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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breed Summary

Loyal, Adoring, Friendly and Fluffy Companions

These happy chappy’s, although a relatively new breed, have already brushed tails with royalty, most notably King Charles II. It was this King that gave the name to the breed - he never went anywhere without at least two or three of these little doggies! He decreed that Spaniels should be allowed in any public space, including the Houses of Parliament. This declaration is said to still be in effect, though no-one has actually tested it out! When King Charles II died, so did the popularity of the breed, who were then bred with pugs, developing many of their features. It wasn’t until the 1920’s, when the original breed was nearly extinct, that someone came along and started to re-breed dogs to look how they did originally. From this, two types of King Charles were present, ones with Pug-like features (The King Charles Spaniel), and the ones more similar to their doggie ancestors (The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).

Kennel Club Group Toy
Lifespan 9-14 years
Height (at the withers) Males and Females 33-33cm (12-13 inches)
Weight Males and Females 5.9-8.2kg (13-18lb)
Coat Medium Length, Silky, May Be Slightly Wavy
Colour Blenheim (Chestnut on White); Tricolour (Black Markings on a White Coat, with Tan Over The Eyes, On The Cheeks, and Under The Tail); Black and Tan (Tan Over The Eyes, On The Cheeks, Inside The Ears, On The Chest And Legs, and Under The Tail); Ruby.
Eye colour Brown
Common health issues Mitral Valve Disease (MVD); Syringomyelia (SM); Episodic Falling; Hip Dysplasia; Patellar Luxation; Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye).
Other Names English Toy Spaniel; Toy Spaniel; Charlies; Prince Charles Spaniel; Ruby Spaniel; Blenheim Spaniel.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's are born to be companions and love nothing more than being with their ‘hoomans’, in fact they love us so much, they’re prone to never leaving our sides, making having a shower or going to the toilet a whole new experience! They are also very successful in sporting activities, particularly agility and flyball, as they are the largest of the toy breeds. However, these little pooches can be greedy at times, which doesn’t help that they’re already prone to getting fat! Instead of giving your pups left over food from dinner, strive to take them out for walkies. This breed is generally quite intelligent, so as long as you use positive reinforcement, training them should be a walk in the park. Because they have soft personalities, shouting at them in counterproductive and rewards are needed. Personalities can however vary, from fairly quiet and calm, to lively and high-spirited. This means they don’t always make the best guard dogs – investing in an alarm system is probably a little safer!

While the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel itself is a relatively new breed, the ancestors of this small Spaniel type, known as toy spaniels, were depicted in artworks from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, by artists as famous as Van Dyck and Gainsborough, although they appear to be a little different from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel we know today, with their flat heads, high-set ears, and longish noses. 

As may be obvious from the fact that they were painted by some of the best known artists in history, they were a popular dog in Royal courts across Europe. Their function was to be carried around by court ladies - especially in Tudor times - to keep their hands warm, hence their small size. Mary, Queen of Scots, was famously accompanied by her toy spaniel as she went to her execution, while one appears in a painting of Mary I and her husband Philip of Spain.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel takes its name from Kings Charles I and Charles II of England, who both adored the breed. Records show that Charles II, in particular, never went anywhere without at least two or three of his beloved dogs. It was around this time that the appearance of the dog began to change. It is believed that they may have been crossbred with Pugs to produce the smaller face, domed head, and more pronounced eyes, although this is uncertain. These were to become the King Charles Spaniels that we know today. 

Following the death of King Charles II, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel declined in popularity, as breeds such as Pugs became preferred at Royal courts. However, at Blenheim Palace, the breed remained in favour with the Dukes of Marlborough, especially the red and white version, which he used for hunting, as they were able to keep up with his horse. This is why this colour is known as the Blenheim. 

In Victorian times, the dog became popular again, and has remained so since. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were first shown during her reign, and breed enthusiasts started working towards setting a breed standard. 

In the 1920s, Roswell Eldridge, an American and avid supporter of Toy Spaniels, encouraged British breeders to produce dogs with ‘longer faces, flatter skulls with a spot in the centre’, as depicted in the artworks of Tudor times. Few heeded his requests, but one that did was Mrs Hewitt Pitt. However, the limited numbers of these type meant that the Kennel Club refused to recognise them. So keen on the breed was Mr Eldridge, that he persuaded the Kennel Club to allow him to offer a prize of £25 for the best male and female dogs that resembled those seen in paintings from the time of King Charles II. In 1928, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was finally founded, with a dog known as Anne’s Son forming the basis of the breed standard that is still recognised today. 

The Kennel Club waited until 1945 to recognise the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a breed in its own right. By the 1960s, thousands of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were being registered, and over sixty Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had been awarded Championship status. In 1963, one won Best in Group (Toy) for the first time, and in 1973, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was crowned Supreme Best in Show, an impressive feat for a breed recognised less than twenty years earlier. This victory brought the breed to wider attention across the world. 

In the USA, the breed struggled to be recognised for many years. Two males were imported to the States in the 1940s, but it was not until 1952 that they developed any real following, when a Mrs Lyons Brown was presented with a black and tan female by an English friend. She adored the breed, and soon imported more. The American Kennel Club refused to recognise the breed, so she contacted people around the country, discovering that there were fewer than a dozen in existence. In 1954, she founded the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel USA, which was the only body in the States that registered the breed for over fifty years. This was partly due to their refusal to have the breed formally recognised by the American Kennel Club, fearing that if the breed became too popular, unscrupulous breeders would not stick to the standards they wanted. In 1992, the original Cavalier King Charles Spaniel USA club split into two, as some breed enthusiasts wanted to see the breed formally recognised. The newer club, the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club applied to the American Kennel Club for parent-club status. It was granted, and the breed was formally recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1995.

In the UK, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel grew in popularity and over 10,000 were registered by the early 1980s. The breed was highly successful in dog shows throughout the 1990s, and their sweet, loving personalities have ensured their continued popularity.