Cavalier History

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a very old breed, yet its modern iteration is also a comparatively new breed. The breed as we know it today is less than 100 years old.

A picture painted in 1440 by Antonio Pisano, 'The Vision of St. Eustace,' depicts a group of animals including a pair of small spaniels which William Secord notes are " doubt ancestors of our present day King Charles Spaniels." These small Spaniels with their flat heads, high set ears, almond shaped eyes and rather pointed noses are also to be seen in paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and others. Often referred to as the 'Comforter Spaniel,' they were very much in favor with the aristocracy during Tudor times when the ladies of the court found them very useful not only as companions and confidants, but also as hot-water bottles and flea catchers!

By the mid 1800's, the breed had been altered to a dog with a domed skull, long low-set ears, a very short muzzle with a laid-back nose and undershot jaw and large round eyes. A number of Landseer paintings document the changes and by 1900, the dog bearing the name 'King Charles' had been transformed to what we know as the English Toy Spaniel.

In the mid-1920's, Roswell Eldridge, an American, went to England to try to find the old-type "nosey" spaniels as seen in the 1600s and 1700s. He was very disappointed that he did not find the type of dog he had seen depicted in the old masterworks. For five years he offered a prize of 25 pounds at Crufts to the persons who presented the dog and bitch "as shown in the picture of King Charles II's time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with the spot in the center of the skull." In 1927, a dog named Ann's Son was the winner of the 25 pound prize and in 1928, a standard was drawn up using Ann's Son as the model.

The revival of the breed did not go so far as to return to the small eyes and snippy muzzle, opting instead for a softer, gentler look. Purists would have us believe that long nosed throwbacks from English Toy Spaniels were the only dogs used in the recreation of the breed. Breed lore suggests, however, that various Cocker breeds, Papillons and perhaps even the Welsh Springer were used to recapture the desired traits.

World War II interrupted the development of the breed when travel to the very few stud dogs available was nearly impossible. This led to some very intense inbreeding by some breeders which we might frown on today, but which saved this emerging breed at that time.

The first Cavaliers were sent to America in 1952, and in 1956 a club was formed. Soon afterwards they sought AKC recognition, but because of the small numbers they were relegated to the Miscellaneous class. In 1993, The American Cavalier King Charles spaniel Club was formed, and on January 1, 1996 the breed became the 140th AKC recognized breed. 

(Source: our national club website:


AKC Breed Standard

Official AKC Standard For The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an active, graceful, well-balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action; fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate. It is this typical gay temperament, combined with true elegance and royal appearance which are of paramount importance in the breed. Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alteration is essential to breed type.


Size - Height 12 to 13 inches at the withers; weight proportionate to height, between 13 and 18 lbs. A small, well balanced dog within these weights is desirable, but these are ideal heights and weights and slight variations are permissible.

Proportion - The body approaches squareness, yet if measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The height from the withers to the elbow is approximately equal to the height from the elbow to the ground.

Substance - Bone moderate in proportion to size. Weedy and coarse specimens are to be equally penalized.


Proportionate to size of dog, appearing neither too large nor too small for the body.

Expression - The sweet, gentle, melting expression is an important breed characteristic.

Eyes - Large, round, but not prominent and set well apart; color a warm, very dark brown; giving a lustrous, limpid look. Rims dark. There should be cushioning under the eyes which contributes to the soft expression. Faults - small, almond-shaped, prominent, or light eyes; white surrounding ring.

Ears - Set high, but not close, on top of the head. Leather long with plenty of feathering and wide enough so that when the dog is alert, the ears fan slightly forward to frame the face.

Skull - Slightly rounded, but without dome or peak; it should appear flat because of the high placement of the ears. Stop is moderate, neither filled nor deep.

Muzzle - Full muzzle slightly tapered. Length from base of stop to tip of nose about 1 1/2 inches. Face well filled below eyes. Any tendency towards snipiness undesirable. Nose pigment uniformly black without flesh marks and nostrils well developed. Lips well developed but not pendulous giving a clean finish. Faults - Sharp or pointed muzzles.

Bite - A perfect, regular and complete scissors bite is preferred, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square into the jaws. Faults - undershot bite, weak or crooked teeth, crooked jaws.


Neck - Fairly long, without throatiness, well enough muscled to form a slight arch at the crest. Set smoothly into nicely sloping shoulders to give an elegant look.

Topline - Level both when moving and standing.

Body - Short-coupled with ribs well sprung but not barrelled. Chest moderately deep, extending to elbows allowing ample heart room. Slightly less body at the flank than at the last rib, but with no tucked-up appearance.

Tail - Well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back, and in constant characteristic motion when the dog is in action. Docking is optional. If docked, no more than one third to be removed.


Shoulders well laid back. Forelegs straight and well under the dog with elbows close to the sides. Pasterns strong and feet compact with well-cushioned pads. Dewclaws may be removed.


The hindquarters construction should come down from a good broad pelvis, moderately muscled; stifles well turned and hocks well let down. The hindlegs when viewed from the rear should parallel each other from hock to heel. Faults - cow or sickle hocks.


Of moderate length, silky, free from curl. Slight wave permissible. Feathering on ears, chest, legs and tail should be long, and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed. No trimming of the dog is permitted. Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition. Hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet may be trimmed.


Blenheim - Rich chestnut markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be chestnut and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes and ears, in the center of which may be the lozenge or "Blenheim spot". The lozenge is a unique and desirable, though not essential, characteristic of the Blenheim.

Tricolor - Jet black markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be black and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes. Rich tan markings over the eyes, on cheeks, inside ears and on underside of tail.

Ruby - Whole-colored rich red.

Black and Tan - Jet black with rich, bright tan markings over eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest, legs and underside of tail.

Faults - Heavy ticking on Blenheims or Tricolors, white marks on Rubies or Black and Tans.


Free moving and elegant in action, with good reach in front and sound, driving rear action. When viewed from the side, the movement exhibits a good length of stride, and viewed from front and rear it is straight and true, resulting from straight-boned fronts and properly made and muscled hindquarters.


Gay, friendly, non-aggressive with no tendency towards nervousness or shyness. Bad temper, shyness and meanness are not to be tolerated and are to be so severely penalized as to effectively remove the specimen from competition.

Approved Date: January 10, 1995
Effective Date: April 30, 1995