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The History of the English Toy Spaniel


English Toy Spaniels, as they are called on the North American continent, have been seen in early writings and pictures since the 15th and 16th centuries. This breed is considered to be one of the oldest and rarest of canine breeds.

It is the common belief that this particular breed originated in China or Japan in very ancient times, and perhaps was crossbred with the spaniel, breeding the smallest dogs from the litters over the years.

According to Leighton, the Toy Spaniel had its origin in Japan, was taken to Spain, and then to England. There is a story that specimens of the breed were brought to England from Japan by Captain Saris, a British naval officer, in 1613. They were presents from the Emperor of Japan to King James I. Every Japanese royal present always included dogs.

The Chinese origin of the breed is mentioned also by Lady de Gex, who claims that specimens of these Toy Spaniels were carried from China to Italy during the 15th century.

It is documented that long before the restoration of the Stuarts (1660), the Toy Spaniel was a general favorite with the aristocracy. During the reign of the Stuart kings: James I, Charles I, Charles II, and James II, the Toy Spaniel became a royal favorite. A story is told that James II was fleeing from a sinking ship and wouldn't go back even to rescue some of his sailors. Yet when he realized that some of his spaniels were left behind, he quickly returned. Tragically, Toy Spaniels have not always been fortunate in their connection with royalty.

The early years of Mary, Queen of Scots, during the first third of the 16th century, were spent in France. When she returned to Scotland as Queen, she brought specimens of the breed with her. Her favorite pet was a black & tan Toy Spaniel which was found almost heartbroken, curled up in her royal mistress's gown a short time after her melancholy death at the axe of a headsman in 1587. Toward the close of the 16th century Dr. Caius, celebrated professor and the physician to Queen Elizabeth, referred to this breed as A Spaniell Gentle, otherwise called the Comforter in his work Of English Dogges. His other references stamp the English Toy in much the same manner of the modern breed.

King Charles II gave his name to the breed: King Charles Spaniel. It was in this era that a royal decree, still in effect to this day, was made to allow these spaniels free access to any court or palace in England. All Toy Spaniels up to the time of King Charles II appear to have been of the black and tan variety. These kings' favorites were brought over from France by Henrietta of Orleans, and one is described as black and white.

After William of Orange ascended the throne the popularity of the breed waned and little is written about it until Queen Victoria returned the breed to royal favor. Her pet Dash is well known because of the portrait that shows him in the arms of the Prince of Wales, which was in the mid-19th century. At that period of time the breed had an oriental look, was smaller with a rounder head, a snub hose, and very long ears; bearing little resemblance to its predecessor, and breeders attempted to name the breed Toy Spaniel. King Edward VII objected, so in Britain the breed name remains the King Charles Spaniel.

It is believed that these little dogs accompanied the early settlers to America.

The period from 1900 to World War II found the English Toy Spaniel to be a rare breed that was sought after by the upper class. Many of the best bloodlines were imported from England. World War II marked the end of the breed's popularity when many kennels were closed in fear of an invasion.

The Holland Spaniel, a black and white, was perhaps the oldest of the color varieties. The first known solid color was black. Later, the Toy Tawler introduced the black and tan pattern. Blenheim was originally known as the Italian Spaniel, which was a small hunting dog by the Dukes of Marlborough, from whose family palace they take their name. The development of Blenheim is credited to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Churchill, famous soldier and diplomat, was made an Earl in 1689, and became a Duke in 1702. The solid red, or Ruby variety arrived much later. It can be assumed from pictures of the breed that the solid red, known as Ruby, was developed by crossing the red and white Italian Spaniel with the black and white Holland Spaniel.

The English Toy Spaniel coat has four color varieties, which are known by the following names: The black and tan color is King Charles; the black and white, with red markings called a tricolor, is Prince Charles; the red and white color is Blenheim; and the solid red color is Ruby.

Prior to 1885, only two varieties were recognized by the The Kennel Club in England: Blenheim and King Charles. In 1892 the Prince Charles and Ruby were also recognized by The Kennel Club.

In the United States the English Toy Spaniel has appeared in the American Kennel Club (AKC) records since the club was founded. Prior to 1903, the King Charles, Ruby, Blenheim, and Prince Charles were classified as separate breeds for show purposes, but were permitted to be intermixed for breeding. On January 1, 1904, they were combined as English Toy Spaniels, subdivided by color. Today for show purposes they are divided into two varieties. The solid colors, which are the King Charles and Ruby, and the broken colors, which are the Prince Charles and Blenheim.

The AKC Standard of the breed is attached as an addendum to this document. Generally speaking, however, the breed should be small and compact, weighing from eight to fourteen pounds, with a domed head, wide upturned muzzle, and large prominent eyes. The coat should be long, silky, soft, and wavy; the ears low set, full and long.

The English Toy Spaniel was bred originally to be a companion dog, and the dog remains a true lap dog to this day. This breed gets along very well other pets and will tolerate good children. They have a wonderful temperament overall and make desirable house pets. They are attentive but not demanding, and somewhat shy with strangers. The natural graces of the breed make them easy subjects to present at their best in the show ring. They are very intelligent and can easily be taught house manners as they are sensitive to the slightest scolding. They will cry real tears if too harshly reprimanded. This gentle, loving English Toy Spaniel only wants to be your faithful, loyal companion for life.

Marj Garritson
Chasen English Toy Spaniels

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