Cavalier King Charles and King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Blenheim)Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Blenheim)

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the most popular toy breeds. But there are two distinctly different breeds of King Charles Spaniels developed from the ancient Toy Spaniel. Firstly we have the King Charles Spaniel as depicted in paintings of the Prince Charles the Second and is now popularly known as the 'Charlie'. Secondly we have the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which purely is a product of last century. The comparison between these two breeds makes the study of them particularly interesting.

History of the King Charles Spaniel

Dog Gauge 1014ADDog Gauge 1014AD

The History of Companion Dogs reveals that Toy Spaniels of England they were first created for benefit of the English aristocracy. When the Canons of Canute established Forest Laws in 1014 AD, they reserved large areas of country for hunting for 'the King's princely delight and pleasure'. The 'middle class' was only allowed to keep a dog which was small enough to creep through a 7 inch gauge like the one pictured, because then the Spaniel was considered too small to hunt as described in the History of Spaniels[1]. So the English created Toy Spaniels. The History of Toy Spaniels relates how, in 1536 AD Dr Johannes Caius wrote a Description of the Toy Spaniel that developed as a result of this forced miniaturisation of the English Spaniel.

Stamp of Late 1700's Painting Stamp of Late 1700's Painting

In 1587 Bulwer Lytton describing the "Execution of Queen Mary of Scots 1587"[3a] wrote:

"With eyes that horror could not scare,
It watched the senseless clay[ *3a] 
Crouch'd on the breast of Death; and there
Moan'd it's fond life away"

'Rose' born 1847 (Taxidermy)'Rose' born 1847 (Taxidermy)

Originally called the English Toy Spaniel, the King Charles Spaniel was a great favourite of King Charles the Second in the 1600's. By 1704, a 'Blenheim Spaniel' famously accompanied the Duke of Malborough at the 'Battle of Blenheim' on the Danube in Southern Germany[5]. Different from the modern King Charles Spaniel, the Blenheim Spaniel had a longer muzzle, a flatter head, were mostly coloured red and white, and were mentioned in the First English Stud Book. The King Charles Spaniels were listed separately and included the other colours listed at the bottom of this page.

Blenheims and Cockers 1848Blenheims and Cockers 1848

But in England by 1848, exaggerations had crept into the breed when it was written:

"The King Charles 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 responds. Still there is the long ear, and the silky coat, and the beautiful colour of the hair, and for these dealers do not scruple to ask twenty, thirty or even fifty guineas."[2] 

History of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

King Charles Spaniels (Ruby) both born 1903 (Taxidermy)King Charles Spaniels (Ruby) both born 1903 (Taxidermy)

A modern breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was developed from the popular King Charles Spaniel described above. In 1926, an American Mr. Roswell Eldridge donated a sum of money for some classes created at the famous dog show Crufts in London for Toy Spaniels 'of the old-fashioned type with long faces and flat skulls'. So today's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a modern product of last century created especially because of concerns about the shortness of nose and the roundness of skull still present in today's King Charles Spaniel. At first this restoration was slow, taking 30 years until 1945 to stabilize the new breed sufficiently for the Kennel Club (UK) to grant it separate registration.

History of the King Charles and Cavalier King Charles in Australia

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (Blenheim)Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (Blenheim)

In Australia 13 (thirteen) King Charles Spaniels including 2 'Blenheim Spaniels' were shown in at the first dog show held in Melbourne in 1864[4] , making them one of the earliest Toy breeds to be imported into this country. Listings in Tyzack's Annual also show several more people imported both Blenheim Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels right through to 1912[3] more than a decade before the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was first created in England.

Cavalier King Charles SpanielCavalier King Charles Spaniel

But it was not until December 1960 that the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel arrived in Australia. She was Soyland Begonia who was our first Australian Champion with her progeny founding the breed in other States. Many gorgeous UK imports followed. Then, beginning with NSW in 1968 with Victoria following in 1972, Cavalier Speciality Clubs began to spring up here. By 1995 entries were approaching 300 individual dogs[7]. So the charm of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel captured the imagination of Australians, also making it one of our most popular toy breeds both as pets and to participate in action sports like Agility Competitions.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and King Charles Spaniel Comparison

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ("Cavalier") King Charles Spaniel ("Charlie")
General Appearance An active, graceful sporting dog weighing 5.4 - 8.2 kg (12 - 18 pounds) Compact and cobby dog weighing 3.6 - 6.3 kg (8 - 14 pounds)
Cavalier (Ruby)Cavalier (Ruby) King Charles (Black & Tan)King Charles (Black & Tan)
Skull Almost flat between the ears with shallow stop Well domed skull which is moderately large in comparison to the size of the dog and full over the eyes, with a well-defined stop
Foreface Tapered muzzle well filled below the eyes around 3.8 cms (one and a half inches long) and lips well developed but not pendulous Short, square, wide and deep muzzle which is very short with the lower jaw well turned up but the lips meeting
Mouth Normal scissors bite Slightly undershot
Eyes Large and round but not prominent Relatively large and set wide apart with eyelids square to face line
Ears Set high, long with wide large leathers covered with profuse feathering Set as low as possible coming off the side of the head level with the eyes with large wide leathers covered with profuse feathering.
Cavalier (Blenheim)Cavalier (Blenheim) King Charles (Ruby)King Charles (Ruby)
Neck Moderate length Medium length to carry head proudly
Forequarters Moderate chest and moderate bone in forelegs and well cushioned and feathered feet Chest wide and deep, well laid shoulders, forelegs short and straight with well cushioned and well feathered cat-like feet
Body Short coupled with good spring of rib and level back. Short and back level
Hindquarters Well turned stifles allowing for drive from behind Sufficient muscle and well turned stifles to give driving movement
Coat Long and silky and free from curl with plenty of feathering but free from trimming Long and silky with profuse feathering and free from curl

Common Colours

Colours of the King Charles SpanielsColours of the King Charles Spaniels

Both the King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier retain the original 4 distinct colour patterns as pictured:

  1. Black and tan
  2. Ruby - whole coloured rich red
  3. Tri-coloured - white, black and tan
  4. Blenheim - a colour more popular today in the Cavalier than the Charlie, historically the original colour and the most common. It consists of rich chestnut markings  in patches on pearly white background. These markings should be evenly divided on head, leaving room between the ears for a spot, a unique characteristic of the breed. This spot of red in the middle of the forehead is so prized it is commonly known as 'the kiss of Buddha'.

References and Further Reading

Jane Harvey - DVD "Spaniels (Toy)" (Rangeaire Vision), Victoria Australia 2010

[1] Robert Leighton "The Book of the Dog" published circa 1905 Subscriber's Edition, The Waverley Book Co. Ltd. Pages 554 - 555 (written by Walter S. Glynn in a Chapter called 'The Dog and the Law')

[2] William Youatt "The Dog" published 1848 London Charles Knight Fleet Street (under the Superintendence of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge.) Varieties of the Dog - Second Division Chapter 1 Page 45

[3] T.W.Tyzack and C.S. Turner "Tyzack's Annual" published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club, printed by Bellmaine Bros., Printers 66 - 70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Australia P. 101

[3a] T.W.Tyzack and C.S. Turner "Tyzack's Annual" published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club, printed by Bellmaine Bros., Printers 66 - 70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Australia,  Bulwer Lytton "Execution of Queen Mary of Scots 1587" P.48  Note[*3a] the word 'clay' is an Old English term which means to become very strongly involved or attached to (someone)

[4] "Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs", Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West

[5] David Hancock, "The Cavalier of the Spaniel Breeds" Published in 'The Kennel Gazette' publication of the Kennel Club UK, September 1987, Page 31

[6] Kim Dennis-Bryan and Juliet Clutton-Brock - "Dogs of the Last Hundred Years at the British Museum" Published by British Museum (Natural History), London (1988) ISBN 0-565-01053-0 Blenheim King Charles Page 91 and Ruby King Charles Spaniels Page 93

[7] Bill Egan - "The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia" published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 Page 87


top