GeekOut

Corgis are ‘the new cats’ of Internet culture

Maybe you saw them playing tether ball. Or jumping into a lake. Or getting in some exercise on the treadmill. Having breakfast. Escaping from deadly factories. Waging war against the ThunderCats.

Millions have.

That’s because Welsh corgis have taken the Internet by storm, and according to artist Caldwell Tanner, they’re the perfect vehicle for online communication.

“In a very silly way I was trying to make a statement about it,” Tanner said about this small dog that has made its way into the zeitgeist. Tanner is a full-time illustrator at CollegeHumor.com and off-hour corgi enthusiast.

At work, because of the nature of CollegeHumor’s content, Tanner said he’s faced with a daily onslaught of videos, Internet media and culture. Being exposed to so many images and ideas now associated with corgis, Tanner had a realization.

“Cats are kind of the prototypical Internet animal, and now it's corgis,” he said, referencing lolcats and advice animals Internet memes. “They're like the new cats, the more sincere version of cats.” So in his spare time, he came up with a simple corgi idea.

“The first one I did was 'Hard Corg.' It was just a really simple line drawing,” which he tweeted for the benefit of his close friends. (“Twitter is built for puns and having pun-offs with your friends,” he said.)

Tanner thought his corgi pun was pretty funny but was well aware that the Internet is a big place. For ideas to survive in Internet culture, people need to spread them through tweets, e-mails and links on social sites like Tumblr, BuzzFeed or reddit.

“Hard Corg” was so popular, Tanner started selling T-shirts of his design. His next step was to up the nerd ante and go pop culture. Or, rather, "Pop Corgture."

A larger mashup pictured corgis in nerdy costumes, bearing names like “Thorgi,” a corgi dressed as comic book hero Thor, and “The Dogtor,” a nod to British actor Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor from the long-running sci-fi series “Doctor Who.”

"Pop Corgture" showed up on a number of sites, including ihasahotdog.com on the Cheezburger network. Ihasahotdog.com has had a dedicated Welsh corgi channel for years. Since 2007, the corgi has been the second-most-popular breed searched on the site, behind only the pug. This year's most popular corgi entry, according to ihasahotdog, is this video showing how a corgi has figured out how to give back massages.

“Corgis definitely have their place in the Loldog space,” said Don Caldwell, editor for Cheezburger property “Know Your Meme.”

“I think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s been a lot of viral videos. In terms of reaching outside of the normal corgi owner subculture, these viral videos feature corgis that are ridiculously cute,” he said.

As a chronicler of Internet culture, Caldwell cites “Dog Fort” as an influential corgi meme. “Red Lobster is the leader of Dog Fort, the most significant member of the dog crew,” he said of the Welsh corgi who appears in the Dog Fort memes dressed in a lobster costume.

Red Lobster’s most noticeable feature, besides the bright red lobster suit, is a compelling, distant stare. It’s perfect for communicating many different ideas within a clever or funny caption.

That expression is something corgi owners – many of whom are active members of Internet culture – believe sets the dog apart from other breeds.

“I don’t know if it’s real, but I know my dog’s expressions definitely lead me to believe he understands more than we might think,” said Crystal Whittenton, a community manager in Raleigh, North Carolina, who's a corgi owner and founder of the Corgilove community on LiveJournal.

The 9-year-old community boasts more than 800 users. Other online corgi communities include CorgiAid, The Daily Corgi, Obsessive Corgi Disorder and other, humor-based forums.

(Many corgi owners are quick to point out that there are two types of Welsh corgis: the Cardigan, which has a tail, and the Pembroke, which does not. Genetically, they are entirely different dogs, but they do look similar.)

Welsh corgi owners often describe their dogs as intelligent, and the American Kennel Club breed standard describes them as “Outlook bold, but kindly. Expression intelligent and interested. Never shy nor vicious.”

“I, myself, used to use, for my Know Your Meme avatar, the image of a corgi wearing glasses,” Caldwell said. “And he looks like a very intellectual corgi.”

Thanks to those thoughtful glances and a popular anime called “Cowboy Bebop,” corgi owners have been known to name their dogs Einstein or Ein.

“Ein [a corgi character from 'Cowboy Bebop'] is a former lab animal who is super-intelligent,” Whittenton said. “It’s definitely the most popular corgi name.”

But while these dogs may be clever – they were originally bred to herd cattle – they’re also very, very cute.

“They are at once short and silly-looking with big happy grins,” Whittenton said, “but also stately and handsome and, of course, regal, as the Queen well knows.” Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has been a lifelong fan and owner of Pembroke Welsh corgis. She owns five corgis, as well as four “Dorgis,” a mix of Dachshund and Pembroke Welsh corgi.

It’s clear that many other people think they’re adorable, and that’s what has given Tanner’s corgi culture mashups legs. "I don't know if (the trend) has stubby corgi legs or if it has longer ones. I hope it doesn't go anywhere," he said.

“Especially when you’ve got a template like this silly-looking dog, adding a pun to that is just kind of like cute overload,” he said.