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Corgis 'vulnerable' as owners decide they aren't fashionable; The royals'favourite type of dog has joined a list of vulnerable breeds for the first time. Huw Silk, Chloe Farand and Philip McEleney take a look at the Pembroke Welsh corgi.

Byline: Philip McEleney

They are an ancient Welsh breed of dog described as "quintessentially British" who starred in the Olympic opening ceremony and are usually seen at the Queen's heels.

But the Pembroke Welsh corgi has gone through such a decline in its popularity that it is now being listed by the Kennel Club as vulnerable.

It is the first time the friendly, hard-working animals have been listed as vulnerable by the group, which takes care of the UK's national register of pedigree dogs.

Last year, just 274 Pembroke Welsh corgis were registered, meaning the breed was judged to be vulnerable.

Native dog breeds with 300 or fewer puppy registrations annually are given the classification. Other famous British breeds including the King Charles spaniel, the Scottish deerhound and the miniature bull terrier are already on the list - as well as the Cardigan Welsh corgi, which saw just 118 registrations in 2014.

The Pembroke version has undergone a steady decline in popularity over the last decade. In 2006, 533 puppies of the breed were registered in Britain - meaning last year's figures represent a decline of almost 50% in just eight years.

Corgis have been closely linked to the royal family in the more than 80 years since George VI bought his first one. And the dogs owned by the Queen are all directly descended from a Pembroke corgi she was given when she turned 18. She currently owns two - Willow and Holly - as well as Candy and Vulcan, two corgidachshund crosses.

But despite their good temperament - not to mention their starring role in front of a worldwide audience of 900m at the London Olympics opening ceremony, when they accompanied the Queen and James Bond to the helicopter in what was perhaps the ceremony's most iconic scene - they decline has been steady. The drop has worried officials from the Kennel Club. The organisation's secretary Caroline Kisko said: "The Pembroke Welsh corgi is one of the country's most iconic dog breeds and so it is worrying to see the breed dip to a historic low and become one of our vulnerable breeds for the first time ever.

"We compile a list of Vulnerable Native Breeds in order to raise awareness of some of our oldest, and historically best loved breeds of dog, that are struggling to compete with newer breeds that are more fashionable."

Graham Hill, joint secretary of the Welsh Kennel Club, agreed that one of the reasons both types of corgi were now on the vulnerable list was because they are seen by many potential owners as less trendy than some other breeds.

Mr Hill, from Llantwit Major, said: "I have lived with them most of my life and they are lovely. Perhaps people go for more macho and fashionable dogs. But corgis are reliable, family dogs and they are good around the house. They have just a wonderful temperament."

The American Kennel Club says the first records of the Pembroke Welsh corgis was in the early 12th century, when Flemish settlers moved to south-west Wales.

But, despite its 900-year history, the Pembrokes are still much younger than the Cardigan corgis, who arrived in what is now Ceredigion alongside Celts from central Europe in about 1200BC - meaning the breed has been known in west Wales for more than 3,000 years.

Mr Hill added: "The breed itself is a pastoral breed, one that was used for herding cattle. In the old days they used to drive the cattle from Wales to the north of England.

"They are small in respect of being short, but they are quite well-built. They also needed to be agile to get away from the cows' kicks.

"The Cardigan corgi is a far more staid sort of animal - the Pembroke is livelier, it goes out and gets stuck in."

Mr Hill warned that new owners considering which breed of dog to get should always make sure the animals are suited to their lifestyles, homes and living conditions, and that puppies should come from a responsible breeder.

But, he emphasised the good nature of both breeds of corgi to potential owners, adding: "You won't be disappointed by them."

Pembroke Welsh corgis typically live for 12 to 15 years. They usually stand around a foot tall, weigh in the region of 12kg (26lbs) but are prone to suffering problems with their backs, especially if they are overfed.

Debbie Richardson, a Kennel Club assured breeder of Pembroke Welsh corgis, whose dog Bailey won Best Dog at Crufts, last year, said: "Pembroke Welsh corgis are such fantastic all-round dogs that are intelligent, fun and incredibly loyal, but their popularity is waning as we are simply failing to attract younger people to the breed's charm.

"Sadly, it is seen as an old person's dog and young people aren't buying or responsibly breeding the dogs.

"My dogs have the most wonderful temperaments and are perfect with my young twins.

"It would be incredibly sad to no longer be able to see this charismatic, quintessentially British breed in our streets and parks, in a few generations' time."

The Kennel Club hopes next month's Crufts will encourage more people to think about owning some of those breeds which are considered to be vulnerable.

Mrs Kisko said: "Crufts is coming up in March and this is a great opportunity for people to discover the 215 breeds recognised in this country, as currently half of all dogs registered in the UK are from the top ten breeds, with the other lesser known breeds sadly trailing far behind."


The Queen is greeted by local corgi enthusiasts in Edmonton, Canada, in 2005 <B
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 9, 2015
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