Could corgis go extinct in England?

Thanks to a ban on tail docking, the Queen's favorite breed is in decline in the UK. Could the upcoming Westminster Kennel Club show revive the breed?

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters/File
A Pembroke Welsh Corgis breed stands at a Queen Elizabeth-themed demonstration booth during a press conference for the upcoming 139th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, on January 21.

Those who like to root for the underdog might want to tune in to the Westminster Kennel Club next week to support the corgi breed, which has never taken home a Best In Show at the event and is said to be nearing extinction in the United Kingdom.

While the Corgi has won its herding category several times (from 2000 to 2002) it has never taken home the big treat, according to the Westminster website.

The breed's popularity seems to be waning in the UK: Last year, just 274 new corgi puppies were registered in the country, Carline Kisko of the Kennel Club told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

"Any breed, which has fewer than 300 registrations in a year is classified as being vulnerable," Ms. Kisko said.

Only 333 Pembroke Welsh corgi pups were registered last year, down from 371 in 2011, a drop of more than 10 percent,” said Kisko. 

According to a 2013 release by the Kennel Club of England, the corgi is nearing extinction levels there.

Some would blame Queen Elizabeth. Since her coronation in 1952, she has owned more than 30 Welsh corgis. But in 2009 the British monarch stated that she would no longer breed the dogs. 

“I think that the controversy over the Queen’s role in the decline of the breed in England really comes of the media over there making a big deal out of the Queen refusing two Norfolk terrier puppies offered to her for her birthday by her Granddaughter, Princess Beatrice,” says Judy Hart, an AKC judge and corgi breed specialist in a phone interview. “I think people have taken that and her statement that she won’t breed the dogs the wrong way.”

Ms. Hart also points to England’s ban on "docking" – in which breeders cut off a puppy's tail for cosmetic reasons – for the decline of the breed there. In America, where docking is legal, the breed has gained in popularity over the years.

“Because many of the corgi breeders in England were aging I think this new docking restriction may have been the last straw for them and they just got out of the business and so the breed declined,” Hart says.

Hillary Prim, public relations director for the American Kennel Club in an email, "The Pembroke Welsh Corgi has stayed pretty consistent in our rankings for some time, landing at the 24th  spot for 2012 and 2013 (our 2014 numbers are due out later this month)."

"The Lab, German Shepherd and Golden Retriever held the top three spots respectively in 2012 and 2013," according to Prim.

While the popular breeds Prim mentions are all smart, versatile, and have temperaments making them loyal family pets and great with kids, the popularity of these dogs is also bolstered by social media and the occasional Super Bowl commercial.

Deborah Beal, a corgi enthusiast from Stonington, Conn, says in a phone interview, that it's unlikely that a lack of commercial spots, but rather the docking ban in England are to blame for the decline there saying, “people get used to seeing a breed look a certain way and want what they want.”

Hart says that she has high hopes for the corgi to gain more favor at this year’s Westminster event.

“The AKC also runs these social media contests where they have people vote for one breed over another and in the last two they ran the corgi won it,” Hart says. “Corgis are the darling of the Internet.”

In fact corgis have bred a great deal of praise on Pintrest and Facebook as well as other social media platforms.

“Corgis are very popular in the US because they’re brilliant,” Beal says. “Keeping up with them exercises your brain. They’re a big dog in a small package."

As if to prove Beal’s belied, nearly 900,000 fans have viewed the YouTube video of one corgi retraining its human companions not to make the dog go for a walk on its stubby legs.

The favorites are already getting doggie tweets on Twitter as Westminster approaches.

While corgis haven't made it to Super Bowl ad fame, there are at least two commercials featuring the breed that have become viral on YouTube: “I Get Beggin''" and a "Dog Dreams" commercial featuring an operatic theme 

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show runs February 16 and 17 in New York.

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