Information about the King Charles Spaniel

The King Charles Spaniel (also known as the English Toy Spaniel) is a small dog breed of the spaniel type. In 1903, the Kennel Club combined four separate toy spaniel breeds under this single title. The other varieties merged into this breed were the Blenheim, Ruby and Prince Charles Spaniels, each of which contributed one of the four colours available in the breed.

Thought to have originated in the Far East, toy spaniels were first seen in Europe during the 16th century. They were made famous by their association with Charles II of England (1630-1685) and have been linked with English royalty since the time of Mary Tudor (1516-1558). Members of the breed have been owned by Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II.

The King Charles Spaniel and the other types of toy spaniels were crossbred with the Pug in the early 19th century to reduce the size of the nose, as was the style of the day. The 20th century saw attempts to restore lines of King Charles Spaniels to the breed of Charles II’s time. These included the unsuccessful Toy Trawler Spaniel and the now popular Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The Cavalier is slightly larger, with a flat head and a longer nose, while the King Charles is smaller, with a domed head and a flat face.

Historically the breeds that were merged into the King Charles Spaniel were used for hunting; due to their stature they were not well suited. They have kept their hunting instincts, but do not exhibit high energy and are better suited to being lapdogs. The modern breed is prone to several health problems, including cardiac conditions and a range of eye issues.

The King Charles has large dark eyes, a short nose, a high domed head and a line of black skin around the mouth. On average, it stands 9 to 11 inches (23 to 28 cm) at the withers, with a small but compact body. The breed has a traditionally docked tail. It has the long pendulous ears typical of a spaniel and its coat comes in four varieties, a trait it shares with its offshoot, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The four sets of markings reflect the four former breeds from which the modern breed was derived. Black and tan markings are known as “King Charles”, while “Prince Charles” is tricoloured, “Blenheim” is red and white, and “Ruby” is a single-coloured solid rich red. The “King Charles” black and tan markings typically consist of a black coat with mahogany/tan markings on the face, legs and chest and under the tail. The tricoloured “Prince Charles” is mostly white with black patches and mahogany/tan markings in similar locations to the “King Charles”. The “Blenheim” has a white coat with red patches, and should have a distinctive red spot in the center of the skull.

King Charles Spaniels are often mistaken for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. There are several significant differences between the two breeds, the principal being the size. While the Cavalier weighs on average between 13 to 18 pounds (5.9 to 8.2 kg), the King Charles is smaller at 8 to 14 pounds (3.6 to 6.4 kg). In addition, their facial features, while similar, are distinguishable: the Cavalier’s ears are set higher and its skull is flat, while the King Charles’ is domed. Finally, the muzzle length of the King Charles tends to be shorter than the typical muzzle on a Cavalier.

The American Kennel Club has two classes, English Toy Spaniel (B/PC) (Blenheim and Prince Charles) and English Toy Spaniel (R/KC), while in the UK, the Kennel Club places the breed in a single class. Under the Fédération Cynologique Internationale groups, the King Charles is placed in the English Toy Spaniel section within the Companion and Toy Dog Group, along with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The King Charles is a friendly breed, to the extent that it is not typically as suitable as a watchdog as some breeds, though it may still bark to warn its owners of an approaching visitor. It is not a high energy breed, and enjoys the company of family members, being primarily a lapdog. Although able to bond well with children and tolerant of them, it will not accept rough handling. It prefers not to be left alone for long periods. Known as one of the quietest toy breeds, it is suitable for apartment living.

The breed can tolerate other pets well, although the King Charles still has the hunting instincts of its ancestors and may not always be friendly towards smaller animals. It is intelligent enough to be used for obedience work and, due to its stable temperament, it can be a successful therapy dog for hospitals and nursing homes.

A natural bobtail can be found in some members of the breed, which is not a mutation of the T-box gene, and so is allowed under conformation show rules. Health-related research on the breed has been limited, with no major studies conducted in Britain. However, it has been included in studies outside the UK, including by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) in the United States. The King Charles Spaniel has a number of eye and respiratory system disorders common to brachycephalic dogs, and endocrine and metabolic diseases common to small breeds, as well as specific breed-associated health conditions. The average lifespan is just over ten years, and the breed should be able to reproduce naturally.