Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club
of South Australia Inc.
The History of the Breed
Pictured above is detail from a painting of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and his family including
The Cavaliler King Charles Spaniels that we know and love today are direct descendants of the toy spaniels that were found in Italy, France and Holland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The origin of these toy spaniels is shrouded in mystery and evidence of their existance is seen over many centuries and in countries far removed from one another.
Lady Wentworth, in her book “Toy Dogs and their Ancestors” (published in 1911) concludes, after much research, that the Red and White Toy Spaniel is the oldest breed and was brought from China to Italy early in the 13th. Century, at a time when brisk trade was carried on between the two countries.
There is evidence of a small type of spaniel that was used to round up small game birds into nets in earlier centuries and the little spaniels were also appreciated by gentlemen in the 1800's for their working ability. The 'Sportsman's Review', published in 1820 describes them as "very delicate, small or carpet spaniels which have exquisite noses and will hunt truly and pleasantly".
Whatever their origins the small spaniels were popularas 'lap dogs' and 'comforters' with the royal and noble families of Europe for generations, and when brought to England they quickly became favourites in the courts of King Charles I and amongst royal and aristrocratic families.
King Charles I was very attached to his toy spaniels and it is said that his little dog even walked with him when he was executed at Whitehall. It was due to his love for the breed that the name, King Charles Spaniel became widely used by the public to describe the small spaniels. King Charles II shared his predecessor's passion for the small spaniels and it was he who apparently decreed that the little dogs should have the freedom to enter every public building in the land.
Toy spaniels have appeared in the works of many artists and some of the earliest examples can be seen in the frescoes in Italian Churches which date back as far as the 13th. Century. Many famous artists included toy spaniels in their paintings of royal and aristocratic families and oil paintings and tapestries like the above work of art can be found, even today, in many of the castles and ancestral homes in Great Britain and Europe.
In later years, Queen Victoria had a small tricolour spaniel called "Dash", but during her reign, shorter nosed dogs became fashionable and the little spaniels were bred with shorter and shorter faces until they became like the present day King Charles Spaniels with flat faces and domed heads. Meanwhile, the original, longer nosed spaniels with flat topped skulls almost disappeared.
FORMATION OF THE BREED
Interest in the earlier type of King Charles Spaniel was revived in 1926 by an American gentleman, Mr. Roswell Eldridge, who came to England hoping to see toy spaniels of the type depicted in many old paintings. He was disappointed to find very few of the original type toy spaniels, so offered a prize of twenty five guineas each (almost a small fortune in those days) for the dog and bitch exhibited at Crufts Dog Show which most resembled the little spaniels in the paintings.
The prizes were offered at Crufts for three years and in response a group of dedicated breeders set about reviving the breed which we now know as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. The word "Cavalier" was added to "King Charles Spaniel" in 1928 to differentiate between the two distinct types and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed. However, Cavaliers were not granted seperate registration with the British Kennel Club until 1945.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE BREED
The first winners of the twenty five guinea prizes at Crufts were a Blenheim dog called Anne's Son and a bitch by the name of Ashtonmore Flora. When the new Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed the committee used Anne's Son as their model when they devised the breed standard (a description of what the breed should look like).
Progress in re-establishing the breed was slow but numbers gradually improved and in 1946 the English Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club held its first Championship Show with 28 entries. In 1928 the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel became recognised as a breed in its own right in England and in that same year a group of breeders formed the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club in the United Kingdom.
Daywell Roger, a Blenheim dog, was the first champion of the breed.
MORE RECENT HISTORY
Slowly breed numbers and popularity of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel increased, and more people became involved in breeding and showing these delightful little dogs. In 1963 a Blenheim bitch, Ch Amelia Of Laguna, made history by winning Best of all the Toy breeds at the Crufts Dog Show. Just 10 years later history was made again when a Blenheim dog, Ch Alansmere Aquarius, won Best (of all breeds) In Show at Crufts, and in doing so, became the first dog of any Toy breed to win this prestigious award in over 50 years.
Nowadays the Cavalier is one of the most popular breeds in England, Australia, USA and other countries, both as a family pet and in the show ring. They also compete successfully in Obedience, Agility, Jumping, Flyball and other activities as well as being ideal 'Pets As Therapy' dogs.
CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIELS IN AUSTRALIA
The history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Australia began in December 1960 when "Soyland Begonia", a blenheim bitch in whelp, was imported from New Zealand to Melbourne by Mrs Ester (Oakland Kennels). She later became the first Australian Champion of the breed. Shortly after her arrival another bitch, Scarlett, arrived from the UK with her owners, Mr & Mrs Philpott (Lancresse). The first dog to come to Australia was Justice Of Eyeworth. He was imported from England to Sydney by Mr & Mrs Dixon (Dai Jon).
Further dogs were imported from New Zealand and England over the ensuing years and Cavalier numbers quickly built up as more and more people became enamoured with these delightful, attractive little dogs.
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed in New South Wales in 1968 and during 1971 another club was started in Victoria.
In 1971 Ch Gaysprite The Regent became the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to win a Best In Show award in Australia. The first Best In Show by a Cavalier at a Royal Show went to Ch Amantra Bohemian Rhapsody (Imp UK) at the Canberra Royal Show in 1981.
Early in 1990 Cavalier breeders in South Australia met to form the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of SA Inc. and a club was also started in Canberra in 1991. More recently a Queensland club was started in 2002 and a Tasmanian Club in 2009.
LEGENDS AND STORIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE BREED
Henry VIII was not know as a dog lover and decreed, during his reign, that no dogs should be kept at court except for “some small spanyells for the ladies”. In 1554 a portrait was painted of his daughter, Queen Mary I and her husband, Philip of Spain, with a pair of toy spaniels at their feet.
In 1570 Dr, Johannes Caius, chief physician to Queen Elizabeth I, wrote a Latin treatise which divided the known breeds of dogs in England into five groups. The third group was for “Spaniell gentle or comforter - a delicate, neat and pretty kind of dog”. He also described them as “chamber companions” and “pleasant play fellows” and wrote that the small spaniels could relieve pain and discomfort when held against the stomach or chest of a diseased or weak person. Be that as it may, the small spaniels were certainly often carried for warmth and companionship.
There is also the well known story of a small black and white spaniel which was found under the petticoats of Mary, Queen of Scots, after her execution at Fotheringay Castle in 1587. The record of the story tells that the spaniel was covered in blood and was taken away and washed.
Charles II grew up with toy spaniels and is pictured as a child with his brother and sister and two toy spaniels in a painting by Van Dyke. He also brought some spaniels back to England with him on his return from exile in 1660. The small spaniels became his special favourites, so much so that he was rarely seen without them - a fact not always appreciated by those in court! According to diarist, John Evelyn, the King “took great delight in having a number of little spaniels follow him and lie in his bed chamber where he suffered the bitches to puppy, which rendered it very offensive and indeed, the whole court stinking”.
Three eldest chidren of King Charles I -
1800's - Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria had a favourite Toy Spaniel called Dash, and artist, Sir Edwin Landseer’s first royal commission was a delightful head study of Dash, painted in 1836. He also painted Queen Victoria’s second toy spaniel, a black and tan called Tilco.
Dash was Victoria's faithful companion throughout her secluded girlhood and early reign and was regularly mentioned in her personal diary. It is said that following her coronation in 1837 she hurried back to her apartments to give Dash his evening bath.
Dash also played a part in bringing Victoria and Albert together. On their first meeting Victoria was taken with the tall, serious, blue eyed Albert, but it was his behaviour toward Dash which sealed her aproval of him. She recorded in her diary that "Albert played with and fussed over Dash".
Dash is buried in the grounds of Windsor Castle and his epitaph reads: "His attachment was without selfishness; His playfulness without malice; His fidelity without deceit. Reader, if you would live beloved and die regretted, profit by the example of Dash."
1800's - The Marlboroughs
In the 1800's the Duke and Dutchess of Marlborough were great lovers of the small spaniels and the Duke, John Churchill, is credited with being the first in Britain to breed small spaniels with the red and white colouring. He is said to have favoured them for hunting because they were able to keep up with a trotting horse. Blenheim Palace was the ancestral home of the Marlboroughs; thus the red and white (or chestnut and white) spaniels became known as 'Blenheim Spaniels' and the name 'Blenheim', has persisted until this day as the name for the red and white colour.
A well known story about Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, is said to explain the origin of the lozenge or spot which appears on the head of some Blenheim Cavaliers. It is said that Sarah continually pressed the head of a pregnant bitch to calm her nerves, as the bitch sat faithfully beside her, comforting her while she waited anxiously for news of the Duke who was fighting in the Battle of Blenheim. When the bitch gave birth, each of the puppies carried a “thumbprint” (said to be a sign of faithfulness) on their heads!
King Charles Spaniel
Copyright 2009 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club of SA Inc.