The Storied Past of a Royal Toy Breed

Among the largest toy dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel enjoys significant popularity in the U.S., particularly among families. This lap dog is known for its affectionate and outgoing nature.

Here are five intriguing facts about the Cavalier King Charles spaniel that you might not be aware of:

1.  Breed Confusion

Often, people mistake the U.S.’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel and England’s King Charles spaniel as the same breed. However, they are distinct breeds, despite sharing a common history until their paths split several years ago. The American Kennel Club currently ranks the Cavalier King Charles spaniel as the 19th most popular dog in the United States.

2. From Royal Pet to Outcast

The original King Charles spaniel is believed to have emerged in the early 17th century. Named after King Charles II, also known as the “Cavalier king”, this breed was a favorite among the royals but nearly disappeared when King William III and Queen Mary I took the throne of the United Kingdom. Queen Mary had a preference for pugs, leading to the King Charles spaniel falling out of favor.

3. Reshaping and Rebranding

In an effort to save the King Charles spaniel from extinction, it was crossbred with the pug, the queen’s preferred breed. This led to the breed developing a flatter nose, an upturned face, a rounded head, and bulging eyes. Nearly 230 years later, a group of American breeders decided to restore the original 17th-century look of the King Charles spaniel, characterized by a longer nose, flat head, and almond-shaped eyes. Post World War II, the American breeders were awarded a separate registration status for their revitalized breed, known as the Cavalier King Charles spaniel or simply “Cavaliers.”

The modern-day Cavaliers can trace their lineage back to six surviving dogs: Ann’s Son, his litter brother Wizbang Timothy, Carlo of Ttiweh, Duce of Braemore, Kobba of Kuranda and Aristide of Ttiweh.

4. Defining “Average”

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel ranks 44th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, categorized as having “average” intelligence in working or obedience (for reference, 131 breeds were tested and ranked). However, Cavaliers are adept at obedience and agility and are excellent therapy dogs due to their gentle and friendly nature. Despite their intelligence, Cavaliers lack street-smarts due to their instinct to chase moving objects, including cars. Their friendly disposition towards strangers also makes them less effective as guard dogs.

5.  Health Risks

According to Nationwide pet insurance claims, the three most prevalent health issues for the Cavalier King Charles spaniel are mitral valve degeneration (which can lead to heart failure), ear infections, and skin allergies. All these conditions are covered under Nationwide pet insurance benefits.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, often referred to as Cavalier Spaniels or simply Cavaliers, are a beloved small breed known for their friendly and affectionate nature.


FAQs about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels:


  1. What is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of companion dog known for its elegant appearance, friendly temperament, and affectionate nature. They are named after King Charles II of England, who was known for his love of these dogs.
  2. How big do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels get? Cavaliers are small dogs, typically weighing between 13 to 18 pounds and standing about 12 to 13 inches at the shoulder.
  3. What is the temperament of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? Cavaliers are known for their friendly, affectionate, and gentle temperament. They are great companions, get along well with children and other pets, and are often described as loving and sociable.
  4. Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels shed a lot? Yes, Cavaliers have a moderately long, silky coat that sheds year-round, but their shedding is not excessive. Regular brushing and grooming can help manage shedding and keep their coat in good condition.
  5. How much exercise do Cavaliers need? Cavaliers are moderately active dogs. Daily walks and playtime are essential to keep them happy and healthy. They enjoy companionship and may not do well if left alone for extended periods.
  6. Are Cavaliers easy to train? Cavaliers are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, making them relatively easy to train. Positive reinforcement training methods work well with them, and they often excel in obedience training.
  7. Do Cavaliers have any health concerns? Cavaliers can be prone to certain health issues, including heart problems, hip dysplasia, and eye conditions. Responsible breeding practices and regular vet check-ups can help mitigate these risks.
  8. What is the life expectancy of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? The average lifespan of a Cavalier is around 9 to 14 years, with proper care and a healthy lifestyle.
  9. Can Cavaliers live in apartments? Yes, Cavaliers can adapt well to apartment living as long as they receive regular exercise and attention. They are indoor dogs and enjoy being close to their human family members.
  10. Are Cavaliers good with children and other pets? Yes, Cavaliers are known for their gentle and friendly nature, making them great companions for families with children. They also tend to get along well with other pets if properly socialized.
  11. How do I find a reputable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeder? To find a reputable breeder, do your research, ask for references, visit the breeder’s facility, and ensure they follow ethical breeding practices. Alternatively, consider adopting a Cavalier from a rescue or shelter.

Remember that each Cavalier is an individual with unique characteristics and needs, so it’s essential to get to know your specific dog and provide the care and attention they require.

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