Corgis Retain Their Welsh Working Instincts Even in Australia

As you drive into Becky Wilson's property, a few kilometres of dirt road behind you, six fluffy tails can be seen wiggling behind the fence.

As the gates open, the corgis that race towards you seem a little out of place in the bush, where kelpies or cattle dogs dominate. Thanks to Queen Elizabeth II, the corgi has become synonymous with royalty - but they are no lap dog.

"When I do shows, we're in the working dog group - we're the shortest legged dog in amongst the border collies and the cattle dogs and the German shepherds so people are quite surprised," Ms Wilson said.

Becky Wilson says her "city boy" Murphy took a little while to get used to farm life.

"They're not your typical Australian work dog, but they're such a resilient, happy little dog. I think once you've been around them and find out their intelligence, you understand why they're in that group."

Ms Wilson has been breeding and showing corgis for six years, after what she describes as a lifelong love for them. She admits her corgis aren't full-time working dogs on her central Queensland property, about an hour west of Rockhampton. But that is down to the size and temperament of the adult Brahman cattle they breed, more than the enthusiasm of the pups.

Ms Wilson's corgis on the buggy at their central Queensland property.

"Our goal is to try and have the corgis not help [the farm's working dogs] quite as much as they would like to," she said.

The corgi's history as a Welsh working dog remains instinctual, even if it comes as a surprise to most who have only known the breed through the Queen.

Yes, they really are farm dogs.

Pembroke corgis get their name from their Welsh county of origin, where they were used as all-purpose farm dogs.
Caron McGregor, who has bred corgis for more than 20 years, said Welsh farmers would often walk their livestock to market along country lanes, herded by corgis.

"The best way of putting the finishing touches on your stock when you when you go into market is to graze the roadside," Ms McGregor said.
"In the Pembroke it's a fault if they get [livestock] to move quickly, they're supposed to move them in a slow, steady, orderly fashion so they don't run any of their condition off.
"They [corgis] are called cluster herders because they are quite focused on keeping everything together."
It's a trait that crosses from livestock to their humans, as well.

Caron McGregor has been breeding corgis in regional NSW for more than 20 years
Photo supplied by Caron McGregor

"If you've got people spread all over the house and in different rooms, you'll find that they [corgis] will just spend their time travelling from one room to another, checking that everybody's okay," Ms McGregor said.

Strong instincts and versatility

Like Ms Wilson, Ms McGregor uses kelpies to work stock on her property near Oberon in central New South Wales. However, corgis have a special role alongside their more robust working breeds.
"If you've got piglets or poultry or young lambs, you don't want to put a kelpie in with them ... to get them too agitated, so the Pembroke [corgis] just quietly and gently moves amongst them," Ms McGregor said.

Although they don't usually work stock in Australia
corgis can be helpful in settling young livestock, like this weaner bull.

"It just gets them used to the scent of the dog, the dog not being a threatening force in their life.
"You can put them in with your really young animals and they fuss around them a bit ... they don't try to bully them too much.
"That is really the beauty of them - they are very settling on the stock."

In central Queensland, too, Ms Wilson uses her corgis with weaner cattle.
"To make a good working dog is an instinctual ability to read an animal," she said.

Ms Wilson says her corgis are part of the family

"They may seem like they're aimlessly wandering through [cattle], but they're very aware of what that animal is going to do next, and where the correct places to be to not put themselves in danger."

Yet, Ms McGregor said they are versatile and adaptable - with many of her corgi puppies bought by Singaporean families living in apartments.
"Provided they get the love and the attention ... and the training, they are perfectly happy in a high-rise situation," she said.

Text: Michelle Gately, ABC Capricornia
Photos: ABC Capricornia