Home » American Kennel Club Top 31, Most Popular Dog Breeds in America » #18 The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

#18 The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a distinguished breed that originated in the United Kingdom in the 18th century.  They were popular hunting and lap dogs, famous for their ability to keep up with the horses while in the field.  The breed earned its name due to King Charles II’s fondness for the small spaniel.  Over time the breed was modified and diverged from the original conformation that King Charles II loved so dearly.  In the 1920’s breeders sought to recreate the original breed, which led to the distinction between the King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which has a longer face and flatter skull.  The Cavalier variety was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995, and it is now the 18th most popular breed in the United States.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are wonderful family dogs that can be described as affectionate, gentle, patient, and eager to please. They get along well with children and other dogs, and their playful and adaptable personalities make them perfect companions for many types of living situations.  As content to cuddle on the couch as they are to explore on a hike, this breed maintains the versatility of its original ancestors.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a strong prey drive, so they are not recommended as companions for birds, cats, or gerbils unless properly socialized under close supervision.  Their exercise requirements are low, but it is important that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels receive enough activity in order to maintain a healthy weight.

As a toy breed the Cavalier King Charles is small, weighing 13 – 18 lbs and standing 12 – 13 inches tall at the shoulder. Their coat is silky and moderately long, requiring frequent brushing and grooming to keep shedding to a minimum, as well as to reduce matting and tangling.  There are four accepted colors for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which are black and tan, black and white, Blenheim, and ruby.  Blenheim refers to the Blenheim estate, owned by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough who preferred his Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to have specific coloring of chestnut markings on a white base.  Tan markings are common among the breed, such as a spot in the middle of the forehead called the “Blenheim spot” or the “Duchess Thumb Print.”

When purchasing a Cavalier King Charles puppy, choosing a reputable and ethical breeder is paramount. This breed suffers from a number of serious genetic problems, particularly mitral valve disease (MVD), which is a leading cause of death for these dogs.  Due to their characteristically small head and large eyes, many of the breed also suffers from Syringomyelia, which is a painful condition affecting the brain and spine, and occurs when the brain is too large for the skull.  Surgery is commonly performed to ease the dog’s pain and lessen additional side effects which include neurological disorders and eye disease.  They also suffer from a number of inherited eye issues, including “dry eye,” cataracts, retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy.  Despite the high incidence of health problems, a well cared for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can live a long life, with many dogs reaching 14 years of age.

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