Cardigans Come to America

AKC GAZETTE DECEMBER 2013
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Breed Column



The 1930s saw a resurgence of interest in the Cardigan Welsh Corgi in the United Kingdom. At the same time, they caught the eye of an American, Mrs. Benjamin Patterson Bole, of Ohio.

Mrs. Bole soon began bringing Cardigans to the U.S., but she was immediately confused by the difference in body type and coat.

In describing her first two imports, named Cassie and Cadno, she said:

“They bore small resemblance to each other. The male, a six-months pup with ears not yet erect, looked like a miniature Collie on very abbreviated legs. He was long haired and solid red in color. The bitch resembled nothing less than a misalliance between a Dachshund and a Fox Terrier, with a suggestion of another bar sinister in her French Bull ears. The latter were very large and upright.”

Information from the U.K. did little to clarify the matter. In her 1937 article (The American Kennel Gazette, Vol. 54, No. 2, February 1, 1937), Mrs. Bole relates:

“A difficulty on this side of the water has been the question of whose advice to follow. One British authority writes urging that only red dogs and bitches be used for breeding. Another states that red is proof of Pembroke blood, that the original Cardigan corgi might be brindle, brown, gold, tri-color, merle, but never carrotty red. Some Welsh breeders argue for small dogs, very low to ground. Another is dead against small dogs, claiming that the early corgi weighed upwards of 30 pounds with heavy bone, big brisket, and thick neck.”

Mrs. Bole’s observation is particularly relevant to present-day discussions of the Cardigan which refer to dogs from this period as being “the correct Cardigan. ”Apparently everyone had their own opinion even then! Soon she came to realize that the body types of her two dogs were similar, just disguised by the difference in coat, and in Cassie’s first litter by Cadno she found many puppies that were true to type. While she was confused by a few puppies with long, silky coats, we know today these were “fluffs,” or Cardigans carrying the gene for long coat.

Mrs. Bole went on to import a total of 17 dogs and bred more than 50 litters. These dogs spread out across the country to many enthusiastic owners. Some began importing additional dogs, and the breed was off. Championing the breed, she attracted others to her cause and with Mrs. Harriet Price of Connecticut arranged the first Cardigan specialty, held in 1938.

After seeing the breed through the years of World War II and the resumption of specialty competition, Mrs. Benjamin Patterson Bole passed away in October 1950.

While Mrs. Bole is credited with bringing the first Cardigans to America, it has been suggested that they may have arrived significantly earlier. Recollections from the early 1900s speak of a “bench-leg dog” that came with Welsh immigrants to Louisiana. Named for the classic Cardigan turnout of the front legs, it seems quite possible that these “bench-leg dogs” traveled in steerage with their masters to a new life in America. It would be wonderful if we could find further such stories (hint!).

I would like to thank Sandi Hutchins and Robert Caldwell for their help in bringing this wonderful Cardigan history to the present. —Cynthia and Jeff Welch


First published in the AKC Gazette Digital Edition, December, 2013.

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