Thursday, November 8, 2012


Photo by David Shankbone
This breed of small dogs has a really big, long name.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the biggest dogs in the toy group, and their main purpose in life is to be companions and lap dogs.  But they don't always sit around in laps.  They also like to run and chase things and pretend that they are hunting dogs, like bigger kinds of spaniels are.

The Children of Charles I of England
Painting by Sir Anthony van Dyck in 1637
A long time ago, in the 16th century, the rich noble people of England liked having small spaniels as pets.  Some people believed that these dogs could keep fleas away or that they could prevent stomach illnesses.  Ladies liked to take the dogs out in carriages with them in winter to help keep warm.  King Charles I had a spaniel named Rogue, but Charles II was the king who really, really liked the small spaniels.  He liked them so much that he put out an edict saying that spaniels of this type had to be allowed into Parliament and all other public places.

Later on, King William III and Queen Mary II liked pugs better than spaniels, so that's more the kind of dog everybody wanted to have.  And spaniels got bred to pugs and other dogs with flat faces, which made the spaniels have flat faces, too.  Which was the beginning of the King Charles Spaniel breed.

In the middle of the 19th century, an American named Roswell Eldridge started looked for spaniels in England that had the longer noses, like the ones that used to be in the early paintings of noble families and their dogs.  But by then, most of the King Charles Spaniels had very flat faces, domed skulls, and undershot jaws.  So Mr. Eldridge held a contest to find a spaniel of the type he wanted to breed from.  The winner of this contest was a dog named Ann's Son.  This dog was used by the new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club to write the breed standard.  And they used the word "Cavalier" to show that this was a different breed from the King Charles Spaniel.

Ch. Merseyport Carter of Darilance (Imp Aust)
Owner Jan Eatock (Darilance Cavaliers) New Zealand

During World War II, a lot of the Cavalier breeding stock was lost because of the hard conditions everyone was living through.  So after the war, the breed started again from only six dogs.  The Kennel Club recognized the breed in Britain in 1945.  The first Cavaliers were brought to the U.S. about 1956.  In 1994 the parent breed club applied to the AKC for recognition, and they got it in 1997.  Since then, CKCSs have become more and more popular in this country.

Cavies, as people call them for short, come in four colors: blenheim, ruby, black-and-tan, and tri-color.  The blenheim color pattern is a white background with chestnut markings.  It got the name from Blenheim Palace, where the Dukes of Marlborough used to raise King Charles Spaniels with these colors.  The ruby color is a deep chestnut all over.  In the UK, it's all right to have some white markings, but it is considered a fault at an American show.  The Cavalier coat is silky, but not curly, and the tail is not docked.

The temperament of CKCSs is very loving, playful, and eager to please.  They make great family dogs because they get along well with children and with other dogs.  They even like cats.  Cavaliers do not make good watch dogs because they think everybody is a friend.  They love being with their humans, and do not like to be alone for long periods of time.

Sadly, this breed has a lot of genetic health problems, mainly because of what's called the "founder effect."  This means that there was not a very big gene pool among the dogs who got the breed started again after World War II.  A lot of breeds have health issues because of small gene pools, but the Cavies may have the biggest list of serious problems.

Here are some of them:
  Heart failure due to mitral valve disease
  Syringomyelia, which happens when the skull is deformed and there is not enough space for the brain.    
              In its worst form, this can cause severe pain or paralysis.
  Hip dysplasia
  Episodic Falling, which means that the dog's muscles get tense while exercising and cannot relax.
  Luxating patellas
  Eye problems such as cataracts, PRA, entropion, and "dry eye"
  "Glue ear," which is a mucus plug that forms in the dog's middle ear

Mom and I think Cavies are pretty cute, but Mom says she would not want to have one because of the possible health problems.  In my opinion, this is a silly argument because we already have lots of animals here with health problems, so what's one more?  I can't seem to convince Mom about this, though, so maybe I should just go take a nap!


  1. Basenji's are pretty cute too! I have a Cavalier, and it doesn't have any health problems. It helps to have a good breeder, that tests for heart and other health problems.

    1. You are very smart to have got your Cavalier from a responsible breeder who does health testing. I hope your dog has a long, happy life! (And I'm glad you think basenjis are cute, too!)

  2. Dear Piper,

    Love your website...

    We would love to be part of your website and you part of ours. Would like to know if you would be interested.

    All the love,

    From Ginger the Ruby Cavalier King Charles
    Please contact us at our website:

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