Amerlie Cavaliers

Breeders of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Geelong, Victoria, Australia

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Breed History

While the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a relatively new breed, recreated less than a century ago, his prototype is the toy spaniel that has existed for centuries as a companion to royalty and nobility. Cavaliers are descended from the same toy spaniels depicted in many 16th, 17th, and 18th century paintings by famous artists such as Van Dyck and Gainsborough. The spaniels in those paintings had flat heads, high-set ears, and longish noses.

These little spaniels were great favourites of royal and noble families in England. Mary, Queen of Scots had a toy spaniel who accompanied her as she walked to her beheading, and her grandson, Charles I, and great-grandson, Charles II--who gave their name to the breed--loved the little dogs as well. It's said that King Charles II, who reigned from 1660 to 1685, never went anywhere without at least two or three of these little spaniels.

After Charles II's death, the King Charles Spaniels' popularity waned, and Pugs and other short-faced breeds became the new royal favourites. The King Charles Spaniels were bred with these dogs and eventually developed many of their features, such as the shorter nose and the domed head.
There was one stronghold of the King Charles Spaniels that were of the type that King Charles himself had so loved--and that was at Blenheim Palace, the country estate of the Dukes of Marlborough. Here, a strain of red and white Toy Spaniels continued to be bred, which is why Cavalier King Charles Spaniels with this coloration are called Blenheim today. Since there was no standard for the breed and no dog shows yet, the type and size of the toy spaniels bred by the Dukes of Marlborough varied.

In the mid-19th century, however, English breeders started holding dog shows and trying to refine different dog breeds. By that time, the toy spaniel was accepted as having a flat face, undershot jaw, domed skull and large, round, front-facing eyes. The King Charles Spaniels depicted in paintings from earlier centuries were almost extinct.

In 1926, an American dog enthusiast named Roswell Elderidge challenged the British breeders to produce a long nosed King Charles Spaniel at the Cruft’s Dog Show, a very prestigious event. He was looking for a male and female King Charles Spaniel that resembled the dogs depicted in the Van Dyck and Gainsborough paintings of historical royalty and their beloved dogs. In order to catch the attention of the English breeders, he offered a cash price of 25 British pounds, which would be equivalent to about one thousand dollars US today!

It is believed that the actual breeds crossed to produce the closest replica of the historic spaniels were a King Charles Spaniel and a Cocker Spaniel. The longer nose and hair as well as the more sturdy body are thought to be a direct influence of the Cocker spaniel line. However, some historians of the breed disagree that any outside line was used, and believe that the breed was developed by throwbacks to the original style of spaniels favoured by King Charles. This group believes that a small number of breeders including Blenheim Palace continued to breed the longer nosed dogs, and were able to easily keep the appearance since other kennels were discarding the longer nosed males and females.

In 1928, the long nosed King Charles spaniel breeders met at Crufts and banded together to form the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. The word “Cavalier” was added to the King Charles name to distinguish the new breed type from the original. In essence the term “cavalier” meant a supporter of King Charles, especially in parliament, and so the prefix to the name seemed fitting as these dogs were noted in all the paintings of the royal family, especially those that included King Charles l and his son, King Charles ll. One thing that all club members agreed upon from the start was that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels would be kept as natural as possible and trimming and shaping of the dog for the show ring would be discouraged.

The Kennel Club of England did not recognize the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a separate breed until 1945. At that time they were given their own registry, and officially distinguished from the King Charles Spaniel.

In the United States, the American Kennel Club entered the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into the Miscellaneous Class in 1961. In 1995 they were officially entered into the Toy Group in the AKC registry.

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Amerlie Cavaliers

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