Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


The Origin of the Breed

by Dennis Homes
The origin of most dog breeds are the subject of speculation, though most experts seem to agree that the ancestor of the toy spaniel originally came from the Far East. It’s most likely that they were first brought to Europe from China by Italian traders in the 12th and 13th centuries. Many of the earliest paintings of toy spaniels were by Italian artists and they showed small red and white spaniels not too dissimilar to Blenheim Cavaliers.
Up until the latter part of the nineteenth century small toy type breeds were mainly kept by the wealthy as most people required their dogs to have a working function such as herding, guarding, hunting retrieving or simply to kill vermin. During the first part of the nineteenth century shorter faced toy breeds such as Pugs, Pekinese and Chins were becoming very popular as lady’s pets among the upper classes and it is quite likely that cross breeding between these dogs and toy spaniels took place to produce the short faced spaniel that we now know as the King Charles Spaniel.
In 1925 Roswell Eldridge, an American businessman, was disappointed to find that there were none of the longer nosed King Charles Spaniels of the older type around. He therefore placed a small advert in the 1926 Crufts schedule offering £25 for the best dog and best bitch nearest to the type depicted in many old paintings to be exhibited at Crufts for the following five years. This advert did in fact set the wheels in motion to revive the breed that we now know as the Cavalier.
Twenty five pounds back in 1926 was quite a large sum of money. According to a retail price index calculator £25 in 1926 would be worth £1,030 today. Twenty five pounds was awarded both to the best dog and the best bitch, plus two pounds for the second place of each sex and one pound for the third place. As this was to go on for five years the total amount of cash offered by today’s rate would be £11,530!
Miss Mostyn Walker was a breeder of short faced King Charles Spaniels and in 1926 she bred a dog called Lord Pindi to a bitch called Ann. In that litter there were two puppies that appeared to be throwbacks to the earlier longer nosed varieties. These were Ann’s Son (a blenheim) and Wizbang Timothy (a black and white). These puppies did have the required longer noses and so she thought that they would be ideal specimens to enter in these special classes at Crufts. Ann’s Son was to take the first prize and Best of Breed for three years running in 1928, 1929 and 1930. When he reached the age of nine he made his last appearance at Crufts and then was eventually retired from showing. Throughout his show career he remained unbeaten.
The red letter day in Cavalier history was at Cruft’s in 1928 when a group of enthusiasts gathered to discuss the formation of a club for these ‘Old type King Charles Spaniels’. They decided to add the word Cavalier in front of King Charles Spaniel to differentiate the two breeds The standard was drawn up and Ann’s Son was placed upon the table as a living guide for the breed standard. It was agreed that as far as possible the dog should be guarded from fashion and there was to be no trimming.
During the 1930s Cavaliers were still registered as King Charles Spaniels and if classes for ‘King Charles Spaniels-Cavalier type’ were to be put on at shows then someone had to sponsor these classes. Many of the early breeders would regularly put their hands in their pockets to fund these classes. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club approached the Kennel Club and asked for the two breeds to be separated. An example of each breed was taken along to the Kennel Club and placed on a table for the Kennel Club Secretary to inspect. He stated that he couldn’t see any real difference between them.
Throughout this period the dedication and resolve of those early pioneers of the breed was slowly starting to establish itself in the dog show world. However, with the outbreak of World War II dog showing and breeding took a big step backwards with many kennels of all breeds either closing or severely restricting their breeding programmes. Throughout the war the breeding of all dogs was reduced dramatically; in fact there were only sixty Cavaliers registered with The Kennel Club between 1940 and 1945. Once the war was over and with greatly reduced breeding stock these hardy enthusiasts carried on with their quest and another approach was made to the Kennel Club in 1945 for separate registration. This time it was agreed that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the King Charles Spaniel were two very distinct breeds and should be separated.
Slowly breeders began to pick up the pieces and try to resume their quest of building up the breed that they had worked so hard on. There were no breeding plans other than to try to go back as near to the original source and that was back to Ann’s Son. Just prior to the war Mrs Amice Pitt, who had been at the forefront of the breed’s revival, had a kennel of around 60 dogs but during the war the number dropped to just three. The Cavalier breed was more or less saved from extinction by two breeders, Madame Harper Trois Fontaines (de Fontenay), and Mrs Bessie Jennings (Plantation) who both managed to maintain a kennel of sufficient numbers throughout the war. It was from these two ladies that Amice Pitt was able to get back stock that was descended from her Ttiweh line.
Mrs Pitt heard that there was a blenheim dog puppy for sale by a ruby dog named Cannonhill Richey out of a blenheim bitch named Daywell Nell, who was by Ann’s Son. Mrs Pitt bought this puppy unseen from his breeders, but when he arrived she was not particularly impressed and said, “He is not in the least like Ann’s Son. He’s a rather stocky and stuffy puppy with a curly coat, but he does have a most lovely expression and huge dark round eyes.” This dog was Daywell Roger and at the time Mrs Pitt was not to know just how great an influence Roger was to become. She just thought that he would be useful!
August 29th 1946 was the date of the very first Championship Show. This was Daywell Roger’s first big outing, and although still a puppy, he won the Dog Challenge Certificate and was soon to become the first Cavalier champion. Throughout the fifties and sixties both the Club and the breed slowly but surely made strides in establishing the Cavalier’s popularity. In 1973 Alansmere Aquarius was to make breed history by taking the accolade of Best in Show at Cruft’s. This breakthrough in the breed’s history created a big rise in both the popularity and population of Cavaliers which soon saw them rise to become the largest breed in the Toy Group.


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Origin of the Cavalier