Why Do Corgis Have Short Legs? [Benefits And Drawbacks]

Corgis are cute dogs that are popular all over the world. With the knowledge that these dogs were used for herding domestic animals, you would wonder why do Corgis have short legs.

Corgis have short legs because they inherited a gene for Chondrodysplasia. This genetic mutation was explicitly bred throughout the years, and now Corgis are known for it. But even though there are benefits, there are also drawbacks to this genetic mutation.

The Corgi – A Herding Dog

Corgies come in two varieties of breeds, The Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Both of these dogs are small, dwarf-like, and with short legs, with one being slightly larger than the other.

Both of these dogs were bred many years ago for the sole purpose of herding domestic animals like sheep and cattle. Their owners noticed that Corgis with long legs aren’t as good at herding as the ones that have short legs. This is why they selectively bred the ones that have short legs.

That is how we ended up with the standard Corgi size of 10-12 inches in height and around 30 pounds in weight.

Genealogy Of Short Legs

The reason for Corgi’s short legs is the gene called fibroblast growth factor 4 or FGF4 which promotes growth. This gene is placed in the wrong place in the Corgis genetic code. This results in the condition known as chondrodysplasia, which is a type of dwarfism.

In the beginning, not all Corgis had short legs. As the owners realized the benefits of having dogs with short legs and herding, they started selectively breeding them. This means that they purposely let Corgis with short legs thrive while the long-legged ones slowly disappeared.

Corgi dwarfism is inherited by most Corgi mixes. Yet some mixes are possible to have longer dogs than their Corgi parent.

Benefits Of Short Legs

The fact that owners specifically bred Corgis to have short legs means that there is some benefit to this build.

Short legs made Corgis shorter and more able to avoid the kicks from cows and sheep. Because they are herding dogs, there is always the danger of getting kicked by the animal that is herded. The ability to escape this while being able to nip at their ankles made short Corgis desirable dogs for farmers.

Besides that, Corgis being short meant that they were more capable of catching mice and other small vermin. They are also capable of burrowing through bushes, ground, or other small spaces to catch them.

Drawbacks Of Short Legs

Now that we know why are Corgis so short and what benefits they give, we need to talk about the drawbacks of having short legs.

Short legs can make walking up the stairs or hiking up and down a steep hill a problem. All high-impact activities, like jumping and running, cause stress on your Corgi’s joints. As your Corgi gets older, these problems will only get worse.

Corgis are generally healthy dogs and can live up to 12-14 years of age. But there are some diseases that are more common.

  • Degenerative myelopathy – This degenerative disease attacks the spinal cord and can cause paralysis in the hind legs. Symptoms include “knuckling” of the hind paws, difficulty getting up from a lying position, and falling easily when pushed. It is incurable, but physical therapy can help in the long run.
  • Back Problems – Corgi with stubby legs are predisposed to developing a herniated disc because of the strain on their back. This can develop because of intervertebral disc disease or IVDD. This happens when the cartilage between the vertebrae degenerates. It causes pain, weakness, paralysis of the limbs, and incontinence.
  • Hip Dysplasia – This disease affects the musculoskeletal system and is common in many dog breeds. The hip joints don’t develop properly and this can lead to developing arthritis. You might notice your dog limping and having problems with moving around. Pain is also a symptom once arthritis develops.

How To Protect Your Corgi’s Joints

Corgis are small but active dogs, which is why you should make sure to protect their joints. Using supplements is a great way to keep your Corgi’s joints healthy. They help reduce the degeneration of cartilage and postpone the onset of disease.

Fish oil is a great supplement that contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Chondroitin and glucosamine are also very helpful for your Corgi.

Healthy Diet

Corgis are short legged dogs that are quite small, but they do love to eat. The recommended amount of dog food for a Corgi is around 1-1.5 cups a day. This can vary depending on size, gender, activity level, and age. Always make sure you feed dog food that comes from a known company like Pedigree and Purina.

If your Corgi becomes overweight, the risk for orthopedic problems like arthritis will increase. To check if your dog is overweight look at the dog and see if you can spot the waist. Then place your hands on its back, with thumbs along its spine, with the fingers spread downward. If you feel the ribs without pressing hard, it isn’t overweight.


Corgis calm down at 1-2 years of age. They are very high-energy dogs with enough strength, stamina, and resilience to make them great herding dogs.

To prevent Corgi leg problems, you should stop them from jumping on the furniture by putting up ramps or steps for them to use instead. Avoid activities that involve jumping up high, and long tiring hikes or sprints.

An adult Corgi needs an hour of activity every day. You can split this up into two half-hour exercise routines. A simple walk around the neighborhood or the dog park is always good. You can also take it swimming because it’s great for keeping the joints healthy. Also, make sure to include mental stimulation games once in a while.

Can Corgis Have Long Legs?

Even though Corgis once had longer legs, that is a very rare sight nowadays. Selective breeding has led to Corgis having a dominant gene for dwarfism so almost all of them end up with small legs.

To get a Corgi with normal legs, you would have to spend years of breeding and effort. You will have to wait for the perfect genetic combination for long legs and then breed that dog. But even then, it is really difficult to achieve your goal.

Some Corgi mixes can end up with longer legs than the usual Corgi. But still, most of them will have short legs and dwarfism.

So Why Do Corgis Have Short Legs?

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi are known for their small legs. The reason for this appearance is the inherited FGF4 gene that causes chondrodysplasia, which is a type of dwarfism.

Farmers used this trait of the Corgis to selectively breed them as herding dogs. Because they are so small, they can easily evade the kicks of the cattle and sheep. They can also easily catch rodents and small vermin.

This genetic mutation can also come with a few drawbacks. Corgis are more disposed to degenerative myelopathy, intervertebral disc disease, and hip dysplasia.

To protect your Corgi’s joints you should feed it a proper diet and prevent obesity, exercise daily and carefully, and provide healthy supplements.

Corgis born with long legs are a very rare occurrence. You need to commit a lot of time and effort to breeding to achieve this trait. Corgi mixes can achieve that more commonly than purebred Corgis.


Why do Corgis need wheels?

Corgis need wheelchairs because of their Corgi dwarfism. They are prone to developing diseases like degenerative myelopathy and intervertebral disc disease. These diseases make it very hard for the dog to walk by itself.

Do Corgis have tails?

All Corgies are born with tails. The difference is that the Pembroke Welsh Corgis get their tails docked, while the Cardigan Welsh Corgis usually keep theirs. Some Pembrokes can also be born with short “bobtails”.

Can Corgis go on hikes?

A healthy Corgi aged 1-7 years can go on a hike and do better than you would expect. Pick a trail that is not very steep and plan to walk around 8-10 km at a slow pace and your Corgi will do just fine.

Why do Corgis have long bodies?

The answer to “why do Corgis have short legs?” applies here. Corgis have very short legs compared to their body, so the body itself seems longer than it should be. Their butts also seem bigger and fluffier.

How long is a Corgi?

The average Pembroke Welsh Corgi is  22”-26” or 56-66 cm long. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is always slightly larger than the Pembroke. But this can depend on its age, gender, and individual characteristics.

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