We will continue our spaniel articles by looking at the small companion spaniels that were once known as Spaniel Gentles, kept by royalty and the wealthy. The only function these dogs had was to be spoiled - or as a bed warmer. There are three breeds in this group; the King Charles Spaniel, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the Continental Toy Spaniel. It is believed the oldest of these breeds is the Continental Toy Spaniel, having existed since the 1300s.
The Continental is more often known by the names the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) uses to split it into two varieties based on ear carriage, the Phalene (drop) and Papillon (erect). The Phalene is the oldest of the two types, although it is the name Papillon the breed is recognized under the American Kennel Club (AKC). France is credited with its origin but these miniaturized gundogs turned lap dogs were known throughout Europe. They were a favorite of Marie Antoinette and legend states she clutched one on her way to the guillotine.
England's toy spaniel was a favorite of King Charles, a name it still carries throughout Europe, but is known as the English Toy Spaniel in the United States. Today's dog was the result of taking four similar varieties that had previously been divided by coat color and combining them into one breed standard; the Blenheim (white with red or chestnut), Ruby (reds), Prince Charles (tricolor) and King Charles (black with chestnut or tan). Some have suggested that these dogs with their shorter muzzles are actually descended from oriental breeds such as the Pug or Japanese Chin. However, it is more likely that these breeds were added to the bloodline as earlier dogs did not have shortened snouts.
It was the short muzzles that led to the development of the Cavalier King Charles in the 1920s. The longer muzzle and more traditional dogs were becoming almost impossible to find, causing an American by the name of Roswell Eldridge to offer twenty-five pounds prize money to any person showing dogs with long noses at Crufts. After five years he was able to establish a breeding stock and the two were recognized as distinct breeds in the 1940s.
For a moment let us return to original question of how many spaniel breeds there are. Certainly these three and the seven flushing dogs from our first post can be classified as such, each sharing ancestry that may or may not have originated in Spain, but the family tree's roots lie within Europe. From here the relations will grow more complicated and our "count" will become debated.