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History - "A Dog fit for Kings"

The breed is highly affectionate and some call the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog." However, Cavaliers require a great deal of human companionship and do not tolerate being left alone for long periods of time. Most dogs of the breed are extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs.

For many centuries, small breed of spaniels have been popular in the United Kingdom. In the eleventh century, in the reign of King Canute, it was illegal to hunt with any dog that could not fit through a gauge that was eleven inches in diameter. Hence, the "birth" of the Toy Spaniel in the United Kingdom. Some centuries later, Toy Spaniels became popular as pets, especially as pets of the royal family. In fact, the King Charles Spaniel was so named because a Blenheim-coated spaniel was the children's pet in the household of Charles I.

King Charles II went so far as to issue a decree that the King Charles Spaniel could not be forbidden entrance to any public place, including the House of Parliament. Such spaniels can be seen in many paintings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. These early spaniels had longer, pointer snouts and thinner-boned limbs than today's.

Over time, the toy spaniels were replaced in popularity by short-snout, dome-headed dogs of Asian descent, such as the Pug and Japanese Chin. The King Charles Spaniel was bred with these dogs, resulting in the similar-shaped head of today's breed. The King Charles Spaniel remained popular at Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough, where the brown and white version was most popular - resulting in the name Blenheim for that color combination.

Two breed clubs are found in the United States: the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (CKCSC) USA and the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. The latter club is the breed club of the American Kennel Club.


The following is an article is taken from http://www.petpublishing.com/dogken/breeds/cavalier.shtml.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
An Appealing About Face

Rick Beauchamp

If life was a game show, and no one has proven conclusively yet that it isn’t, one of the questions in the dog-lover’s category might be; what is the difference between a King Charles spaniel and a cavalier King Charles spaniel? In case your progress in the game of life ever depends on the answer to that one, here it is: The King Charles spaniel, recognized by The Kennel Club of England, weighs 8 to 14 pounds, has a pug nose, an undershot jaw, and large, prominent eyes. It is known in this country as the English toy spaniel, and it is not the subject of this article.

The cavalier King Charles spaniel, recognized by the American and British kennel clubs, is the subject of this article. In addition, it is arguable the only dog which Newton’s Third Law applies. (If anyone asks what that is, just say smugly, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”) The cavalier was created in reaction to the 19th-century to breeding King Charles spaniels with faces retreating into their heads and eyes bulging out of them. The cavalier weighs between 12 and 18 pounds. It has eyes where nature intended them to be, a flatter head and a distinctly longer nose than the King Charles spaniel.

Pretty as a Picture

The popularity of dogs is forever wedded, for better or for worse, to the tastes of royalty. Thus, in 17th- century England spaniels similar to the modern-day cavalier King Charles spaniel enjoyed great cachet because King Charles II, who reigned from 1660 to 1685, was exceedingly fond of them. Indeed, one might say the king was a bit dotty about these handsome little dogs, who were invariably black and tan and who graced the paintings of Titian, Van Dyck, and other artists. Charles was rarely seen, even in his bedchamber, without two or three spaniels nearby; he allegedly spent more time playing with them than he did attending to matters of state; and he decreed that they be allowed in any public building in the land, including Parliament, from which dogs had previously been prohibited. That decree, we are told, remains in effect in England to this day.

When in Rome

Although Charles’ fondness for small spaniels put them on the lap, they pre-existed him by at least 100 years in England and Scotland, and by many hundreds of years in the world at large. As long ago as the days of the Roman Empire (31 B.C. – 476 A.D.), small, spaniel-type dogs abetted hunters by driving game birds into nets. The more tractable and sweet-tempered of these dogs often spent as much time, if not more, with the hunters’ families. Naturally, hunters selected for a placid temperament when they arranged their dogs’ unions, and a civilized personality became standard equipment among spaniels.

Reversal of Fortune

The Roman Empire’s trade routes – the information superhighway of that time – extended as far as China. They were the means by which cross-cultural pollination in commerce and fashion occurred. Whether directly or by way of China and the Far East, the spaniels that hunted with their Roman masters were eventually introduce in England. They reached their peak of influences during the reign of Charles II and continued to be highly regarded during the tenure of James II, who succeeded Charles, but that tenure lasted only four years. Not long after the black-and-tan dogs that Charles so loved had come to be called King Charles spaniels in his memory, their fortunes began to change.

In 1689 James II was replaced by Dutch prince William III of Orange and his wife, Mary. When they arrived in England, William and Mary were accompanied by a number of pug dogs. The pug was the Dutch national dog, and soon it became a national sensation in England.

Taking a Nosedive

Because whims do not become fashions with immediate and surgical precision, the ascendancy of the pug did not result in any sudden change in the King Charles spaniel. Dogs similar in appearance to that spaniel can be found in the works of 18th-century artists such as Gainsborough, Reynolds and Stubbs. By the middle of the 19th century, however, when breeding and exhibiting dogs became formalized pursuits in Great Britain, King Charles spaniels had been redesigned, and the look that we see in these dogs today had replaced the look with which Charles had been so smitten.

An American Revolution

In 1926, an American named Roswell Eldridge, who bred King Charles spaniels, traveled to England in search of dogs to add to his kennel. Eldrigde, 68, was dismayed to find that his dogs, which resembled those in the paintings of Gainsborough, et al., looked nothing like the ones then being shown in England. Thinking, perhaps, about Newton’s Third Law, Eldridge asked the officials of the Crufts dog show, the show of shows in England, if he might offer a prize at their next five gatherings. That prize, in the amount of 25 pounds, would be awarded to the owners of the male and the female Blenheim King Charles spaniel that best resembled the old-fashioned type of dog Eldridge was breeding at his home on Long Island. (Blenheim refers to red-and-white King Charles spaniels, one of four colors in which the breed occurs.) The Cruft’s catalog of 1926 described the kind of dog Eldridge wanted: “As shown in the pictures of King Charles II’s time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with a spot [of red] in the centre of the skull."

More is Better

Breeders, many of whom resist change as fiercely as entrenched dictators do, did not rush to claim Eldridge’s prize, considerable as it was in its time. There were, however, enough retrograde spirits on hand on the second day of the Crufts show in 1928 to form a club whose mission was the reinvention of the old-style spaniel. Consulting all the reproductions of 16th, 17th, and 18th century paintings they could muster, they drew up a standard for their breed, a standard that has changed little in the meantime. They also added the word cavalier to the breed’s name. A dog called Ann’s Son, owned by Miss Mostyn Walker, won the Eldridge prize; but Eldridge, who had died a month before the show opened, was not on hand to present the award.

Having seen what the caprice of fashion had done to the King Charles spaniel, cavalier breeders were determined that this should not happen again. Their breed standard insisted, therefore, that the cavalier be shown in its natural state, i.e., without the trimming, primping, crimping, stripping, and other manifestations of the hair dresser’s art that are practiced on so many breeds.

Though they were swimming against the tide of popular opinion, cavalier fanciers had an easy time of it genetically. They had long-faced, pet-quality stock from King Charles spaniel breeders with which to work – not to mention the law of regression toward the mean. They achieved their desired goal with such rapidity that they were often accused of using other breeds in their breeding programs, but this practice was not endorsed by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club.

Cavalier breeders also achieved their material goal rather quickly. In 1944 The Kennel Club admitted the cavalier King Charles spaniel to the ranks of officially recognized pedigreed dogs.

Their Old Kentucky Home

As it had been in England, the snub-nosed version of the small spaniel was the first to be accepted for championship competition in this country. In 1886 the English toy spaniel (which is what the King Charles spaniel is called here) was accepted by the AKC.

For its part the cavalier King Charles spaniel did not begin to attract disciples until the middle of the present century in the United States. Then in 1956 a group of cavalier owners formed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA (CKCSC, USA). This group, which eventually grew into a single-breed registry, kept stud books, organized shows and promoted the preservation of the cavalier breed. In 1960 cavalier fanciers gathered in Prospect, Kentucky, for the first cavalier King Charles spaniel show in America. By then, 118 dogs had been registered, 68 of them born in this country.

Cavalier King Charles spaniels were accepted in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) miscellaneous classes not long after the CKCSC, USA had been founded, but most members of that group were diametrically opposed to seeking full AKC recognition for their breed. They worried that show-ring exposure would lead to increased popularity, which would lead to unfortunate changes in the cavalier. Despite their protectiveness toward their breed, its association with certain persons of high profile – Ronald Reagan, to name one – continually threatened to turn it into a mass-market success anyway. In March 1986 a headline in the Chicago Tribune declared: “May I Show You This Year’s Dog?” That kind of folderol is enough to make any reasonable person cringe. Imagine, then, the dismay of cavalier breeders who read: “Chances are, your dog is ‘out’ unless you own a SharPei, chow or cavalier King Charles spaniel.

The dread of such publicity and, in the words of one observer, “increasing pressure by the AKC to move out of the miscellaneous class” led to a schism among cavalier breeders. That split widened in 1993 when the CKCSC, USA voted not to accept AKC’s invitation to become the official parent club of the cavalier breed. Following an uncivil war, members of CKCSC, USA who were in favor of accepting AKC’s bid formed the American Cavalier King Charles Club (ACKCC) the following year. By January 1, 1996, the group was able to celebrate both the New Year and the cavalier’s debut as the 140th breed recognized by the AKC.

The CKCSC, USA, its ranks thinned by the defection of some of its members, continues to hold regional shows and a national specialty show each year. In addition, cavaliers are eligible to compete in events sanctioned by the United Kennel Club, which has recognized cavaliers since 1980.

By the Numbers

During the cavalier King Charles spaniel’s first full year of AKC recognition, 1,329 cavaliers were enrolled, and the breed ranked 75th out of 143 breeds in overall registrations. This total placed the cavalier 14th among the 19 toy breeds recognized by AKC. In England the cavalier, once thought to be on the verge of extinction, is the most popular toy breed. Somewhere Roswell Eldridge must be smiling, for in the great game show of life, he who laughs last usually finishes first.

Hairs of the Dog

The lovely coat of the cavalier King Charles spaniel lends much to the beauty of the breed. The coat is moderately long, silky, and free from curl, though it may be a bit wavy. The cavalier’s feet, legs, tail, chest and ears are decorated with long hair, called feathering. Most owners trim the hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet in order to keep the cavalier from leaving dusty or muddy footprints around the house, but that is the only area of the dog that can be trimmed if he or she is going to compete in shows. Overall the cavalier’s coat is not a high-maintenance project, but it does require a thorough brushing twice a week in order to remain clean, tidy-looking and free of mats.

Docking the cavalier’s tail was considered fashionable at one time, but this operation is not required in order to show the dog. If the tail must be docked, the breed standard dictates that no more than one third of the tail may be removed. Since a beautiful, plumed tail is very much a part of the cavalier’s appeal, few breeders dock at all.

Coats of Many Colors

The cavalier King Charles spaniel can be found in one of four colors: Blenheim, tricolor, ruby and black and tan. Blenheims' are chestnut and white, with chestnut ears and a white blaze between the eyes and ears. The ideal Blenheim has a chestnut lozenge or “Blenheim spot” on the forehead. Tricolors are jet-black and white, with black ears, a white blaze between the eyes, and rich, tan markings over the eyes, on the cheeks, and inside the ears and on the underside of the tail. Rubies are a solid, rich red throughout. Black and tans are jet-black with vibrant tan markings over the eyes, on the cheeks, the inside of the ears, the chest, legs and underside of the tail.

In the “Comforte” Zone

Before the invention of central heating, people whose misfortune it was to live in large, drafty castles used small dogs as foot and lap warmers. These dogs were known as “comforte” dogs, and one of the most comfortable of all was the tiny spaniel that was the ancestor of today’s cavalier King Charles spaniel.

Cavaliers have lost none of their “comforte”-ability over the years. That is no small part of their charm. In fact, they get along well with just about everyone and everything. If introduced early enough, the cavalier can even get along famously with cats, rabbits or the largest dogs. Both male and female cavaliers make equally devoted and trainable companions. “They live not just to be with you but near you”, says cavalier breeder and judge Meredith Johnson Snyder. “They will usually lay on your feet or snuggled up next to you with their bodies pressed against yours.”

Prospective owners should also be pleased to know that cavalier excel at house training. “I’ve had two entire litters trained to go outdoors at nine or 10 weeks of age,” says cavalier breeder Carol Williams. “It’s quite a sight to see seven or eight little tykes trooping out the door like grownups,”

Though cavaliers are happy to be pampered by doting owners, they have not entirely forgotten their hunting-spaniel heritage. “Our Nonnie can hardly be kept indoors if our flock of Muscovy ducks ventures too near the house,” says cavalier owner Sharon Newcomb. “She’s broken through the screen door twice to have a duck for lunch, and I think she would have succeeded if it wasn’t for the fact that the ducks are much bigger than she is.”

Notes of Caution

Although cavalier King Charles spaniel breeders have sought to keep their breed as natural looking as possible, they have not been altogether successful in keeping it free of the genetic difficulties that naturally shadow pedigreed dogs. Chief among those is mitral heart disease, which, according to some estimates, occurs in as many as 50 percent of all cavaliers in North America. Moreover, it affects cavaliers at a rate unknown in any other breed.

The mitral valve, located between the left atrium (upper chamber) and the left ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart, consists of two flaps or leaflets that normally open and shut in concert to allow blood to flow in one direction only – from the atrium to the ventricle. In dogs with mitral valve disease, one or both of the flaps are enlarged, and their supporting muscles are too long. Therefore, instead of closing evenly, one or both flaps collapse or bulge into the atrium, sometimes allowing small amounts of blood to flow backward into the atrium. This disease can lead to a compromised quality of life or, in some cases, death.

Responsible breeders have their dogs checked by a cardiologist each year and use only dogs with sound hearts in their breeding programs. These breeders will provide buyers with a statement certifying that this testing has been done within the last year on a puppy’s parents. Any breeder not willing to provide this documentation or not willing to discuss the problems that exist in the breed should be avoided. Nor should a person put much stock in published breed descriptions that do not mention genetic difficulties in the breed.

The cavalier is also subject to luxating patella, hip dysplasia, cataracts and retinal dysplasia. Luxating patella is a dislocation of the small, flat, moveable bone at the front of the knee. An inherited tendency, luxating patella can be aggravated by excess weight. The condition can be corrected by surgery.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is the wasting away of the vessels in the retina. Initially manifested as night blindness in young dogs, as PRA progresses, its victims become totally blind.

Rick Beauchamp is a freelance writer who resides in Cambria, California. He is the author of numerous books on canine breeding and is a judge licensed with the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club.


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