderful erect ears with heavy leather set so that a line drawn from the center of the nose through the eye reaching the rounded tip. The nose must be black unless it is a blue merle, which in that case can be a butterfly type. Finally, we prefer a clean scissors bite to compliment the headpiece.
We do want a nice level topline without a high tail set or tail carriage. It should never be carried over the back. Remember our famous deep keel and that slight tuck up with length in the well-sprung ribs and not in the loin.
One of our most unique features and one that is commonly misunderstood, is the wrap around front assembly that allows for a slight turnout of the feet to carry that low slung sturdy body. It is extremely important to remember that “This outward point is not to be more than 30 degrees from center line when viewed from above.” Please remember to look at those feet to see that they are large and round but not splayed. Lastly, “The correct Cardigan front is neither straight nor so crooked as to appear unsound.” Please learn what a correct front should look like and reward accordingly.
When looking down on the exhibit you will notice a nice hourglass type shape and the rear is strong to propel this dog all day long. Those rear feet will not and should not, turn out like the front. As with any Alsatian-type dog, you will find only flowing curves and never any sharp angles when taking in the overall silhouette. From a hundred yards there should be no doubt it is a Cardigan.
“Soft guard hairs, uniform length, wiry, curly, silky, overly short and/or flat coats are not desired. A distinctly long or fluffy coat is an extremely serious fault.” There is no color preference in purebred Cardigans, but remember it should not be a white dog with color and therefore white cannot dominate the body color. As for the headpiece, white should not be the predominate color and should never surround the eyes. A recent press release to the AKC from the National Club explains this particular undesirable trait in detail.
Those who merely take their dog for a casual walk around the show ring are missing an important part of the Cardigan’s features. The standard reads very clearly, Gait: Free and smooth. Effortless. Viewed from the side, forelegs should reach well forward when moving at a trot, without much lift, in unison with driving action of hind legs. The correct shoulder assembly and well fitted elbows allow for a long free stride in front. Viewed from the front, legs do not move in exact parallel planes, but incline slightly inward to compensate for shortness of leg and width of chest. Hind legs, when trotting, should reach well under body, move on a line with the forelegs, with the hocks turning neither in nor out and in one continuous motion drive powerfully behind, well beyond the set of the tail.” The JEC has created a wonderful video that examines in close up slow-motion-detail the movement of the Cardigan. You are strongly encouraged to view that at the CWCCA website and learn what movement is truly all about.
Lastly, we must discuss temperament because it is an important aspect of the overall dog. Temperament: Even-tempered, loyal, affectionate and adaptable. Never shy nor vicious. Please don’t reward any bad tempered dog, it is not an acceptable feature of our dogs and should be not be rewarded in any manner.
In review, remember the following disqualifications:
- Blue eyes, or partially blue eyes, in any coat color other than blue merle.
- Drop ears.
- Nose other than solid black except in blue merles.
- Any color other than specified.
- Body color predominantly white.
The purebred Cardigan is riding a wonderful wave of success in recent years and has become very competitive in the show ring. Newcomers to the breed are always welcomed. The National Club is very proactive about providing a positive experience for those new to the breed. You will find that older members are more than ready to assist in any manner possible. I recall my very first time exhibiting. It was a big outdoor venue with a large crowd and a good entry. I proudly placed my young dog on the table backwards. I no idea what I was doing but it looked fun. The judge was kind enough to ignore my ignorance and examine the dog anyways. We made our way around the ring and got our blue ribbon. Feeling quite pleased with myself, I left the ring and was immediately met by two extremely well-known breeders. Helen Jones was the grand dam of Cardigans. Her grandmother was the first to import them to the USA. The other was Robert Caldwell, husband to Helen and a prominent figure in the Cardigan world. Both congratulated me on my first adventure and ever so tactfully informed me that I could use some handling lessons. This well-respected couple was truly dedicated to the breed and both were deeply involved in judging, breeding and educating both here and abroad. Sadly we lost Helen a few years ago, but Bob still oversees the breed and continues his mentoring ways.
So when the announcer at Westminster gives that deep resounding statement that the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is in the house, you can bet the that funny looking long and low dog with the turned out feet will be heading to the front of line and looking back at the others saying “follow me if you can.”
For further education, you are strongly encouraged to visit the education/resource page on the CWCCA national website. There you will find a plethora of informative articles written by many well-known Cardigan experts both past and present like Marieann Gladstone, Jonathan Jeffrey Kimes, Norma Chandler, Teddy McDowell and Patrick Ormos. In addition, do not hesitate to reach out to the members of the Judges Education Committee who have well over a century of combined history in the breed. Each of them has a passion unmatched when it comes to providing educational opportunities for those truly interested in learning more about the purebred Cardigan Welsh Corgi.
Purebred Cardigan is in the House
From the August 2018 Issue of ShowSight.