Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Breed Column
AKC Gazette - June, 1999

I've forgotten who said, "If you live in a world run by a committee, be on the committee." Keeping in mind that I was a member of the committee that wrote the AKC breed standard for Cavaliers, I am surprised to find myself lacking a succinct response when asked about the proper size of the breed.

An "easy out" is to say, "Pick the one that most resembles a Cavalier and falls within the 13-to-18-pound range." But when the best one weighs 19 pounds or the judge is not very adept at eyeballing the difference between a 17-pounder and a dog of 19 pounds, this adage is useless.

This is exactly why our standard, even with its 5-pound latitude, still allows for "slight variations" in the size of quality specimens rather than opting for mediocre specimens of a strictly limited size.

In a recent seminar, a fellow breeder noted that if a Cavalier approaches Clumber type, it is wrong, and if it approaches Papillon type, it is equally wrong. I like that guideline; it encompasses both type and size.

The original standard, written in 1928, was based upon a 13-pound dog named Ann's Son. The weight range was set at 10 to 18 pounds. As breeders faced the fact that they could not get the desired characteristics into such a small package - that is, that they were failing in their quest to recreate Ann's Son - the bottom limit was raised to 12 pounds, and eventually to 13 pounds.

In order to instill and maintain type, substance and proportion, most breeders found themselves working at the top of the weight range. I would guess that even today, a large percentage of dogs in the ring fall into the 16-to-20-pound range. That does not bother me, assuming that they are elegant, sporting, typey Cavaliers.

However, if we were to rush to change our standard to reflect what we have the most of, will it not be tempting to work again to the upper limits, until the average Cavaliers in the ring are 18 to 22 pounds?

I return to an emphasis on judging for correct type, as that alone should remove any nagging concerns over size. Consistency in judging the breed does not mean finding four of the same size. A well-judged class may well see the ribbons go to 16-pound, 19-pound, 14-pound and 18-pound Cavaliers.

There are enough quality dogs with heads that say "Cavalier" and bodies that suggest an elegant, sporting toy spaniel that we need not reward the thick and cloddy dog nor the tiny, fine-boned one.

There is room in the ring and in our breeding programs to accommodate quality Cavaliers at both ends of the size range mentioned in the standard. What is most desired is a dog with all the essence of a Cavalier, no matter the size of the package. Does this mean that 10-pounders and 30-pounders are okay? We do not have to worry over this, for these dogs will never have the essentials that make a really good Cavalier.

I have not mentioned height because the concern seems to be more about the substance or "heft" of the dog. The first standard listed weight alone as the size criterion and gave it 5 points of value out of a possible 100. General appearance and soundness was worth 15 points, as was the head.

The true measure of a top Cavalier is by the degree to which it possesses the look of a moderately boned, well-proportioned toy spaniel of royal and elegant bearing, as well as by the scale and the wicket.

- John D. Gammon, AKC Parent Club President & Gazette Breed Columnist