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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was first recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1957 [https://www.ckc.ca/CanadianKennelClub/media/Breed-Standards/Group%205/Cavalier-King-Charles-Spaniel.pdf?ext=.pdf] and is one of the most popular breeds in the world [https://highlandcanine.com/the-50-most-popular-dog-breeds-in-the-world-2019/]. The enthusiasm of Cavalier fanciers around the world for this breed has encouraged significant interest in its history and spurred many accounts of its origins and reintroduction. The national breed clubs web sites for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Canada [https://www.cavaliercanada.com/], the United Kingdom [http://www.thecavalierclub.co.uk/]and the United States [https://www.ackcsc.org/] [http://ckcsc.org/] all include sections devoted to the history of the breed and this page also includes a list of just a few of the books that provide more information about the origins of the breed.
Small spaniels resembling today’s Cavaliers are depicted in paintings from the fifteenth century on. Their obvious charms made them a favourite with the children of the aristocracy, but they also performed several valuable functions for all members of these families. Ladies concealed them under their skirts for warmth and everyone appreciated their company and warmth during long, frigid coach rides. It was also believed that they could keep biting pests at bay by providing a more appealing target than their masters and mistresses.
Although these small spaniels were popular with the aristocracy throughout Europe, it was in England that they were particularly favoured. King Charles II’s (reigned 1660-85) devotion to the breed ensured that they bear his name today. He was frequently found in the company of a pack of these small spaniels and, to the dismay of his courtiers, even allowed them to be whelped in his bed chambers. The breed’s popularity waned after his death but enjoyed a resurgence due to a young Queen Victoria’s devotion to her tricolour spaniel named Dash.
Breeders during the nineteenth century altered the general appearance of the little spaniels and created what is now known as the English Toy Spaniel so that by the start of the twentieth century the old Cavalier style spaniel was almost extinct. It took the tenacity and money of an American enthusiast to encourage the revival of the breed. Mr. Roswell Eldridge offered a prize at Crufts from 1926 to 1929 for anyone who could produce a “Blenheim Spaniel of the Old Type, as shown in the pictures of Charles’ time”.
Although speculation persists on just how today’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was created, it seems most likely that it just involved the selective use of long-faced “throwouts” of the short-faced King Charles Spaniel (which is now more commonly called the English Toy Spaniel). In 1928, the UK club was founded and a breed standard developed for the newly named “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel” that was patterned on Miss Mostyn Walker’s young dog: Ann’s Son. The Second World War had a significant impact on the reintroduction of the breed and it was not until the 1950s that the Cavalier made its way to the Americas and to other parts of the world where it quickly became a favourite with enthusiasts. The CFSO’s operating region is fortunate to be home to several breeders that are devoted to the preservation of the breed for future generations of Cavalier Fanciers.
A Very Incomplete Bibliography (please add to our list!)
Evans, John. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: An Owner’s Companion. Crowood Press, 2003.
Field, Bruce. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Robert Hale Ltd, 2001.
Garnett-Smith, Barbara. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in North America. Cascade Publications, 1998.
Workman, Margaret. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The World of Dogs. Tfh Pubns, 1999.