For several centuries, small breeds of spaniels have been popular in England.
In the XI century, it was even illegal to hunt with dogs that could not go through an 11-inch-hole. As a consequence, the Toy Spaniel was introduced in England.
A couple of centuries later, Toy Spaniels became popular as pet dogs, especially within the Royal Family. King Charles Spaniel is actually named after a Blenheim spaniel who was a pet dog to King Charles I.
King Charles II even issued a decree that prevented King Charles Spaniel from having access to any and all public places, Parliament included. Spaniels can be seen in various paintings of the XVI, XVII and XVIII century, by artists such as Van Dyck (The three older sons of Charles I and Henrietta Maria 1637), Nicolas de Largilliere (La belle de Strasbourg 1703), Nicholas Maes (Portrait of a Lady 1677). These spaniels had a larger and more pointed muzzle and a lankier build than today’s spaniels (thus more similar to current Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ).
Over time, toy spaniel have been replaced in popularity by Asian breeds such as Pugs. King Charles Spaniel has been crossed with these breeds, and the result is the current King Charles Spaniel with a shorter and flatter muzzle.
In the 1920’s, the American Roswell Eldrige offered 25 pounds as a reward for any King Charles Spaniel "of the old type" with a longer muzzle and a spot in the middle of their head, called either “Buddha’s kiss” or "Blenheim Spot," or "Kissing Spot". Afterwards, the breed was developed by selecting a group of spaniels.
The result was a dog looking like a puppy belonging to the future Kings Charles II of England, after who the breed is named ("Cavalier King Charles"). Dogs of this kind already existed in Queen Elizabeth I’s time. They were also widely appreciated at the time of Charles I, in the mid 1600. These dogs resulted from crossing the so-called “Japanese Spaniels” with the “English Spaniels”. Later on, these were bred with the continental “Èpagneul”, that were already present at the court of Henry IV in France. Spaniels named “Cavalier”, aka of the noblemen faithful to Charles II are the ones belonging to this period. These small animals were actually Charles II’s favourites, and he devoted to them most of his free and leisure time.
Current features of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were fixed by the breeder Elridge starting from 1920. Breed standards were established in 1928.
Origins: Great Britain.
Classification F.C.I.: Group 9 – pet dogs.
Breed standards are an accurate descriptions of the morphology, character and aptitudes of a certain breed. In the case of Cavalier Kings, the main features are the following:
- Head: front is almost flat and muzzle has a well defined stop
- Eyes: big and round, they give the Cavalier a sweet and yielding look
- Neck: sturdy and slightly curved
- Ears: long, joined high and with long fur
- Fur: long, fringed, sericeous; slight waving admitted
- Build: short, well-proportioned and graceful. Elegant movements and straight backbone
- Paws: covered by thick fur, must be perfectly aligned
- Tail: soft and full, very fringed. Never borne higher than the backbone
- Ideal height at shoulder: 33 cm (males) 30,5 cm (females)
- Weight: from 5,5 kg to 8,8 kg
- Character: cheerful, kind to people and animals, non-aggressive, non-fearful
- Colours: Blenheim (white and red), Tricolor (white and black with red flaming), Ruby (all red, no white), BlackandTan (black with red flaming, no white)
Genetic illnesses are those illnesses that, being ingrained into the genes of the individual, are inherited from father to son and, in the long run, tend to weaken a bread by undermining its health and its longevità.
Therefore it is very important that people who breed dogs should take care in breeding healthy dogs who are exempt from genetic illnesses.
In the case of Cavalier Kings, the most frequent pathologies could be:
Healthy knee caps won’t be dislocated even by forcibly pressuring it with one’s hand (degree 0). In some cases, the knee cap can be dislocated manually and be returned to its normal location upon release of the pressure, in other cases it may be reduced only temporarily, in other cases the reduction is practically unfeasible (classification I°-II°-III°-IV° degrees). The dog will have to be checked by an orthopaedic vet who will manoeuvre the knee cap manually. For breeding, only 1st degree dislocation of one limb is admitted.
Oculopathies are eye conditions of various kinds, such as hereditary cataract, corneal dystrophy, dry eye syndrome, entropion, progressive retinical degeneration or Reese syndrome. They must be ascertained by a specialist vet.
Heart conditions are heart diseases that might be more or less severe, but still relevant because they can negatively impact the quality of life of a dog. In particular, mitral endocarditis might be considered the most common cardiovascular chronical degenerative disease in Cavaliers; nonetheless, there are several associated pathologies: subvalvular aortic stenosis or pulmonary stenosis, botallo ductus arteriosus, mitral or tricuspid valve dysplasia, ventricular or interatrial septal defect, and tetralogy of Fallot. These can always be ascertained by having the dog checked by a specialist vet by auscultation and echocardiogram.
My Cavalier dogs are checked annually for all three pathologies and are certified as healthy by specialist vets who are endorsed by official FSA certifications (Fondazione Salute Animale).
Diagnosis for hereditary genetic diseases (as related to knee caps classification and the absence of oculopathies), together with filing of their DNA and judgements obtained at Special Breed Exhibitions are the requirements for admission to Selected Breeding.
Within Selected Breeding, a pedigree witnesses not just the dog’s genealogy, but also the selection of breeders and can be granted only to puppies born from checked parents, thus supplying higher guarantees and information for the prospective owner.
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