Heritage Genetic Diversity of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Our passion project:
Preserving Cardigan Heritage Pedigrees

We both came to Cardigans from breeds where high coefficients of inbreeding (a mathematical expression of how inbred an individual dog is) had left those breeds with nowhere to go when a lot of health issues showed up. When we began our partnership, we both knew we wanted to maintain low COIs and also try to find good dogs from lines that were not heavily used.
We love and celebrate (and use!) the popular and influential modern Cardigan pedigrees and sires, but we believe that maintaining genetic diversity is essential to maintaining our goals: Cardigans dripping with working talent, freewhelping, great mothers, medium to high drive, easy moving, and with long healthy working lives.

Geler Benita, a glorious bitch of the 1930s whose genetic contribution has been lost to the breed. She and her kennelmates offer an object lesson in how easily once-dominant pedigrees can disappear.

Why are we elevating this to the level of a “project”? Well, even relatively recently, someone interested in finding a true outcross could go find a whole bunch of what we would call regional pedigrees, where the influential Cardigan breeders of that region dominated; not all of them liked the same dogs, so the pedigrees in their orbit could be very different from the pedigrees in another powerful breeder’s orbit. That let the breed have a variety of strategies for linebreeding and outcrossing.
Unfortunately, that structure seems to be dissolving. Some of that change is due to breeders’ dogs falling out of fashion, a lot is breeders retiring, and even more is the accidental consequence of having some really great dogs, both to breed directly to and to linebreed on, who have given the breed the opportunity to become quite competitive and deep in quality across the globe.
We’ve ended up basically linebreeding the entire Cardigan breed, really quite recently. We are almost out of true outcrosses, even overseas.
We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, and we don’t subscribe to any nonsense about poor-quality dogs being somehow truer to the original breed style. We are also not anti-linebreeding, as a strategy. But we do think we have to preserve ample opportunities to outcross, and watch the genetic load on the breed. And we became pretty alarmed when we realized there were so few dogs with separated regional pedigrees all of a sudden.
If you’re interested in participating with us on this project, read on. And thank you!

I’m a puppy buyer – can I get involved?

The critical breeding strategies that maintain genetic diversity in a breed can be really tough for any single breeder to follow. For example, to maintain diversity the “sibling contribution” should be wide – in other words, breeding four siblings one time each is better for diversity than breeding one dog four times. Keeping the same number of sires and dams (rather than a few sires and many dams) is also important. Avoiding repeating breedings, wherever possible, is another necessity.

This all adds up to a larger group of dogs than either of us is comfortable keeping. Both of us feel strongly that our dogs should be house dogs, and we want our seniors to retire in the homes where they’ve been their whole lives.

We would love to reach out to puppy buyers who want to be a part of something pretty cool. The puppies from breedings that we designate as of “heritage genetics” will be placed only with people willing to keep them unspayed/unneutered for a certain amount of time, and also willing to health-test them. Some may be bred once; others will likely only be collected and frozen. In this way, we can maximize the sibling contribution from these valuable pedigrees.

I’m an owner or a breeder – what’s your goal with this project?

Do you own or know of dogs, litters, or semen with old pedigrees – especially the US and Canadian pedigrees that did not heavily use the 1980s UK imports? We’re looking for big doses of old Finnshavn, Soper, Rhydowen without Kentwood Luc, Winsdown, Brymore/Pantyblaidd, Baileswood, Kennebec, Winstonwil, etc. If you see a pedigree hit the early 70s or late 1960s without multiple instances of UK CH Joseter Mudwin, we are extremely interested.

The dogs do not have to be “show quality” as long as they are healthy and sound. We will travel to evaluate, and we are willing to collect and freeze semen at our expense. This is a major long-term project for us, since we think it may be the last opportunity to stop some founding genetics from disappearing.

It’s always a bit ticklish to say that we are trying to “avoid” certain dogs – please understand that we’re not making any kind of statement about quality or breeding. We love and use the important or more popular dogs too. We simply hope that by preserving some of these vanishing pedigrees we can ensure that the Cardigan stays as robust and resilient as it has always been intended to be.

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