THE HISTORY OF THE KING CHARLES SPANIEL
The King Charles Spaniel is an old breed and even after many years of research in to the origin of the breed it seems that it will never be known as to how they came about.
Written references have made as early as the 1500’s where they were known as “Comforters or Gentle Spaniels”. They were kept by the court ladies of Queen Elizabeth, as useful foot warmers where they use to sit under the skirts of their owner’s feet or lying against their bodies. It appears that the main colours were the red and white spaniel (rumored to have come from Italy), the black and white Holland Spaniel, and an all-black curly coated King Charles. The paintings made of these spaniels were very different to the modern type we see now. At the time they resembled a drop-eared Papillion with the muzzle being pointed, the ears and legs well feathered and the tail long being carried gaily. Other toy breeds around were also known at the time and it is possible there must have been some interbreeding which would change and add different points to each breed.
I am sure that everyone knows of the story that after the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, in 1587, a tiny spaniel was found in the folds of her blood-soaked clothing.
While the two Charles’s were on the throne between 1625 and 1685 the King Charles Spaniel became more popular with Charles I keeping some of the spaniels at his court. His son Charles II who gave his name to the breed had, according to Mr. Pepys diaries, a palace full of them, and the king was often seen walking in St, James park with the spaniels following close behind.
In the following years it is thought that some were brought over from France and the black and white spaniel introduced from Holland. It is rumored that they were crossed with the springer spaniel which at that time was a smaller dog.
The tricolour almost certainly appeared with the crossing of the three colours; the Red and White (Italian Spaniel) the black and white (Holland Spaniel), and the black curly coated spaniel. The Ruby was first mentioned in 1828. The Tricolour of today came from crossing black and tans back to a Blenheim. The Ruby must have also come about this way, firstly as a mismarked ruby then bred back to a black and tan and so eventually breeding true as the tricolour.
The short-nosed type of today was first mentioned in the mid 1800’s with silky ears and coats being a truly graceful animal. It is thought that the flat face came from a bulldog crossing but some however contend this was due to a Pug or Japanese Chin crossing.
The King Charles Spaniel were a very popular toy dog when the second world war took its toll and many were put down for fear of air raids, fortunately one or two breeders kept going and it’s from those lines that today’s dog has descended.