ET History

English Toy Spaniel History

Following the spread of civilization from East to West, it is natural that most of the oldest breeds of dog trace their origin to eastern countries; the history of the English Toy Spaniel follows this path. Authorities agree the dog’s ancestry to be in Japan, and possibly China of ancient times, but the exactness remains a matter of doubt. It is certain the Toy Spaniel did not make its first appearance in England during the reign of King Charles I, for whom the black and tan variety took its name. The Toy Spaniel was present more than a hundred years before.

The black and tan, King Charles, appear to have been the King’s favorite and the emphasis in early breeding programs was on this variety. For a long time the varieties were bred with out reference to color, producing several varieties in the same litter. Historians have noted that families of privilege had their favorites and breeding programs closely aligned with development of a single variety and purpose.

Although an adornment to many owners desiring a merry, affectionate dog of distinction the English Toy Spaniel was said to be a fine small hunting spaniel, particularly on woodcock. The English Toy Spaniel achieved breed recognition with The American Kennel Club in 1886.

As you may know, small spaniels were very popular among nobility in England in the 16th century. They were particularly favored by King Charles II , who is said to have seldom been seen without his dogs. During the reign of William III, the longer-nosed spaniels fell out of fashion and shorter nosed, Asian breeds, such as the pug and chin became popular. During this time, the small “King Charles Spaniels” were bred with pugs, chins and perhaps other breeds to create what is currently known as the English Toy Spaniel (or the “King Charles Spaniel” outside of North America).

During the 16th century, a small type of spaniel was popular among the nobility in England. The people of the time believed that these dogs could keep fleas away, and some even believed that they could prevent forms of stomach illnesses. These dogs were sometimes called the “Spaniel Gentle” or “Comforter”, as ladies taking a carriage ride would take a spaniel on their laps to keep them warm during the winter. Charles I kept a spaniel named Rogue while residing at Carisbrooke Castle, however it is Charles II that this breed is closely associated and it was said of him that “His Majesty was seldom seen without his little dogs”. There is a myth that he even issued an edict that no spaniels of this type could be denied entry to any public place.