Description & History

The Papillon, which has existed in western Europe for many centuries, is quite possibly a descendant of the dwarf Spaniel.

The origin of the breed is obscure, but it was known to be well established in Spain, Italy and France by the sixteenth century.

The Papillons which first came to England at the beginning of the twentieth century were much larger and heavier than the present day dogs - some weighing as much as 5.5kg. The majority of the breed nowadays weigh 1.5 - 2.7 kg owing to selective breeding reducing their size.

There are two varieties of the Papillon. The dropped-eared variety - believed to have been the original dogs - and the erect-eared dogs, which were possibly developed in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

The dogs with the dropped-ears are known as Phalene (French for "moth"), and the erect-eared variety are called Papillon (French for "butterfly"), as their ears resemble a butterfly's wings set obliquely on their heads.

The Papillon is considered to be one of the oldest toy breeds in continental Europe and was a favourite at the French court. Their famous owners include Henry III, Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour.

There is evidence that these small dogs were favourites of the Old Masters, as Papillons were portrayed by many of them - including Rubens and Rembrandt - from as early as the sixteenth century.

A charming and elegant breed that is amazingly hardy and active, therefeore a daily walk is appreciated.

Rosamund Walters.

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