It’s a distinct physical feature that helps people distinguish between the two breeds of Corgi.
Cardigan Welsh Corgis are known for their long full-length tails, while Pembroke Welsh Corgis are known for being the breed of Corgi without a tail.
It’s not uncommon for people to assume that Pembroke Welsh Corgis are born without tails since so many of them are tailless.
However, (most) Pembroke Welsh Corgis are born with long full-length tails nearly identical to Cardigan Welsh Corgi tails.
Pembroke Welsh Corgis (in select countries like the U.S. and Canada) will have their tails docked (removed) shortly after they are born.
In countries that do not allow tail docking, Pembroke Welsh Corgis will keep their full-length tails (like the one pictured below).
Why do Corgis Have Their Tails Docked?
Pembroke Welsh Corgis will have their tails docked to meet the breed standard.
A breed standard is a written description of characteristics describing an ideal example of the breed.
Tail – Docked as short as possible without being indented. Occasionally a puppy is born with a natural dock (bobtail), which if sufficiently short, is acceptable. A tail up to two inches in length is allowed, but if carried high tends to spoil the contour of the topline.
The Breed standard goes beyond the aesthetics of a breed. It takes into account the overall health and temperament of the breed.
To adhere to the standard, most Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppies will have their tails docked, to breed standard length, shortly after birth (around 1-5 days after).
The Origin of Tail Docking in Pembroke Welsh Corgis
A lot of people like to argue that Pembroke Welsh Corgis risk having their tails damaged while herding cattle, sheep, etc., and are therefore removed.
However, Cardigan Welsh Corgis also herd, but they keep their full-length tails so that argument falls flat without further explanation.
The difference between Pembroke Welsh Corgis and Cardigan Welsh Corgis is their herding style.
When working livestock Pembroke Welsh Corgis work independently of their handler.
Their herding style involves them getting in close and weaving around livestock or pinpointing and isolating individual animals within the herd.
This “up close and personal” herding style makes them highly susceptible to tail injuries.
On the other hand, Cardigan Welsh Corgis tend to herd from the perimeter and sweep back and forth to drive the entire herd while working very close to their handler.
Their risk of tail injury is much lower than Pembroke Welsh Corgis.
Is it Humane To Dock Corgi Tails?
The docking of tails is a controversial topic not only in the United States but all over the world.
Much of the world, including Australia and most parts of Europe, have outlawed it, while countries like the United States and Canada continue the practice of tail docking, ear cropping, etc.
The AKC States:
“Tail docking (is) performed shortly after birth, when the puppy’s nervous system is not fully developed. As a result, the puppy feels little to no pain, and there are no lasting negative health issues. Some lawmakers have sought to require anesthesia for these procedures. However, since they are performed so soon after birth, anesthesia should not be required, as this could be life-threatening for the young puppy. Waiting until they are old enough to handle anesthesia would actually result in a more painful and traumatic procedure.
Much of the opposition regarding these procedures comes from a misunderstanding of why and how they are performed. Many believe that these procedures are painful, performed purely for convenience or cosmetic reasons and have no value. This is completely false. In fact, these practices are significantly less painful and much less physically traumatic for the dogs than common surgeries such as spaying and neutering. Each of these procedures is a safe, humane standard practice that serves a practical purpose, and in the case of tail docking, preserves a dog’s ability to perform its historic function.”
Conversely, others suggest that tail docking is painful and inhumane mutilation.
They claim that evidence indicates that puppies have similar sensitivity to pain as adult dogs.
Docking a puppy’s tail involves cutting through muscles, tendons, as well as severing bone and cartilage connections.
They also argue that a dog’s tail serves a critical role in social behavior, and by docking tails, you are removing a major communication tool between dogs.
Can Corgis Be Born With Short Tails?
Naturally occurring bobtails do exist in Corgis.
A natural bobtail is an animal’s tail, which due to a mutated gene, grows unusually short or is missing completely.
Most naturally bobtailed corgis will still have a tail, just a much shorter version of the “full-length tail”.
There are very few Pembroke Welsh Corgis who carry a natural bob tail short enough to abide by the breed standard. Nearly all Pembroke Welsh Corgis with short nubs have had their tail docked.
Understanding the Genetics of Bobtailed Corgis
The gene that produces natural bobtails is an autosomal dominant gene.
Only one copy needs to be passed onto offspring to produce a bobtail puppy and therefore, only one parent needs to carry the gene.
However, if a puppy receives 2 copies of the gene (one from each parent) it is considered to be embryonic lethal.
This means that if an embryo receives two copies of the bobtail gene, the puppy will not make it to full term.
Why does this matter? This means that natural bobtails cannot be bred “true.”
In other words, we will never be able to completely eliminate the recessive “long tail” gene from the gene pool, and long full-length tails will always exist in corgis.