The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel of today is the direct descendant of the small Toy Spaniels seen in so many of the pictures of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Toy
Spaniels were quite common as pets of the Court ladies in Tudor times but in this country it was under the Stuarts that they were given the Royal title of King Charles
Spaniels. History tells us that King Charles II was seldom seen without two or three or more at his heels.
As time went by, and with the coming of the Dutch Court of William III, Toy Spaniels went out of fashion, being replaced in popularity by the Pug dog with the little black
page in attendance. We do not hear much about Toy Spaniels again until the 18th and 19th centuries. At that time the special strain of red and white Toy Spaniels bred at
Blenheim Palace by the Dukes of Marlborough were well known for their sporting qualities, as well as for their claims as ladies' companions.
In the early days there were no dog shows, and no recognised standard of points, so type and size were very varied. With little transport available, breeding was carried out in a
haphazard fashion. In Queen Victoria's reign breeders started to hold shows and enthusiasts began to breed dogs seriously, and to a desired type. This brought a new fashion;
dogs with a shorter face gradually evolving the flat face of the modern King Charles Spaniels. There were a lot of very able breeders at that stage, and they were successful in
breeding dogs of the highest quality, with flat faces, high dome, and with very long ears set low. This type is still popular and a very lovely breed.
Then Mr Roswell Eldridge, an American and a great lover of Toy Spaniels, came over to England and was unpleasantly surprised to find that there were none of the little nosey
spaniels left. He immediately set about trying to right this by offering prizes at Crufts for three years (it was later extended to five years) - £25 for the best dog and best bitch, for
dogs of the variety seen in King Charles II's time. The following is a quotation taken from Cruft's catalogue: "As shown in the pictures of King Charles II's time, long face, no
stop; flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with the spot in the centre of the skull."
The King Charles breeders did not take these classes very seriously. They had worked hard for years to do away with the long nose, so it was hardly a popular move. Gradually,
as the big prizes came to an end, only a few enthusiasts were left to carry on the breeding experiment. Foremost amongst them was Mrs Hewitt Pitt. At the end of five years little
had been achieved, as the Kennel Club considered that the dogs were not sufficiently numerous or standardised to merit a separate breed registration.
In 1928 a club was founded, and the title "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel" was chosen. At the first meeting, held the second day of Cruft's Dog Show, 1928, the standard of the
breed was drawn up, and it was practically the same as it is today. The live pattern on the table was Ann's Son, the property of Miss Mostyn Walker. Members brought all the
reproductions of pictures of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries that they could muster. It was agreed that as far as possible the dog should be guarded from fashion and there was
to be no trimming.
|music on this page
from Henry Purcell