Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Breed Column
AKC Gazette - December, 2002
When evaluating any breed of dog, the breed's "reason for being" comes right at the top of the list of prerequisites. That means that a Pointer should point, a retriever should have the proper soft mouth, a water dog must have the type of feet and hair to do its job, and a Dalmatian should be able to fit under a coach.
There follows a logical and quite elementary question: What is a Cavalier bred to do? What in the Cavalier's history and heritage demands any certain breed characteristics enabling a dog to be deemed fit for the name Cavalier?
The original purpose of the breed was not work, sport, or protection. Without a job description, how do we prioritize those traits that individualize our breed?
The most obvious is temperament. Our standard uses more than 25 descriptive words and phrases to emphatically describe the friendly nature and sweet, soft look of the Cavalier. To know the breed is to realize that these are more than just devoted companions; they are dogs that crave human companionship.
Through the ages, all of the history and folklore regarding these dogs underscores the fact that they are happiest near their masters - be it in the royal palaces, hidden under a lady's skirt, or welcomed into Parliament. Historically, gentleness and sweetness of nature are a given for Cavaliers.
Beauty, for lack of a better word, would come next on the list. Being in such close proximity to the little dogs, the royals and aristocrats would certainly have demanded a dog that was extremely pleasing to the eye. Their vibrant colors were attractive, and the silky coat shed dirt easily, making them even more desirable as lap spaniels.
The families of Charles I and Charles II were so proud of these exquisite creatures they included them in many family portraits. Many years later, breeders used these paintings as a guide in helping them recreate the breed.
Breeders in the early to mid-20th century stopped just short of duplicating the dogs pictured in the paintings exactly. The breed's skull did remain rather flat and the ears high-set. Breeders also bred for longer nasal bones, giving the breed more foreface, distinguishing it from the English Toy Spaniel. That, combined with the round, limpid eye, rather .than the almond-shaped eye, made for a much softer, sweeter expression. The face was also left with enough padding and cushioning to preclude the snipey look shown in many early paintings.
Many of those paintings also show spaniels of very fine bone. Modern breeders opted for more moderate bone, lending a sturdier look to the dogs.
We now know that, historically, these traits are necessary to make a Cavalier all that it should be. Just as the shepherd should herd, so should a Cavalier be.a beautiful, richly colored lap spaniel of exceedingly jolly temperament, with a most distinctive head that begins with a good bit of nose and has a flattish skull, round, dark eyes, and silky, high-set ears. That is what a Cavalier is bred to do and be - a purpose that pleases an who own one!
- John D. Gammon, AKC Parent Club President & Gazette Breed Columnist