Vital, energetic, active, loving, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel makes the perfect family pet, but it must be stressed they are dogs that belong with people. They are not dogs to be left alone or housed outside as they thrive on human contact.
History of the Breed in Australia
Toy spaniels in a variety of colours have been kept as ladies companions and pets in Royal and Noble homes since at least the 16th century. They are depicted in many paintings and were especially loved by the English monarchs, Charles I and Charles II whose names are indivisibly linked with the breed. Even when Pugs became the favourite dogs at court, toy spaniels were widely kept as companions, were modelled as Staffordshire statues and depicted on greeting cards right through Victorian and Edwardian times. However when dog showing emerged as a competitive sport, the toy spaniels being seen were bred for a very flat face and a high domed skull – the “King Charles” as we know it today. Gradually the original type with the longer nose all but disappeared.
It wasn’t until an American gentleman offered valuable prizes at Cruft’s in 1926 for a spaniel of the “old type”, that a small band of enthusiasts headed by Mrs Pitt embarked on the slow process of selective breeding to revive the almost forgotten breed. While these longer nosed and flatter skull dogs were obviously related to the “Charlies”, a distinguishing name was needed so “Cavalier” was added. They rapidly became popular with separate registration being granted in 1945 and the first show was held in 1946.
When Europeans first established the colonies in Australia, the settlers arrived accompanied by all manner of goods and chattels including animals and undoubtedly many much loved family pets made the long voyage. Among them must have been small toy spaniels. That they were here is evidenced by many paintings. One such being “The Ladies Pet” by Samuel Dexteer painted in Sydney in 1855 and in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
However the “modern” history of the breed here begins in 1960 with the arrival from NZ of the blenheim bitch Soyland Begonia who was in whelp to Angelo of Crustadele (UK). She was owned by Mrs Esler (Oakland) and became Australia’s first champion. She was closely followed by the bitch, Scarlett (UK) who came out with Mr & Mrs Phillpott (Lancresse). In Sydney Mr & Mrs Dixon (Dai Jon) brought Justice of Eyeworth, the first wholecolour Suntop Ida and the first ruby dog Louis of Ulting. When Mrs Esler’s dog Lovage of Ttiweh arrived, puppies by him from Begonia, her daughters and from Scarlett provided the foundation stock for several other states together with puppies from the Dixon’s dogs. The 60’s pioneers also included Myra Leach (Leagay), Helena Hendry (Gaysprite), Shirlee Leach (Garaig) who is still active with Cavaliers today and a much loved Life Member and Patron of the Sydney Club. These prefixes dominated the early years.
Later Lovage and Begonia went to WA to Betty Patterson and Betty Reading who established their Pellemelle Cavaliers with the addition of stock from NZ and then in the mid sixties brought out Australia’s first Eng Ch Pargeter Trillium of Ttiweh.
Interest in the breed grew steadily if slowly and a small group of breeders in most of the States got the breed off to a sound start. A club was formed in NSW in 1968 and the Victorian Club followed in 1971. Gradually Cavaliers became better known to the general public, and entries at shows grew. During the 1970’s began the veritable flood of imported Cavaliers to all parts of Australia, an influx which seems to continue unabated to the present. Ch Gaysprite the Regent became the first All Breed Best in Show winner in 1971 and E/Aust Ch Amantra Bohemian Rhapsody (UK) the first “Royal” BIS winner (Canberra 1981)
1978 marked the 10th Anniversary of the NSW Club and to celebrate, the Club took the then very ambitious and adventurous decision to bring its Patron, Lady Forwood, to judge. This was at a time when “overseas” judges were a rarity. Expenses were shared with the Tiki and Canterbury clubs in NZ. The entry of 211 was magnificent and justified the effort. It was also decided to attempt the publication of a Year Book to document history and progress of the breed in Australia, another “first” – The NSW Club Year Book remains the only annual publication on the breed and previous issues provide a fascinating glimpse of famous dogs of the past who, in many cases, still have an enormous influence today.
Since the 1970’s there has been a steady growth in numbers of Cavaliers. Other States, in addition to NSW and Victoria, now have their breed clubs – Canberra formed in 1991, South Australia in 1993, Queensland in 2002 and Tasmania in 2009. All the clubs are very active in all aspects associated with the Cavaliers, holding shows judged by a mixture of local and international specialist judges, predominantly British but recently widening in scope to include respected specialists from other parts of the world. The clubs also have educational days, assist with the training of new judges, provide a rescue service for Cavalier in distress.
Cavaliers also shine in Obedience, Agility, Fly Ball, as Therapy dogs, and as real
“comforters” when they visit nursing homes and hospitals.
In more recent years, in the light of increased information on health issues and a growing awareness among breeders of the necessity to maintain high standards in their breeding programs, the NSW Club now holds regular heart and eye clinics with specialist vets and encourages MRI scanning to screen for the neurological condition known as SM (Syringomelia).
The world is now a much “smaller” place and with the increasing use of the internet, email lists and facebook, information and photos are widely distributed and Cavalier enthusiast keep in close touch worldwide. Quarantine restrictions have been eased so that dogs can travel to be shown and to be used in breeding programs. While we still continue to bring Cavaliers from the UK, the original homeland of the breed, it is now a very international world and Cavaliers of the highest quality are being bred in many countries. Australian bred Cavaliers have traveled abroad and proved successful in the strongest of competition.
Cavaliers are now among the most popular companion dogs, being suited to many situations: for families, for the elderly, in the city and the country.
They bring joy and delight to their owners and enrich their lives. They are truly “spaniels gentle and comforters”.
History of the Breed
The Cavalier is descended from the Toy Spaniels of Europe and first appeared in the courts of England with the reign of Queen Mary.
The breed, which appears in many of the great paintings by the Masters, received its name from King Charles II. 'The Merry Monarch'. Charles the Second was devoted to his dogs - almost to the point of addiction. They travelled everywhere and the sign "Beware of the Dog" probably originated in his court, meaning not that they were dangerous, but rather 'Don't tread on them!'
They became virtually extinct in the Victorian and Edwardian eras as short-nosed breeds took the fore.
By 1923 the incentive for revitalization of the old-type Toy Spaniel was provided by American Roswell Eldridge who offered prizes of 25 pounds for the Best Dog & Bitch of this type at Crufts.
The name Cavalier was added when the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was founded in 1928 to further develop the breed. It was not until 1945 that The Kennel Club (England) granted separate registration from the King Charles Spaniel.
gallery - cavaliers on canvas
Outlook on Life
Known in some circles as the Royal Spaniel, the Comforter Spaniel, or the Spaniel Gentle, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is truly among the nobility of toy dogs with his limpid eyes, quiet dignity, and love of all things great and small.
Typically the Cavalier is fearless and sporting in nature, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate. He is completely guileless and does not seem to have the capacity to anticipate danger or to fathom that any creature might ever mean to do him harm.
Children and Cavaliers are great friends and supporters of each other, though small children should always be supervised with pets of any kind.
The Cavalier is not a dog who will boost your ego with his unflagging loyalty - though he will always have his most favorite people, he will also love whomever is serving dinner that night... A Cavalier does not do well in a kennel nor is he an outside dog.
He will only thrive if he is an integral part of family life - and he will gladly live as either Prince or Pauper to be close to the people he loves.
The Cavalier is a sturdy animal measuring between 12-13 inches at the shoulder weighing between 12-18 pounds (5.4 -8.1kg) weight is proportionate to height with a slight variation permissible.
The coat is long, silky and free from curl, though a slight wave is permissible. Feathering on ears, legs and tail should be long and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed (often referred to as bedroom slippers).
No trimming or artificial colouring of the dog is permitted; however, it is permissible and often desireable, to remove the hair growing between the pads on the underside of the foot. The Cavalier comes in four colour varieties: Blenheim, Black and Tan, Tri-Coloured and Ruby.
more info - breed colours
more info - breed standard