ONE PERSON'S OPINION:
The Cardigan Corgi Rear
The Cardigan Corgi rear is not really any different from the rear assembly of most other breeds. However, like many other breeds in the ring today, there are breeder-exhibitors who are swayed by current fads in other breeds, or by a current winner in their own breed. It is important to keep in mind what the breed was bred to do, and what "breed type" should be.
First, the Cardigan is a breed whose standard calls for it to carry its tail down. Now this does not mean curled under its belly, or even dragging on the floor as if it were a peacock tail. Rather it means that the tail is carried more in the manner of a German Shepherd Dog, that is, normally at or below the level of the top of the back. When excited, or happy, or challenged (especially the males) that tail will go up. But it is important to look carefully at it now. Does it curl over the back? Is it held up in a long curve? Is it straight up in the air? Is it tightly curled over (like an Akita)? The long curve is more correct (in my opinion, anyway) then any of the other abberations. Most of the tail is still close to the level of the back-line, with a curve upwards towards the second half of the tail.
Of prime importance in trying to understand the question of tail carriage is the issue of tail-set, and pelvic angle. Please note that I have not said anything about the angle of the "croup" (that mythical section of the rear created by the slant from the topmost portion of the pelvis downwards and the tail-set [the root of the tail]).
We will save discussion of the vertebral column neck, back, and tail) for another article. For the moment, let us move on to the pelvis, one of the most important bones of the entire body.
This bone, by its angle and length and breadth, will control the entire movement of the rear legs, i.e. the propulsive power of the dog. If the angle is too steep, then the dog will be able to reach well underneath, but there will be no real follow-through. If the angle is too flat (too shallow), then there will be too much follow-through (resulting in a kick-up in the rear) and insufficient under-reach. If the pelvis is too short (even if properly angled), then the whole cycle of rear movement is also cut short by a proportional amount. If the pelvis is too narrow, then there is not enough room for muscle attachment (not to mention the whelping problems). I hope I'm beginning to clarify why I feel this is such an important bone to a properly constructed Cardigan, or to any dog. My best educated guess is that the Cardigan pelvis should slope at about 30 degrees off the horizontal. This is about the same amount of slope as a German Shepherd, and will give the Cardigan sufficient under-reach and follow-through. A proper tail-set will give the illusion that the croup (that mythical element) is therefore about 15 degrees off the horizontal.
Try measuring your dogs. Hold a compass with one leg on the horizontal and one leg running along the line of the croup (with the dog set up four square, hocks perpendicular to the ground), then measure this angle with a protractor. This will give you an approximate measurement. There are specific tools for doing this kind of measurement, but this will do for a start. Then compare the angle of the pelvis. Take the horizontal line, and a line running from the high point of the pelvis down to the "tail bone". This should be around 30 degrees.
In Cardigans, the pelvic bone itself will measure about five and one-half inches in length. This is important, since only this bone can be accurately measured (there are no joints to interfere).
The shoulder-blade, the upper arm,
and the upper thigh (scapular, humerus, and
femur) will each also be about the same length. Again, a dog whose bones each measure
equal to each other is balanced, and stands a better chance of moving correctly than a dog
whose bones are not in balance. If you measure most of your dogs, my bet is that you will
find that the large majority of our Cardigans are very short in upper arm (which explains
some of the front movement which we see).
I have noticed that some Cardigans
are beginning to turn up with grossly exaggerated rear angulation ... as if they were
modern German Shepherds. These dogs look quite stunning when set up ... but they are a
case of a good thing taken too far! Their rears no longer look like a really good ham (as
the older UK breeders speak of Cardigan rears) but like something else again. In order to
have this kind of angulation (this departure from moderation), the bone lengths must be
changed! And then the muscles and ligaments are also changed, and so is the way in which
they work. No longer do we have levers working with optimum leverage, but muscles trying
to move something which is at the limit of their strength range ... leading to wobbly
rears. The hocks usually end up being a little long as well. (When you lengthen one set of
bones, you often affect other bones at the same time.) Genetics is tricky. We must be very
careful to not overdo anything, lest we lose something special to the breed while doing
The Cardigan should move with
power and grace. The dog has a good under-reach, a good follow-through, and control
throughout the sequence. Viewed from the rear the Cardigan will tend to single-track
(usually more so in the rear than in the front). This does not mean close in the rear, nor
does it mean parallel track, but a true tendency to single-track. The topline will remain
level during movement and the whole thing will seem like a dog just flowing around the
ring. It is quite, quite beautiful!
Once again, this is one person's opinion, which I hope will stimulate others to think and discuss, and perhaps disagree. What do you think?
29.11.03 / ed.ANo