Corgis bred for herding livestock long before Queen Elizabeth II made them famous - petsitterbank

Corgis bred for herding livestock long before Queen Elizabeth II made them famous

While corgis are identical with the late Queen Elizabeth II, it might be a surprise to know the tiny breed is still used as a working dog in Australia.

The Queen had 30 corgis as pets over her lifetime, giving the breed its international recognition.

But the dog has been used for centuries to herd livestock.

Jean Milnes herds south of Adelaide with her female corgi, Tirion.

“[Corgis] have been herding since the Middle Ages at least, there is documentary evidence of them herding back in about 800AD,” she said.

“I just got into it because I thought this would be fun to do to see if she could remember what her ancestors used to do.”

Corgis are clever and adaptive dogs.(Supplied: Jean Milnes)

Exercising instincts

There are few corgi herders in Australia now, but Ms Milne is hoping the popularity will boom after the death of the Queen, returning the breed to its farming roots.

“I still have the conversation with people who think corgis are wonderful, associate them with being the Queen’s dog, and don’t realize that they actually have a job to do,” Ms Milnes said.

“There is … going to be an influx of people wanting corgis for the next year or so, and it would be nice if they did something more than just go to the dog park.”

Corgi rounding up sheep
Tirion the corgi trains for herding competitions.(Supplied: Jean Milnes)

Her corgi trains for herding competitions.

“We should be doing things that … dogs enjoy as well,” she said.

“They need to be given the opportunity to achieve things.

“I think it is very important in any breed to maintain what they were intended to do.”

Three corgis with their tongues hanging out.
Corgis are famously known as the dogs of Queen Elizabeth II.(ABC News: Ashleigh Davis)

Big brain, little legs

National Welsh Corgi Council secretary Sadie Podger said the dogs were very intelligent, which was needed when herding animals.

“Years ago … the farmers found that these dogs are actually quite smart and adapt to their conditions that they’re in and found that they were the best of all the cattle type dogs that they had,” she said.

A corgi rolling on grass
Corgis are more popularly known as pets, but were historically used to herd livestock.(Supplied: Clarissa Thorpe)

Ms Podger said corgis were known as herd heelers because they could nip the rear legs of livestock to guide and direct the animal.

“When they herd they can roll from one side … of the cattle to the other side with that, and then sort of directing the cattle to where they want it, because cattle can be quite stubborn.”

“They’re low to the ground so they can drop their head a little bit, and basically the hoof goes over the top of their head where a taller dog could get hit in the head.”

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