Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Breed Column
AKC Gazette - September, 2000

I have heard our breed standard referred to as a "blueprint for the perfect Cavalier." Others have said, rather dismissively, that the Cavalier standard is only a suggested set of ideals that opens the field to allow for subjectivity in judging and breeding.

With no intention of proving either point, I do believe our standard is comparatively easy to understand and offers great latitude in its requirements, whether interpreted for judging or breeding Cavaliers.

Our standard does not require complicated ratios or mathematical formulas. It calls for a balanced dog that is to appear square but measure slightly longer than tall and is not weedy or coarse. Height at the shoulders is around 12 to 13 inches; distance from withers to elbow is approximately equal with the elbow-to-ground measurement. Much leniency is given in weight, with 13 to 18 pounds being ideal. Even at that, the standard allows variations in height and weight in order that correct type should prevail over adherence to precise measurements. Bone of the Cavalier is moderate, as is most everything about the breed except two head properties.

These two head qualities are most important to breed type. The backskull is rather broad and flat, and the eyes are large and round. The entire head is neither too large nor too small for the body. The muzzle (from the stop to the tip of the nose) is about 1 1/2 inches long, and this was recently changed from "at least" 1 1/2 inches, which tells us we want enough muzzle to distinguish the breed from the English Toy.

The cushioning under the eye and the padding on the cheeks help to give the sweet, gentle and melting expression that is so essential. Though a full muzzle is called for, it still tapers toward the nose, so that lips are not pendulous.

Topline is easy enough: it should be straight and level standing and in motion. No special movement is called for. Cavaliers should move with a normal, economical and ground-covering stride. Ribs are well-sprung but not barrel-shaped and never slab-sided. The chest is moderately deep.

There is no special grooming or accepted trim. This breed must be shown naturally, untrimmed and unsculpted. This is important to breed type and was an essential desire of the breed's creators.

The standard lists no secondary sex characteristics. Though it is preferred to see feminine bitches and masculine dogs, a judge would be well within their rights to choose a pretty boy and a handsome girl if that was where the quality lie in a particular entry .

Markings and colors are clearly defined. In particolors, so long as head markings are as listed, body markings can be broken in endless varieties and still be correct. Heavily and lightly marked dogs may still fit the standard. Black and Tans should be marked as described, the black a jet raven black and the tan rich and bright. Rubies are a rich red all over. A touch of white on chest or toe should not penalize what is otherwise the best specimen available.

Temperament is all important to type. A happy, friendly and active dog with a tail in constant wagging motion is easy enough to spot. Though we have no disqualifications, there are two features that should eliminate a dog from further reward - bad temper being one. The other, of course, is trimming or sculpting in any form.

So you see, Cavaliers are a snap. Many novices do well at ringside judging because the characteristics that are important to the breed are easy to spot. A sweet, soft expression, large, beautiful eyes, a moderate and balanced little spaniel body, a wagging tail, and the look of royalty and elegance. Find these qualities in a Cavalier and you cannot go wrong.

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