Information about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of Spaniel-type dog, and is classed as a toy dog by most kennel clubs. It is one of the most popular breeds in the United Kingdom. Since 2000, it has been growing in popularity in the United States. It is a smaller breed of spaniel, and Cavalier adults are often the same size as adolescent dogs of other spaniel breeds. It has a silky coat and commonly an undocked tail. The breed standard recognizes four colours (Blenheim, Tricolour [black/white/tan], Black and Tan, and Ruby). The breed is generally friendly, affectionate and good with both children and other animals.
The King Charles changed drastically in the late 17th century, when it was interbred with flat-nosed breeds. Until the 1920s, the Cavalier shared the same history as the smaller King Charles Spaniel. Breeders attempted to recreate what they considered to be the original configuration of the breed, a dog resembling Charles II’s King Charles Spaniel of the Restoration.
Various health issues affect this particular breed, most notably mitral valve disease, which leads to heart failure. This will appear in most Cavaliers at some point in their lives and is the most common cause of death. The breed may also suffer from Syringomyelia, in which cavities are formed in the spinal cord, possibly associated with malformation of the skull that reduces the space available for the brain. Cavaliers are also affected by ear problems, a common health problem among spaniels of various types, and they can suffer from such other general maladies as hip dysplasia, which are common across many types of dog breeds.
During the 16th century, a small type of spaniel was popular among the nobility in England. The people of the time believed that these dogs could keep fleas away, and some even believed that they could prevent forms of stomach illnesses. These dogs were sometimes called the “Spaniel Gentle” or “Comforter”, as ladies taking a carriage ride would take a spaniel on their laps to keep them warm during the winter. Charles I kept a spaniel named Rogue while residing at Carisbrooke Castle; however, it is with Charles II that this breed is closely associated and it was said of him that “His Majesty was seldom seen without his little dogs”. There is a myth that he even issued an edict that no spaniels of this type could be denied entry to any public place.
During the reign of King William III and Queen Mary II, the long nosed style of spaniel went out of fashion. The Pug was the favoured dog at the time in the Netherlands, and with William’s Dutch origin, they became popular in England too. At this time interbreeding may have occurred with the Pug, or other flat nosed breeds, as the King Charles took on some Pug-like characteristics, but in any event the modern King Charles Spaniel emerged. In The Dog in 1852, William Youatt was critical of the change in the breed:
The King Charles’s breed of the present day is materially altered for the worse. The muzzle is almost as short, and the forehead as ugly and prominent, as the veriest bull-dog. The eye is increased to double its former size, and has an expression of stupidity with which the character of the dog too accurately corresponds. Still there is the long ear, and the silky coat, and the beautiful colour of the hair, and for these the dealers do not scruple to ask twenty, thirty, and even fifty guineas.
During the early part of the 18th century, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, kept red and white King Charles type spaniels for hunting. The duke recorded that they were able to keep up with a trotting horse. His estate was named Blenheim in honour of his victory at the Battle of Blenheim. Because of this influence, the red and white variety of the King Charles Spaniel and thus the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel became known as the Blenheim.
Attempts were made to recreate the original King Charles Spaniel as early as the turn of the 20th century, using the now extinct Toy Trawler Spaniels. These attempts were documented by Judith Blunt-Lytton, 16th Baroness Wentworth, in the book “Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors Including the History And Management of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese and Pomeranians” published under the name of the “Hon. Mrs Neville Lytton” in 1911.
In 1926, American Roswell Eldridge offered a dog show class prize of twenty-five pounds each as a prize for the best male and females of “Blenheim Spaniels of the old type, as shown in pictures of Charles II of England’s time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed, with spot in centre of skull.” The breeders of the era were appalled, although several entered what they considered to be sub-par King Charles Spaniels in the competition. Eldridge died before seeing his plan come to fruition, but several breeders believed in what he said and in 1928 the first Cavalier club was formed. The first standard was created, based on a dog named “Ann’s Son” owned by Mostyn Walker, and the The Kennel Club recognised the breed as “King Charles Spaniels, Cavalier type”.
World War II caused a drastic setback to the breed, with the vast majority of breeding stock destroyed because of the hardship. For instance, in the Ttiweh Cavalier Kennel, the population of sixty dropped to three during the 1940s. Following the war, just six dogs would be the starting block from which all Cavaliers descend. These dogs were Ann’s Son, his litter brother Wizbang Timothy, Carlo of Ttiweh, Duce of Braemore, Kobba of Kuranda and Aristide of Ttiweh. The numbers increased gradually, and in 1945 The Kennel Club first recognised the breed in its own right as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The history of the breed in America is relatively recent. The first recorded Cavalier living in the United States was brought from the United Kingdom in 1956 by W. Lyon Brown, together with Elizabeth Spalding and other enthusiasts, she founded the Cavalier King Charles Club USA which continues to the present day. In 1994, the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was created by a group of breeders to apply for recognition by the American Kennel Club. The Cavalier would go on to be recognised in 1997, and the ACKCSC became the parent club for Cavaliers.
“Three dogs of the same breed on leads, each is a different colour. The left dog is mostly white with brown markings, the centre one is black and white with brown eyebrows, and the dog on the right side is a deep shade of ruby red.”
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels traditionally come in four colours. Blenheim, Tricolour and Ruby are shown here, respectively. See below for Black and Tan.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the largest toy breeds. Historically it was a lap dog, and modern day adults can fill a lap easily. Nonetheless, it is small for a spaniel, with fully grown adults comparable in size to adolescents of other larger spaniel breeds. Breed standards state that height of a Cavalier should be between 12 to 13 inches (30 to 33 cm) with a proportionate weight between 10 to 18 pounds (4.5 to 8.2 kg). The tail is usually not docked, and the Cavalier should have a silky coat of moderate length. Standards state that it should be free from curl, although a slight wave is allowed. Feathering can grow on their ears, feet, legs and tail in adulthood. Standards require this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet a particularly important aspect of the breed’s features.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the English Toy Spaniel can be often confused with each other. In the United Kingdom, the English Toy Spaniel is called the King Charles Spaniel while in the United States, one of the colours of the Toy Spaniel is known as King Charles. The two breeds share similar history and only diverged from each other about 100 years ago. There are several major differences between the two breeds, with the primary difference being the size. While the Cavalier weighs on average between 10 to 18 pounds (4.5 to 8.2 kg), the King Charles is smaller at 9 to 12 pounds (4.1 to 5.4 kg). In addition their facial features while similar, are different; the Cavalier’s ears are set higher and its skull is flat while the King Charles’s is domed. Finally the muzzle length of the Cavalier tends to be longer than that of its King Charles cousin.
The breed has four recognized colours. Cavaliers which have rich chestnut markings on a pearly white background are known as Blenheim in honour of Blenheim Palace, where John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, raised the predecessors to the Cavalier breed in this particular colour. In some dogs there is a chestnut spot in the middle of the forehead: this is called the “blenheim” spot. Black and Tan are dogs with black bodies with tan highlights, particularly eyebrows, cheeks, legs and beneath the tail. Black and Tan is referred to as “King Charles” in the King Charles Spaniel. Ruby Cavaliers should be entirely chestnut all over, although some can have some white in their coats which is considered a fault under American Kennel Club conformation show rules. The fourth colour is known as Tricolour, which is black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, on eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail. This colour is referred to as “Prince Charles” in the King Charles Spaniel.
According to statistics released by The Kennel Club, Cavaliers were the sixth most popular dog in the United Kingdom in 2007 with 11,422 registrations in a single year. Labrador Retrievers were the most popular with 45,079 registrations in that year. Their popularity is on the rise in America; in 1998 they were the 56th most popular breed but in both 2007 and 2008 they were the 25th most popular. They ranked higher in some individual US cities in the 2008 statistics, being eighth in both Nashville and Minneapolis-St.Paul, seventh in Boston, Atlanta and Washington D.C., and sixth in both New York City and San Francisco. In 2009, the Cavalier was the fourth most popular breed in Australia with 3,196 registrations behind only Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.In addition, there are also national breed clubs in Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain and Sweden.
The breed is highly affectionate, playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are good with children and other dogs. Cavaliers are not shy about socialising with much larger dogs. They will adapt quickly to almost any environment, family, and location. Their ability to bond with larger and smaller dogs make them ideal in houses with more than one breed of dog as long as the other dog is trained. The breed is great with people of all ages, from children to seniors, making them a very versatile dog. Cavaliers rank 44th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, being of average intelligence in working or obedience. Cavaliers are naturally curious and playful, but also enjoy simply cuddling up on a cushion or lap.
Cavaliers are active and sporting. They have an instinct to chase most things that move including while on busy streets, and so most Cavaliers will never become “street-wise”. As they tend to regard all strangers as friends, members of the breed will usually not make good guard dogs. Spaniels have a strong hunting instinct and may endanger birds and small animals. However, owners have reported that through training their Cavaliers live happily with a variety of small animals including hamsters and gerbils.