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I've seen this myth floating around the internet for a while now and decided to write about it for a project. The only issue was: I couldn't actually find a reputable source for the claim. Wikipedia's section on the matter reads:

Ancient lore states that two children were running through a forest and stumbled upon the funeral of a fairy. The mourning fairies gave the two children two small corgi puppies and the children took them home, thus giving the breed popularity. Stories also state that Corgis played the role of war horses for fairies before they became herding dogs for humans. At the base of the haunches of Corgis, there is a line of slightly rougher fur that ancient Welsh lore states is the saddle line from fairy warriors.

But as you can see, there is no citation for this section. Therefore, it would be interesting to see whether this is an urban myth or an under-researched bit of folklore.

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This got too long for a comment, so I hope it's all right to post here. The Writing in Margins blog is mine, so I'd like to offer a few addendums.

It's always hard to disprove something rather than prove it, but I really haven't found any books of Welsh folklore that mention corgis as fairy steeds. There's Giraldus Cambrensis' Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin Through Wales (1191) where fairies ride tiny horses and have tiny hunting dogs: "They had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size." There's no indication that the fairies ride the dogs. If they swapped dogs with horses, he would probably mention that.

Fairy corgis don't appear in Thomas Keightley's Fairy Mythology, John Rhys's Celtic Folklore: Welsh And Manx, or any of Katharine Briggs' books that I know of. Rhys's Volume 1 does have a line "Like Welsh fairies, the Manx ones had, as the reader will have seen, horses to ride; they had also dogs, just as the Welsh ones had."

In general, European fairies are seen riding horses. If the fairies are miniature, then the horses are miniature (as in A Pleasant Treatise of Witches, 1673).

It hapned one day, as this admirable Semstress sate working in her Garden, that casting aside her Eye on some fair Flower or Tree, she saw, as she thought, a little Gentleman, yet one that shew'd great Nobility by his cloathing, come riding towards her from behind a bed of Flowers; thus surprised how any body should come into her Garden, but much more, at the stature of the person, who as he was on Horseback exceeded not a foots length in height; she had reason to suspect that her eyes deceived her. But the Gallant spurring his Horse up the Garden, made it not long, though his Horse was little, before he came to her:

There are exceptions. In Walter Map's 12th century work "De nugis curialium", King Herla meets a dwarf who rides on a goat. And in the British fairytale of Tom Thumb, first recorded in the 17th century, Tom Thumb (who has a fairy godmother and fairy clothes) rides a mouse. However, I don't know of any cases where dogs are the steeds. I would love to hear if someone else knows of one.

For me, the timing says a lot. Corgis have been around for a long time, but they were not formally recognized as a breed until the early 1900s, and it also took time to differentiate the two types, Pembroke and Cardigan. Wikipedia's saying they weren't recognized as distinct until 1934. Anne Biddlecombe was one of the first famous Pembroke Corgi breeders and would have had a strong interest in laying out precisely how Pembrokes were different from Cardigans. The "fairy saddle" is a distinct Pembroke marking. The poem specifies that it's about the "Pembrokeshire Welsh Corgi."

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  • Thanks! Between what you presented in your blog and this post, the case seems pretty unambiguous now. Jun 23 at 12:53
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This is most likely a recent invention by Corgi breeders & enthusiasts. From "Did fairies really ride corgis?":

The earliest source I can find is the poem "Corgi Fantasy" by Anne G. Biddlecombe of Dorset, England. She was one of the top Pembroke breeders of the 1940s and 1950s, and a founding member of the Welsh Corgi League in London, serving as their secretary for some time.​ She used the pedigree prefix Teekay, under which many of her dogs became show champions.

The poem was first published in 1946 (in the first edition of the Welsh Corgi League Handbook?). Two children find some foxlike puppies out in the woods and take them home. Their father tells them that the dogs are a gift from the fairies, who ride them or use them to pull coaches and herd cows. He points out the image of the fairy saddles on the dogs' coats.

This poem soon became popular and was reprinted in numerous magazines and books, crossing over from England to America. It featured at least twice in the American Kennel Gazette, in 1950 and 1956. The artist Tasha Tudor drew illustrations when it appeared in the Illustrated Study of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Standard (1975). (Tudor was a well-known fan of Corgis. In the introduction to her 1971 picture book Corgiville Fair, she said, "They are enchanted. You need only to see them by moonlight to realize this.")

Other modern corgi enthusiasts added their own twists with books, poems and stories like "The Fairy Saddle Legend" and "How the Corgi Lost his Tail​." Many artists have turned their talents to drawing corgis with fairies. The stories mention the corgis serving as the fairies' battle steeds - a fantastic mental image. As an interesting sidenote, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America uses the acronym PWCCA. The pwca or pooka is a mischievous spirit in Welsh folklore.

Pembrokes weren't the only ones with otherworldly connections. "Rhodd Glas: The Blue Gift," by Pam Brand, appeared in the 1996 handbook of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America. Brand described how the fairies created the first blue merle Cardigan corgi from a wildflower.

Some even say that corgis were used in a war between the Tylwyth Teg and the Gwyllion, but this is hard to verify. In fact, these two fairy types may be the same thing, not separate tribes at all. The farthest I could trace that particular variation was the book Gods, ghosts and black dogs: The fascinating folklore and mythology of dogs,​ published in 2016. Later that same year, a Mental Floss article "The Ancient Connection Between Corgis and Fairies" used the story.

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  • It definitely seems to be the likely case given the presented facts, but I'm leery of taking blogs as authoritative. Perhaps if they had listed the books that didn't include the myth the case would be stronger. I'll see about contacting the author so the answer can be amended and possibly accepted. Jun 22 at 20:53

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