1. They Are Believed to Have Come From Japan
Although no one is sure exactly where the English Toy Spaniel originated, experts agree the breed likely came from ancient Japan, or possibly ancient China. These small spaniels may have been brought to England as early as the 13th century.
2. They Were Royal Companions
In England, the English Toy Spaniel is called the King Charles Spaniel (not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a separate breed), after King Charles I. These small dogs were popular pets among British royalty. Queen Elizabeth's physician actually referred to the English Toy Spaniel as "Spaniell Gentle, otherwise called the Comforter."
3. One May Have Comforted Mary, Queen of Scots at Her Death
There is a legend that Mary, Queen of Scots' favorite English Toy Spaniel accompanied her to her execution, refusing to leave her side. The story remains unverified, though it is likely that Mary, Queen of Scots kept small spaniels as pets.
4. Different Names for Different Colors
The English Toy Spaniel comes in four color varieties, and in the United States, each variety has a different name. The black-and-tan variety is called the King Charles (again, not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), because this coloring seems to have been the monarch's favorite. The black, white, and tan variety is called the Prince Charles. The red and white variety is called the Blenheim, after Blenheim Palace, where the Dukes of Marlborough live, and where Sir Winston Churchill was born. The red variety is called the Ruby.
5. They Appear in Art
Since they were such popular companion dogs for royalty, it only makes sense that the English Toy Spaniel would appear in many Renaissance paintings. This portrait of King Charles' five children, for example, includes a little dog resembling the English Toy Spaniel. In the "Venus of Urbino," by Titian, a small spaniel is sleeping on the bed. This 1778 portrait of an English Toy Spaniel by Jean-Baptiste Huet more closely resembles the modern breed, and this 1859 drawing is closer still.
6. They Owe Their Flat Noses to Pugs
You'll notice looking at the aforementioned artwork that the English Toy Spaniel's snout gets shorter as time goes on. The theory is that English Toy Spaniels were crossed with Pugs or Japanese Chins in the 18th and 19th centuries, to create a short muzzle and round head.
7. They Were One of the First Recognized Toy Breeds
Know someone who already has an English Toy Spaniel in his or her life (or would like one), who might appreciate some breed-specific swag? Head on over to the AKC Shop and see all of our amazing English Toy Spaniel products!