Wednesday, December 11, 2013

King Charles Spaniel History in Vintage Images

By the mid 1500s, a variety of miniaturized spaniels, likely originating in the Far East, became the darlings of European royalty.   Below: Felipe of Spain and Maria Tudor with two very teeny Spaniels, about 1550.


The King Charles Spaniel was made famous by, and named after, its most renowned patron, King Charles II of England (1630-1685).   Charles was rarely seen without a bevy of little spaniels at his side.  He loved the dogs so much that when he became King, Charles II wrote a decree that the miniature Spaniel was to be accepted in any public place, even in the House of Parliament, where animals were not allowed.  Read more about Charles' dogs here.

Charles II, royal heir to the English throne, and his favorite dog.

The mid 18th century print below indicates that the dog was not named a King Charles Spaniel but was referred to as the dog the king owned - King Charles's Dog.

King Charles' dog, about 1750
Print by Alexander Bell
British Museum

Note this mocking caricature of ladies fashion includes
a teeny spaniel on the bustle. 

The longer muzzled-types popular in the 1700s were crossed with Pugs, another popular breed of the day (read my Pug post) to create the brachycephalic version of the breed.  Edouard Manet's 1866 oil painting below features the dog with a modestly flattened muzzle. King Charles Spaniels were considered luxury items, and in the 1890s could cost as much as $350, when as a rule, wealthy people would pay $15 to $75 for a purebred dog.

The breed's shortened muzzle was increasingly exaggerated, as the 1920s photo below shows.
Actress Mildred Davis who was married to Harold Lloyd
About 1925
Library of Congress

Breeders didn't understand the genetic implications of creating such exaggerated traits, many of which small spaniels suffer from today, such as Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome.
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The lesson being "All Things in Moderation"


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