The continental pygmy spaniel, with its varieties Papillon and Phalène, is an attractive and happy dog. His winning nature makes him a lovable companion who is close to his people.
Where the continental miniature spaniel originally came from has not yet been clearly established. One theory is that China would be his home and that Marco Polo imported him from his sea voyages in the 13th century. He is also said to have found his way to Mexico with ships.
The later conquerors of Mexico are said to have taken this breed of dog back to Spain in the 16th century. The further spread was probably over the Netherlands to Belgium, where in Antwerp and Brussels with the breeding began. Opinions are also circulating that the breed originated in France, but the fact that the breed was previously known as Epagneul (Spaniel) gives an indication of Spanish origins.
The oldest European specimens from the 16th and 17th centuries had long, lop-eared ears and they were called miniature spaniels (Espagneul Nain).
A long line of well-known painters from all over Europe immortalized noble ladies and other important people together with miniature spaniels in their paintings, which were already kept as luxury dogs of the upper class. Representations that correspond to the Phalène come exclusively from Italian masters from the area around Florence until 1480. The oldest picture was created by Giotto di Bondone (1266-1337) and Titian’s works such as Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga della Rovere or The Venus of Urbino are world-famous. The Papillon later appears in many royal paintings. The Belgian master Peter Paul Rubens painted the pretty butterfly dog as a decorative accessory on his painting “Marriage of Marie de Medici” and on the portrait in honor of the birth of Louis XIII.
It is believed that the miniature dogs came to France with Catherine de Medici when she married King Henry II in 1533. From this time onwards, French paintings with Phalène dogs were created as decorative accessories from noble personalities to Sun King Louis XIV or Queen Marie Antoinette. As gifts and because high-ranking ladies naturally brought their lapdogs with them when they married, the rare and precious animals were able to spread across Europe over several centuries from Sweden to Austria. Miniature Spaniels also lived at the English royal court, which is proven by illustrations. On the island, however, specimens with a larger head and wider, shorter muzzle were preferred, so that the English Toy Spaniel emerged as an independent breed in the 18th century. The continental miniature spaniel received a special appreciation in Austria: The then emperor Maria Theresia received her favorite dog for posterity: the continental miniature spaniel, a Phalène, has been sitting on a red silk pillow under a glass cover since 1740 or 1750, where it is still in Vienna today Natural History Museum can be admired.
Around the end of the 17th century, a type with erect ears appeared on the paintings for the first time: the Papillon. Some contemporaries concluded a connection to the Mexican Chihuahua due to the similar head shape and the way the ears are worn at a typical 45 ° angle. Both varieties occur in one litter, whereby the erect ears develop after the first few weeks of life – or not. Except for the different position of the ears, both varieties are the same. The Papillon (French: butterfly), also known as the butterfly dog, got its name because of its large and very flexible, laterally protruding ears. The shape, emphasized by the contrasting color, is reminiscent of spread butterfly wings, especially when the desired white blaze runs over the head and the center of the face.
Phalène, the older lump, translates as moth because its lop ears, like the insect’s wings, point to the ground. Although the breeds of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and King Charles Spaniel emerged from it, the Phalène is rarely found.
The heyday of the mini spaniel ends for the time being with the fall of the aristocracy in the French Revolution. At the end of the 19th century, breeders in Belgium and France rediscover the forgotten continental pygmy spaniel. Thanks to their intensive efforts to resurrect the breed, the FCI determined the Belgian-French region as the official origin. Breeding associations are created that keep pedigrees as evidence for the mating of animals of the same breed. The first breed standard for the Continental Miniature Spaniel is set in 1905. The first Papillon was registered in Great Britain in 1906, but the founding of the first breeding club and its inclusion in the British Kennel Club did not take place until November 1923 with 17 Papillons. In the following year the number has grown to 64 copies. In the United States, the American Kennel Club recognized the Papillon as a breed in 1915. In 1930 preparations began for the establishment of the first breed club, and in 1935 it was accepted into the AKC.
At international exhibitions, Phalène and Papillon each have their own beauty championships in accordance with the FCI regulations. The qualification for this title is called Certificat d’Aptitude au Championnat International de Beauté (CACIB) and the title is awarded by the canine umbrella organization FCI based in Thuin, Belgium.
Compared to larger spaniels, the papillon’s head is lighter and shorter. The skull may indicate a central furrow and should not be too rounded. The stop is more pronounced in small specimens and flatter in heavy dogs. The ears are set high on the top of the head and should be placed far enough apart that the curve of the skull remains recognizable. The leather of the and lop ears is fine but firm, the tips of the ears must be rounded. In the lop-eared Phalène, the ears are extremely mobile, even in the resting position, and have very long, wavy hair. The Papillon wears its erect ears with the auricle pointing to the side, the inner edge being at a 45 ° angle to the horizontal, but never straight upright in the manner of a point. The outer sides of the auricles are long hairy with fringed edges. When Phalène and Papillon are mated, semi-upright tilted ears often arise, which is assessed as a serious fault. The heavily pigmented lids underline the expressive look of the dark, almond-shaped eyes. The muzzle is tapered, with a straight bridge of the nose and shorter than the skull. The narrow lips are tight and are also heavily pigmented. The nose is black, small and rounded. A medium-long neck shows a slight curve in the nape of the neck, the chest is wide and, due to the well-arched ribs, quite deep. The body is a little longer than it is high. The upper profile line is neither arched nor sunk, the lower profile line runs with a slightly tucked stomach. Long, lush fringes adorn the high-set tail. When paying attention, the Papillon wears it curved over the back line, but never rolled up or lying flat. The fine limbs are straight and must not appear long-legged. Forelegs and hind legs end in so-called hare paws, which stand evenly on the pads. The very long hair between the toes forms a point that protrudes over the paw. The copious, silky coat has no undercoat. It is flat and short on the head, on the front of the legs and below the hocks, and about 7.5 cm long on the body. The ears, the back of the legs and the tail are richly feathered with up to 15 cm long strands. Papillons are adorned with a nicely wavy collar made of longer hair. The predominant basic color of the coat must be white, badges are permitted in all shades. A white blaze, which divides the head into two symmetrical halves, is very popular. Continental dwarf spaniels are divided into two weight classes: males and females from at least 1.5 kg to 2.5 kg, as well as males from 2.5 kg to 4.5 kg and bitches from 2.5 kg to 5 kg.
The continental miniature spaniel has a high intelligence and he has a strong need to please his humans. Papillons need a tight upbringing, at least they should know the basic commands and house rules. He will keep testing who is in charge. There is a tendency to give in, but showing the dog who is in charge is essential. The Papillon is friendly and enjoys being with other pets and children, especially when everyone is growing up together. It makes him happy to be there anytime and anywhere, he especially loves driving. A miniature spaniel is sensitive but rarely lethargic. He likes to run and romp, but his acrobatic jumps from the back of the chair should be prevented because the risk of injury is quite high. It can be just as dangerous for a delicately built puppy to let him play with small children who grasp him roughly or let him fall off his arm. Papillons are well suited for keeping the house, daily sufficiently long walks keep you in good shape and bring variety, for example, when the attentive Papillon discovers a squirrel and chases after it. It is not wrong to be careful when walking without a leash, because the miniature spaniel has no respect for large dogs and, conversely, a large, aggressive conspecific can view the papillon as potential prey. The breed quickly gets used to the new environment after moving, which is a great advantage when adopting an adult animal. Some Papillons bark a lot, but the majority confine themselves to loudly greeting incoming visitors. If there is exercise in the home garden, securing the property line has top priority. Papillons find every opportunity to escape through wide bars or under the fence.
Continental dwarf spaniels are healthy and largely free from hereditary diseases. As is common with small breeds, the kneecap may shift (patellar luxation), teeth misalignment, or problems with the roof of the mouth. The eyes can sometimes be prone to tearing. An inherited genetic defect is the cause of progressive retinal atrophy, a retinal detachment that has remained incurable to this day and leads to blindness. Responsible breeders carry out genetic tests before mating in order to largely rule out these two risks. Buyers should make sure that the puppies grow up in a family environment so that the very sensitive animals develop mentally well and that no behavioral disorders come to light later. Heart disease is sometimes observed in older specimens, which is usually the end result of an unhealthy diet and too little exercise. Demanding dog sports such as obedience, agility or flyball are well suited for the continental miniature spaniel and it is also used successfully as a therapy dog. Grooming is uncomplicated with combing three times a week, as there is no undercoat. No unpleasant “dog smell” can get stuck in the silk hair, the clean papillons avoid dirt outside anyway.
The Continental Spaniel at a glance
Origin: Belgium and France FCI Standard No. 77, Group 9 Companion and Service Dogs, Section 9 Continental Miniature Spaniel Alternative names: Butterfly dog / Papillon and Phalène Varieties: the Pappillon (butterfly), the Phalène (moth) Height at the withers: approx. 28 cm Two weight classes: males and Bitches 1.5 kg – 2.5 kg and dogs 2.5 kg – 4.5 kg, bitches 2.5 kg – 5 kg Coat: medium-length, silky, wavy outer coat, no undercoat Coat colors: white basic color with markings of any other color Eyes: large and almond-shaped of dark color Ears: erect ears (papillon) or lop ears (phalène) with rounded tips – 16 years
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