The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was considered the same breed as the English Toy Spaniel until the 1920’s. The original English Toy Spaniels did not have a pushed-in face of the Pug until they were crossed with that breed at the end of the 1600’s. Since that time, many fanciers regretted the change and wanted to recreate those dogs owned by Charles II himself. The first known attempt to do so was made in the early 20th Century. Judith Blunt-Litton documented this failed attempt in 1911. She described in her book “Toy Dogs and Their Ancestors Including the History And Management of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese and Pomeranians” how breeders attempted to cross the rare Toy Trawler Spaniel, itself a descendant of the English Toy Spaniel, with English Toy Spaniels. Such attempts were ended by World War I, but may have resulted in dogs which were later used to create the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
In 1926, the American Roswell Eldridge became interested in restoring the original variety of English Toy Spaniel. He created a prize at the Cruft’s Dog Show of that year. He planned to award 25 pounds each to the owners of the best male and female, “Blenheim Spaniels of the old type, as shown in pictures of Charles II of England’s time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed, with spot in centre of skull." Most English Toy Spaniel breeders were horrified by this proposition. They had worked for many years to develop the ideal King Charles Spaniel of the modern type. However, the possibility of prize money encouraged a number of exhibitors to show King Charles Spaniels which they thought were very low quality dogs. Roswell Eldridge unfortunately died a month before his contest, but the prize money was awarded anyways. The dogs shown at this exhibition greatly inspired a small number of King Charles Spaniel breeders who now sought to recreate the old King Charles Spaniel type. In 1928, they founded the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club after deciding to add Cavalier to their new variety’s name. It was very important for these early breeders to maintain a connection with the King Charles Spaniel. In 1928, a standard was drawn up based on a dog named Ann’s Son, owned by Mostyn Walker. Later in that same year, the Kennel Club recognized the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a variety of the King Charles Spaniel, formally naming the dog the King Charles Spaniel, Cavalier Type.
Early breeders wanted to exclusively use pure-bred King Charles Spaniels in their recreations. Club guidelines highly discouraged outcrosses. Those King Charles Spaniels with the characteristics most like the desired dogs were selected and carefully bred. Some breed organizations claim that no outcrosses were made. However, this is highly unlikely, and other organizations do admit that at least a few other breeds entered into Cavalier King Charles bloodlines. It is almost certain that at least a few crosses were made with English Cocker Spaniels were made, and possibly other Spaniels as well. It is very possible, and perhaps likely, that the last remaining Toy Trawler Spaniels mixes of that breed were used as well.
World War II proved devastating for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. At the end of the war, only 6 of these dogs are believed to have survived. All Cavalier King Charles Spaniels alive today descend primarily from these 6 dogs, and possibly from other King Charles Spaniels which were added to breeding lines. An incredibly large amount of inbreeding was conducted in the years after the War, which although likely necessary to save this breed has caused significant controversy and health problems. By 1945, numbers had increased sufficiently that the Kennel Club recognized the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a distinct breed from the King Charles Spaniel.
It is believed that a few Cavalier King Charles Spaniels may have been imported to the United States during the 1940’s, but the earliest confirmed dog was a black and tan female named Psyche of Eyeworth. This dog was sent from England by Lady Mary Forwood to her good friend Mrs. Sally Lyons Brown of Kentucky in 1952. Mrs. Lyons Brown became enamored with these dogs and began to import more of these dogs from England. Mrs. Lyons Brown quickly became frustrated that she could not register her dogs with the AKC or contact other Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners in America, of which there were fewer than a dozen. She decided to take matters into her own hands and in 1954 formed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club – USA (CKCSC, USA) with her friends and family in Louisville, Kentucky. Sally eventually handed over the reins of the CKCSC, USA to her sister-in-law Gertrude Polk Brown, who had received her first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from one of Sally Brown’s litters. Trudy Brown became perhaps the most important early Cavalier King Charles fancier in America, and did more than almost anyone else to maintain stud books and promote and protect the breed. Another founding member of the CKCSC, USA was Elizabeth Spalding. She was the most successful early exhibitor of these dogs and took home best-in-show at the first breed specialty in 1962. That same year, the CKCSC, USA applied for and was granted membership with the AKC’s Miscellaneous Class. After several attempts for full recognition were denied, the CKCSC, USA decided to stay independent of the AKC.
In 1973, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Allansmere Acquarius won Best-In-Show at Crufts. The English population became infatuated with this breed, and it began to skyrocket in popularity in the United Kingdom. Commercial breeding began to severely negatively impact the health, temperament, and conformation of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in that country. CKCSC, USA members began to fear that AKC recognition would only cause the same problems in the United States. Periodic votes to apply for full membership with the AKC routinely were turned down by sizable majorities. Miscellaneous class membership was retained for obedience enthusiasts, however. That year 1980 did see the breed gain full recognition with the UKC, which was originally dedicated to working dogs but has also become a champion of rare breeds in recent years. In 1992, the AKC invited the CKCSC, USA to become the parent club for the breed with the AKC, which was rejected by a 9 to 1 vote. That same year did see the breed gain full recognition with the UKC, which was originally dedicated to working dogs but has also become a champion of rare breeds in recent years. A small number of breeders decided to break off from the CKCSC, USA to found the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (ACKCSC). They petitioned the AKC to become that organization’s official breed club, which was granted. In 1995, the AKC officially recognized the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the ACKCSC held its first breed specialty two years later. There is apparently significantly less bitterness over this split as has occurred in similar recent actions, most notably the fractures among Jack Russell Terrier and Parson Russell Terrier breeders. The CKCSC, USA continues to operate independently of the AKC and the ACKCSC, keeping its own stud books and holding its own shows.
Unfortunately, some of the CKCSC, USA’s fears about AKC recognition have already come to pass. Since 1995, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel numbers have increased dramatically in the United States. This breed is gaining fanciers at an incredible rate. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is quickly becoming one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. As of 2010, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was the 23rd most popular breed among AKC registrations, up from 54th in 2000. This is nothing compared to the breed’s rise in England and Australia. In both countries, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel now routinely places in the top 5 most popular breeds. As this breed continues to become fashionable, its population will likely only continue to increase. This popularity has resulted in a number of commercial breeders taking an interest in these dogs. Such breeders care little to nothing for the health, temperament, or conformation of the puppies they breed, only the profit that they can make for them. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s popularity, expensive price tag, and small size make it an ideal dog for use in so-called puppy mills. Such commercial breeders have been creating Cavalier King Charles Spaniels which are considered low quality to most canine organizations and animal rights groups.
In recent years, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been used in the development of so-called, “Designer dogs,” which are actually nothing more than crosses between two different pure-bred dogs. Most of these designer dogs, which are also sometimes inaccurately called hybrid-dogs, are one time crosses. However, it is generally believed that some will eventually breed true and become distinct breeds. The most popular of such Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mixes is the Cavachon, a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Bichon Frise. Other Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mixes include the Beaglier (Beagle/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) and the Cavapoo (Poodle/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).
Although the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was developed exclusively as a companion animal and show dog, it is thought that some may retain some hunting instincts and abilities. However, this breed is likely considerably less well-suited for these purposes than most Spaniel breeds. Though some breed members have fared well in obedience and agility trials, almost all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the United States and abroad are either companion animals or show dogs.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is more similar in appearance to other Spaniel breeds than the English Toy Spaniel. Like all toy breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small dog, but this breed is larger than most toys in general and the English Toy Spaniel in particular. Breed standards call for a dog which is between 12 and 13 inches tall at the shoulders, and between 12 and 18 pounds. Weight is less important than height, to which it should be proportional. This breed is generally square in body type, but is slightly longer than it is tall. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is generally less stocky than the English Toy Spaniel, but is still not a fragile-looking breed. Much of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s body is obscured by hair, but a well-refined dog lies underneath. The tail of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is set almost level with the back and should be carried at that level or slightly above it. The tails of these dogs are in almost constant motion. Some Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have their tails docked to between two-thirds and three quarters of full-length, but this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is quite long and reminiscent of most other Spaniel breeds.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was largely created to return the breed to the head shape of the earliest breed members, before the introduction of Pug blood. The head of this breed is slightly rounded, but not domed. This breed has a muzzle which is approximately 1½ inches in length. This muzzle decreases in width towards the end but should never be snipish or wolf-like. The lips of this breed are well-covered, but do not hang down. There is some seemingly extra skin around the face of this breed, but one would never describe a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as wrinkly. The eyes of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are large, dark, and round, but should never protrude from the face. This breed has one of the friendliest expressions of all dogs. The ears of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are among the breed’s most famous features. These ears are very long, droop down close to the head, and are covered with heavy feathering.
The coat of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is long and silky. Coats should be either straight or slightly wavy, never curly. This breed has very heavy feathering . The hair is shortest on the face, and this breed should never have obscured vision. Much like its ancestor the English Toy Spaniel, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel comes in four distinct coat varieties. Black and tan dogs are solidly black with bright tan markings over the eyes, on the cheeks, inside of the ears, on the chest and legs, and the underside of the tail. Ruby dogs are a rich, solid red. Tri-color dogs are white with black patches and tan markings over the eyes, on the cheeks, inside of the ear, inside of the legs, and on the tail. Blenheim or red and white dogs are white with rich chestnut markings. The ears and eyes should be covered with red, but all Blenheim dogs should have a distinct blaze. The most desirable Blenheim Spaniels have the Blenheim spot, a red marking in the middle of their blaze on the top of the head.
It is difficult to make generalizations about the temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as in recent years this breed has become popular among commercial dog breeders whose sole aim is profit. Dogs which are bred in so-called puppy mills tend to have unstable temperaments, and are often timid, shy, or sometimes aggressive. However, well-bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniels tend to have very predictable temperaments.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is among the happiest and most easy-going of all dog breeds. It has been said that this breed is very easy to like. This breed is one of the most adaptable of all dogs, and is quite comfortable in a wide array of living and social situations. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels love people. What this breed wants most in life is to be around its favorite people. These dogs always want to be right next to their owners, or preferably on top of them. This is the definition of a lap dog, and will always choose to place itself where its owner can pet it. If a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s owner is not immediately available, it is not picky. These dogs will take affection and attention from wherever they can get it. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the antithesis of a one-person dog. This breed tends to form equally strong bonds with everyone in a family, and the more family members to form bonds with the better.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is perhaps the most inviting of all toy breeds with strangers and will warmly welcome anyone who it sees. This dog seems to think that everyone is a potential friend. Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will provide a bark to let their owners know that someone is at the door, but this bark is more of a, “There’s someone here to play with me, please open the door so I can say hello,” than it is a warning. Few breeds are less suitable for guard dog duty than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as this breed is more likely to lick an intruder to death that it is to cause them any real harm. Most toy breeds have a poor reputation when it comes to children. This is definitely not the case when it comes to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This breed is considerably sturdier than most toy breeds, and considerably more tolerant of their sudden movements. Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels form very close bonds with children, and frequently become best friends with them. Although this breed certainly does not enjoy rough housing or hair pulling, it does enjoy ball chasing and other playtime activities and will tolerate petting that could be somewhat gentler. When properly trained, breed members are probably more likely to leave a situation that they are uncomfortable with than they are to growl or bite. If you are looking for a breed that is small in size but also a loving family dog and a social butterfly, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may be a match for you.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are generally very good with other dogs. Most breed members thoroughly enjoy the company of other canines, whom they usually see as potential friends. This breed is not known for dominance, possessiveness, or territorial issues, although some may be jealous if they have to share the attention. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do well around dogs which are both considerably smaller and larger than themselves and easily adapt to a number of canine housemates. It is always best to use caution when introducing two strange dogs to each other. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have retained most of the Spaniel hunting instincts and have a surprisingly high prey drive. These dogs will chase strange animals, especially small ones. It is not unheard of for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to bring dead lizards or other small creatures to their owners. However, this is a breed which can be socialized to accept other household pets, and often becomes friends with them. Some Cavalier King Charles Spaniels may constantly bother cats, not out of spite but out of a desire to play and make friends.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very trainable dogs. These dogs are very eager to please and love to learn anything which will get them attention, praise, and most importantly treats. This is a breed which can learn a number of tricks, and will do so fairly rapidly. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels often do extremely well in agility and obedience competitions. In particular, it is very easy to teach Cavalier King Charles Spaniels manners, which this breed almost seems to learn intuitively. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are rarely stubborn and are almost always willing to give something a try. They do have a training limit, however. This breed tends to be of above-average intelligence, but they are not among the geniuses of the canine world. Most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a training ceiling that is lower than that of a breed such as the Poodle, German Shepherd Dog, or even a Miniature Pincher. It can also sometimes be difficult to teach a Cavalier King Charles how to control their friendliness, and the breed is definitely prone to jumping on people.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a very energetic breed, which needs a great deal more energy than most other toys. This is not a breed that will be satisfied with a couple of potty walks every day. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniels needs a long, thorough walk every day at the very least, and greatly prefers a chance to run around in a secure area. This is not a couch potato, and enjoys being a part of a reasonably active family. That being said, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel certainly does not require hours of vigorous activity, and most families will easily be able to meet its needs. It is important that these dogs get the exercise that they require, because they are likely to develop behavioral problems without it. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels love an occasional adventure, and are generally up for anything. However, this breed is not quite hardy or athletic enough to handle extreme activities. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would love to go hiking on a beginners trail, but only if its owner carries it after awhile. This breed is quite playful, and most love fetch and other canine games. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also thrive when given a task to accomplish and very much enjoy running through an agility course or playing flyball. This is certainly not a breed which will go stir crazy as an urban companion, however.
Both the English Toy Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have identical grooming requirements. It is very possible for owners to properly maintain these breeds, but many choose to have their dogs professionally groomed. These dogs need to have their thoroughly brushed, preferably at least every other day. Tangles and mats must be carefully worked out. Special attention must be paid to the ears and tail, which most frequently mat. These dogs need regular baths and shampoos, and most require the hair around their feet to be trimmed. Owners must regularly clean the ears of these tiny Spaniels. Dirt, food, water, and grime are easily trapped in the ears and can cause irritations and infections if not removed.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is known to suffer from a number of serious health problems. This breed’s health problems are so severe that a number of veterinarians and animal welfare organizations have seriously questioned the long-term viability of the breed. Some groups have even called for breeding of these dogs to cease entirely. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel suffers from what is known as the “Founder Effect.” All Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are descended from six dogs, which means that if any of those six dogs had a health defect, almost all of its descendants would as well. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a considerably shorter life expectancy than most similarly sized breeds, with many not making it to ten years of age. Some of these dogs do live as long as 14, but very few live to the advanced ages common to other toy breeds. Of those dogs that do have longer lives, most suffer from a number of serious ailments. If you acquire a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you will almost certainly have to deal with very high veterinary expenses, as this is generally considered one of the least healthy of all dog breeds.
Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) is almost ubiquitous in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed. Roughly 50% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will develop this disorder by the time they turn 5, and at least 98% of breed members will develop this condition by the time they are 10. This condition is relatively common in all breeds, and roughly 10% of all dogs may develop this disease. However, in most breeds, MVD appears only in very advanced age, and is more symptomatic of general aging than anything else. The primary symptom of MVD is heart murmurs. There are some treatments for this disease but no cure. Although MVD is not necessarily fatal, but it frequently leads to other conditions which are.
Recent health studies conducted in the United Kingdom indicate that as many as 42% of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels die of heart-related illnesses, but since dogs from commercial breeders are likely to be seriously underrepresented in such studies the actual figure may be considerably higher. Veterinarians in both the United States and the United Kingdom have created guidelines for breeders to use to help reduce the occurrence of MVD, but many irresponsible breeders completely ignore them. MVD is made worse by the fact that as many as half of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels suffer from a blood disorder known as idiopathic asymptomatic thrombocytopenia and as many as 30% suffer from macrothrombocytopenia. Dogs with idiopathic asymptomatic thrombocytopenia have an extremely low number of platelets in their blood, and dogs with macrothrombocytopenia have abnormally large platelets.
An incredibly high percentage of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also suffer from Syringomyelia, a disease of the central nervous system. Dogs with Syringomelia have a brain malformation which increases the pressure of the spinal fluid. The spinal fluid forms pockets known as syrinxes. These syrinxes can cause extreme pain and discomfort, as well as incessant and abnormal scratching. Not all dogs with the brain malformation develop syrinxes, and not all dogs with syrinxes display symptoms. However, more than 90% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have the brain malformation and between 30% and 70% of breed members develop syrinxes.
As the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel also suffers from a number of eye and bone related ailments, it is highly advisable to get your pets tested by both the OFA and the CERF, especially if you intend to breed. It is also advisable to have a number of other veterinary tests performed as well.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel suffers from a number of health problems at incredibly high percentages, in addition to suffering from almost all problems common in purebred dogs.
A list of the most common and serious health problems experienced by this breed would have to include: