What is a Blenheim Cavalier?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are well known for their big brown loving eyes, their fondness for human companionship, and the feathered like fur on their paws and legs, but what on earth is a Blenheim Cavalier?

There are 4 recognized colors of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the red (or chestnut) and white-colored Cavalier is also known as a Blenheim Cavalier.

But why is that particular color called a Blenheim, and what are the other 3 colors? Do they too have specific names for the colors? To find out more about this mysterious breed of dog continue reading.

The 4 Recognized Colors

The American Kennel Club recognizes only four colors of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and also the Kennel Club (in the UK), these are:

  • Blenheim
  • Ruby
  • Tri-Color
  • Black and Tan


The Blenheim Cavalier is probably the most famous colored Cavalier, due to the Walt Disney classic, ‘Lady and The Tramp’. However, this is a common misconception, as Lady was in fact an American Cocker Spaniel.

Used for hunting in 18th Century England, the Red and White Cavaliers were a favorite of John Churchill, who was the 1st Duke of Marlborough at that time.

The estate that John Churchill lived on was named Blenheim in honor of his victory over the Battle of Blenheim that was fought in 1704, and so these little dogs that used to run alongside the horses during the hunt became known as Blenheim’s.

In some Blenheim Cavaliers, there is a chestnut-colored spot that sits in the very center of their forehead, this is known as the ‘Blenheim Spot’.

This spot is also known as the ‘Duchess Thumb Print’. As legend has it, the Duchess of Marlborough, Sarah Churchill, used to sit with a pregnant Blenheim Cavalier on her lap, awaiting any news of her husband’s return from the Battle of Blenheim. Whilst waiting, she used to pet the dog and place her thumb on the dog’s forehead.

When the good news was received that the battle had been won, and her husband was safe, 5 puppies were born, and all of them were bearing the Duchess Thumb Print.


The Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a completely red (or chestnut) colored coat over its entire body and is a truly deep red color.

Some Ruby Cavaliers have small flecks of white in their coats, which is completely fine unless you have chosen this pooch to represent you and your country in a dog show. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the American Kennel Club, they are classed as inferior and would never win a competition due to this imperfection in their coats.

There is also slightly a slightly lighter-colored Ruby Cavalier, which some argue is not a true Ruby. Instead, they are called ‘Tan’ to enable a distinction between the two.

Black and Tan

The Black and Tan Cavalier has a black coat with tan markings around its body. The tan coloring is usually found on the eyebrows, cheeks, side of the muzzle, chin, legs, and underneath the tail.

Fun Fact

In the 18th Century, the Kings Charles Spaniel was completely differerent to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels of today. As they were cross bred with the pug, their muzzles were much shorter.

King Charles Spaniels – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Black and Tan King Charles spaniels were and still are known as “The Kings Charles”. You can read more on the history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in another of my posts entitled Where Do Cavaliers Originally Come From.


The tri-colored Cavalier has a black and white coat, with tan markings on its eyebrows, and cheeks, underneath the tail, inside the legs, and on the insides of its ears.

The tri-colored King Charles Spaniel is known as the “Prince Charles”.

3 thoughts on “What is a Blenheim Cavalier?”

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