Did you know your corgi is a mutant?
(But albeit, a cute one?)
Corgis are known for their trademark sploot, fluffy butts, and short, stubby legs.
- But why do they have these stubby legs?
- Can they have long legs?
- Did they always have short legs? Or what?
- What’s the reason behind this evolution?
Let’s get these questions answered! These mysteries can no longer be left unknown.
Corgis were bred for herding
These dogs were used to herd cattle and sheep back in England and Scotland.
The short stature allows it to be fast and agile while being a small target that’s hard to hit. This is also partly why their tails are docked.
The tail can be a liability that’s stepped on or attacked by their herding target! But this only makes them cuter!
The Pembroke corgi will have its tail docked if adhering to breed standards in the United States, unlike Europe and many other countries that have banned tail docking.
However, the cardigan corgi won’t. If you want a corgi with tali, check out the Cardigans corgis.
Short legs made corgis hard to hit
The short legs were a desirable trait, thus, corgis were selectively bred for this trait.
Farmers and ranchers bred for their bodies to be close to the ground to keep them short.
This made them less of a target to cows.
A corgi that was kicked or trampled by cattle is inefficient for herding.
So breeding a dog that’s lower to the ground makes them harder to hit.
Thus, each corgi could avoid attacks more efficiently by being a smaller target for cattle.
And therefore each corgi lasted longer on the field and avoided injury, which cost farmers money or downtime.
So the genetic condition defiantly was preferred by people who used corgis for herding.
This was the origin of the breed and its original purpose.
When the corgi was primarily used as a herding breed to help herd cattle, they were bred for that purpose specifically.
This means that the corgis with short legs continued to propagate so that over time the condition known as achondroplastic dwarfism became dominant.
This is the “defect” that results in dogs like the corgi and dachshund.
Corgi mixed breeds can also produce short-legged golden retrievers, border collies, and any other breed because it’s a dominant gene.
The gene specifically controlling the short legs is called FGF4, which is abbreviated for fibroblast growth factor 4.
Simply put: The FGF genes determine what parts of the body grow by how much. And the “4” marks the gene for bone growth in the limbs.
And corgis have a mutated copy of the gene which forces their bones to stop growing. And thus, they have stumpy legs that we adore.
Corgi mixes can also inherit the gene
Corgis can be bred with other breeds to produce a mutt. If the corgi mix receives the gene for achondroplastic dwarfism, the mix will have short stubby legs just like a purebred corgi.
You can see dalmations, labs, and even huskies all with the short stubby legs of a corgi. That doesn’t make them any less cute though.
Can corgis have long legs?
Yes, in the past, there were long-legged corgis.
They USED to have long legs. But over time, they were bred for their short legs.
The dwarfism gene became the dominant gene and now expresses itself in today’s modern corgi.
The AKC recognizes the corgi’s short legs and if you even could go back in time and bring a corgi to the present with long legs, it wouldn’t be considered a purebred corgi!
During the herding era, only half of the corgi puppies would have short legs.
The dwarfism gene is a dominant gene, so that means if at least one of the parents has the gene, the litter will have short legged corgis.
The gene is on a non-sex chromosome and only a single gene is necessary. If a corgi puppy has just one dwarfism gene expressed, it won’t be as short as a puppy with two of the same genes.
This depends on the expression from the parents of the puppy.
Of course, over time, only the short dogs were allowed to breed to get the desirable trait.
And because it’s a dominant gene, odds are that the litter will be fully short-legged corgis. Remember Punnett squares from science class?
Who knew that’d come in handy eh?
Why are there no long-legged corgis?
The first corgis with short legs were thought to be bred around 300 years ago.
Ranches and farmers would breed corgis specifically for working on the fields and the trait to have a short stature was desirable.
They found that corgis had these mini bodies with short legs close to the ground which made them hard to hit.
Dog breeders also thought that this was a unique trait to have and continued to breed more dogs with the genetic defect.
Over time, only the short-legged corgis became dominant, as the regular “long-legged” corgis disappeared.
The gene became the dominant one in gene expression. This means that the short-legged FGF4 expression “overtakes” the recessive gene for long-legged dogs.
In other words, the long leg corgis weren’t allowed to breed.
So only the short-legged ones could. This led to only short legged puppies being produced. And that’s why today we only see corgis with short legs.
If you look hard enough, long-legged corgis STILL EXIST. They’re either mutts or express the recessive, long-legged gene.
Can corgis have different heights?
Yes, corgis show variable differences in heights on both the environment and genetic levels.
You can have a corgi that’s “born” to be shorter than other corgi dogs.
And you can change how much the legs grow by changing the environment to a small degree.
Here are some other resources to aid your knowledge of this phenomenon:
- TIL all corgis suffer from achondroplastic dwarfism – Reddit
- The copied gene that gave dachshunds and corgis their short legs – ScienceBlog
- FGF4 Retrogene – UC Davis Veterinary Medicine
Did you find out why corgis are short legged now?
So now that you know why corgis have short legs, what do you think?
Do you like the short legs? Or do you like the long legs?
Post a comment and tell us your thoughts.
Roy has owned 14 dog breeds, with corgis being his absolute favorite. He’s a self proclaimed “corgi whisperer,” whatever that means. He enjoys hiking, videogames, binging on shows, and writing (that’s why he’s here).