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The cav is an elegant, royal, toy spaniel, slightly longer than tall, with moderate bone. It retains the build of a working spaniel, yet in a smaller version. Its gait is free and elegant, with good reach and drive. Its silky coat is of moderate length, with a slight wave permissible. Long feathering on the feet is a breed characteristic. A hallmark of the breed is its gentle, sweet, melting expression.
The cavalier in many ways fits the bill as an ideal house pet. It is sweet, gentle, playful, willing to please, affectionate and quiet. It is amiable toward other dogs, pets and strangers. Outdoors, its spaniel heritage kicks in, and it loves to explore, sniff and chase.
AKC RANKING 35
FAMILY spaniel, companion
AREA OF ORIGIN England
DATE OF ORIGIN 1600s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION flushing small birds, lapdog
TODAY'S FUNCTION companion
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 12-13 Weight: 13-18
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 12-13 Weight: 13-18
OTHER NAME none
Energy level Medium energy
Exercise needs Medium
Playfullness Very playful
Affection level Very affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Shy
Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Very friendly
Ease of training Hard to train
Watchdog ability Medium
Protection ability Not very protective
Grooming needs Moderate maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Low tolerance
The cavalier needs a fair amount of exercise every day, either in the form of a moderate walk on leash or a romp in a safe area. This is not a breed that should live outdoors. Its long coat needs brushing every other day. Major concerns: MVI, CHD
Minor concerns: patellar luxation, entropion
Occasionally seen: retinal dysplasia
Suggested tests: cardiac, hip, knee, eye
Life span: 9 14 years
Note: Cavaliers should not be bred until the age of 5 years, and only after being checked
at that age for MVD.
As its name implies, the cavalier King Charles spaniel is derived from spaniel roots. The European toy dogs were probably the result of breeding small spaniels to Oriental toy breeds such as the Japanese Chin and perhaps the Tibetan spaniel. These Tudor lap dogs, known as "comforter spaniels," served as lap and foot warmers, and even surrogate hot-water bottles. In addition, they served the vital function of attracting fleas from their owners' bodies! The toy spaniels became especially popular because they appealed to all members of the family. In the 1700s, King Charles II was so enamored with his toy spaniels that he was accused of ignoring matters of state in favor of his dogs. The dogs were so closely associated with him that they became known as King Charles spaniels. After his death, the Duke of Marlborough took over as the major advocate of the breed; the red and white "Blenheim" color, which was his favorite, is named after his estate. The King Charles spaniel continued to grace the homes of the wealthy for generations, but with time a shorter-nosed dog was preferred. By the early 1900s, the few dogs that resembled the early members of the breed were considered to be inferior. A twist of fate occurred when a wealthy American, Roswell Eldridge, came to England and offered outlandish prize money for the best "pointed-nosed" spaniels those most resembling the old type. Breeders bred their old-type dogs together in an effort to gain the prize, and in so doing, many came to appreciate the old type. Ironically, these dogs, named cavalier King Charles spaniels in honor of the "cavalier king," eventually outstripped their short-nosed counterparts in popularity, becoming one of the most popular breeds in England. They were slower to catch on in America, and many cavalier owners fought AKC recognition in an effort to control the problems that so often accompany popularity. In 1996, the AKC recognized the cavalier; it is too early to tell whether its popularity will soar as a result.