Well, the snow is almost gone, but there is still a scattering here and there to remind us of the LONG winter! This means I can still go on my long treks alongside the brook, where there is a great chance of encountering a woozle or two! (Which is why I take 'Mr Nikon', my pet camera, along, so YOU can share the fun)*
This time, I went over a little wooden bridge and there they were - three lovely Pembroke Corgis! Meet - from left to right - Honey, Millie and Max. These three scamps were having fun with their owner, when they consented to stand still a little so I could introduce them to you!
These delightful individuals are all Pembrokeshire Welsh Corgis, decendants of an ancient dog which might have been refered to in a set of Welsh laws codified in AD 920 by the Welsh King Hywel Dda. It would seem that the Corgi comes from the larger family of Northern dogs which includes the spitz, schipperke and Siberean husky. They are possessed of a dual-layer coat, the smooth outer weatherproof layer protecting an finer inner one. They were the only true Welsh dog for many hundreds of years, and were used as a house dog, and to herd cattle. Many might doubt the ability of a dog of only 20 - 25 lbs and measuring 12" high to act as an effective cattle herder, but I can assure you that Corgis will successfully do just that, by nipping at the heels of the cattle (their low height and agility making it relatively easy for them to avoid the kicks of annoyed cows). They will also herd ducks, and even small children, if allowed! The breed is still very valuable to Welsh farmers, and I see a fair number of 'working' Corgis when I go to visit my family in Wales.
This herding instinct gave rise to their Welsh name, Ci Sawdl, or, 'heel dog'; this has come down to us as the Welsh Heeler, a name now hardly ever heard. The ears on the breed are fairly large for the size of the head, and erect. Actually, one of the cutest things about Corgi puppies is the way each ear takes its own sweet time in becoming erect - the 'one ear up and one ear down' look is very appealing! Their eyes should be brown, and with a quick, intelligent, look. The coat may be sable, red, black and tan, the more common fawn and tricolour of white black and tan, with white areas on the head, neck, chest, legs legs and vent. The 'red-headed tricolor' (with a black body) is the more common of the two variations, with the 'black-headed tricolor' (red body) being quite rare, as it is caused by a recessive gene. Both Honey and Max are red-headed tricolors. The is usually excess outer hair in the chest area, giving rise to a prominent frill, as well as what is know as the 'fairy saddle' in the area of the shoulders. This is where the coat changes direction; the effect is attributed to the Welsh legend that the Corgis were saddled and ridden by fairies!
The breed is fairly intelligent, but given its strong herding instinct, the puppy will need to be socialised early, and its place in the family 'pack order' well established - YOU will need to be the 'alpha' dog in this relationship. They take instruction relatively easily, and, with their inate agility, do well in herding, agility events, flyball, and other competitions.
There are two breeds of Welsh Corgi, of course, the other one being the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. As the name suggests, this breed comes form the county of Cardiganshire. They are slightly larger, heavier and have a faily long tail which is carried parallel to the body. Their coat may be any color, except pure white, and many are seen with black/white markings. Their ears are even larger - proportionately - than their Pembrokshire cousins, and the eyes are blue, not brown.
The Welsh Corgi was recognised by the U.K. Kennel Club in 1925, and until 1928, both types of Corgi could be shown in the same class! That year, the breeds were split, and standards established for each. Since they are working dogs, it is permissible to dock the tail, and many are docked (to a maximum of 2") within a few days of birth. However, a good proportion of Pembrokeshire Corgis are born without tails; the U.K. Kennel Club allows the breed to be shown WITH a tail, the A.K.C. does NOT.
Surprisingly, for such a small dog, the Corgi can suffer from hip dysplasia, and as it ages, from canine degenerative myelopathy, a terrible spinal complaint. The Pembrokeshire Corgi can suffer from a mild form of Type 1 von Willenbrand's Disease, the genetic blood disorder. Admittedly, the Corgi is not afflicted by the severe form of the disease as are Scottish Terriers and Shetland Sheep Dogs, but your pet should have a simple DNA test which will give you a 'Clear/Carrier/Affected' reading, which will allow you to make both health and breeding decisions.
It is hard to think of the Pembrokeshire Corgi, without thinking of Queen Elizabeth II ! Both of her parents were devoted to the breed, and the Queen received her first puppy as a child. In 1944, at the age of 18, just before she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she was trained as a mechanic and driver, she was presented with Susan, probably one of the most famous. I have seen a copy of a personal letter to her vet in Norfolk, Harold Swann, after he tried in vain to save Susan's life (at the age of 12). It read, 'I had always dreaded losing her as I had had her since she was six weeks old but I am ever so thankful that her suffering was so mercifully short. Yours sincerely, Elizabeth R.' As an aside, Queen Elizabeth is now the last surviving Head of State who served in uniform during World War Two.
Recently three of the Queen's current Corgis - Willow, Holly and Monty (who has since died) - appeared in the short film with the Queen and Daniel Craig (as James Bond) which featured in the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London!
One rather unfortunate step was taken in the United States during the 1930s. Several owners decided to cross both of the Corgi breeds together, as they were desirous of having a slightly heavier dog, yet with the Pembrokeshire 'look'. You can see that Max is more 'thick-set' than Millie. Indeed, his owner confirmed that he is a 'cross' as he has sired several pups with blue eyes - a confirmation, indeed.
I do so hope that you enjoyed meeting this lively trio of woozles......I know I did!
* This is probably the last photograph taken by my pet camera 'Mr. Nikon', who is going into a well-earned retirement. I recently acquired a new Nikon D3100, which means a boost from 6.1 to 24.4 Megapixels (I shall still be able to use my suite of Nikkor AF-S lenses, of course) no name yet, as he/she has yet to develop (camera joke) a personality!. More - and better - woozle shots in prospect!