Where Do Cavaliers Originally Come From?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a very popular breed of dog in the United States, the UK, and many other European countries to name just a few places. But where did the breed originate from?

The earliest records show that Cavaliers were bred in England and named after King Charles I. Although their popularity didn’t grow in the United States until the 1950s, Cavaliers have quite a history that stretches back to the 16th Century.

With their silky coats, feathering around their feet and beautiful big eyes almost everyone can recognize a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but do you know how these lovable dogs became so popular?

Although the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, as we know it, has only been around for the last century, their ancestors go back much further in the history books.

These kind-hearted, lovable dogs are part of the toy group and like all dogs in the toy group, they were bred down from a larger breed of dog, in the case of the Cavalier, it was bred down from the Toy Trawler Spaniel.

What Breeds Make Up A Cavalier King Charles?

Toy Trawler Spaniel
Sarah Hartwell, Attribution,
via Wikimedia Commons

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has two main ancestors, the Toy Trawler Spaniel and the English Toy Spaniel. The Toy Trawler Spaniel (unfortunately now an extinct breed) is a smaller version of the English Water Spaniel, a breed that was made popular by King James I of England.

A Kings Breed

In the 17th Century, King Charles II was very fond of the English Toy Spaniel, so much so he afforded his name to them, which caused a huge increase in the popularity of the breed during this period. It was noted that The King was so enamored with his dogs that they were allowed to roam anywhere in Whitehall Palace and even had them playing around his feet whilst conducting state business.

A King Charles Spaniel
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After King Charles II died in 1685, Toy Spaniels (now known as King Charles Spaniels in England) continued to be popular from the reign of King James II through to the reign of Queen Anne. However, during the reign of King William III and Queen Marry II (just before Queen Anne took the throne) The Pug was introduced into Britain, and as a result of cross-breeding, this has a drastic effect on the physical appearance of The King Charles Spaniel.

Cross-Bred King Charles Spaniels
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

King Charles Spaniels remained popular throughout the 18th Century and were still a big hit with the upper classes (then known as ladies’ dogs) despite the introduction of The Pug.

The Blenheim Spaniel

In the 19th Century, the Duke of Marlborough was reputed to have the smallest and best breed of cockers in Britain. The Duke’s dogs were all red and white, with long ears and short noses. These dogs were given the name of the Blenheim Spaniel, as the Duke’s residence was Blenheim Palace.

Knowledge Spot

During the 19th Century, the term ‘Cocker’ was not used to describe a Cocker Spaniel, in fact it was a small type of Spaniel that was used to hunt Woodcock.

However, due to selective breeding and reducing the nose down to that of the Pug, the King Charles Cavalier was no longer able to hunt as the muzzle size had now impaired its ability to smell.

A Queens Love

Queen Victoria loved these beautiful little dogs, and in 1886 started to breed them to her own specific tastes, making them smaller than the original.

This made the breed very popular and soon started to become family pets rather than just being for nobility. The Queen had several King Charles Spaniels and she loved each one of them dearly.

Princess Victoria and her Dog Dash
After George Hayter, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Difference Between A King Charles Spaniel And A Cavalier

The King Charles Spaniel had a much flatter nose and a shorter frame (as pictured above), and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we know of today originated from a competition in 1926 that was held by an American man from New York called Roswell Eldridge.

Eldridge was appalled at the fact that he couldn’t find an original King Charles Spaniel-looking dog, and so held a competition to bring back the ‘long nosed dog’ and offered a prize of 25 pounds, which was an enormous amount of money at that time.

Unfortunately, Eldridge died one month before he saw the prize money claimed by Miss Mostyn Walker with her dog named Anne’s Son.

Types Of Cavalier And Their Colors

There are four different types of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, each with a different color, but what many people don’t know is that each color has a specific name.

  • Black and Tan – Known as the King James
  • Tri-Color (Black, Tan, and White) – Known as the Prince Charles
  • Red and White – Known as the Blenheim
  • All Red – Known as the Ruby

The Kennel Clubs


The Kennel Club (UK version of the American Kennel Club) wanted to amalgamate the four types of Cavalier into one breed and call it The Toy Spaniel. This then caused a big argument between The Kennel Club and The Toy Spaniel Club, who oversaw the four separate breeds.

Eventually, King Edward VII stopped the argument by declaring that he preferred the name ‘King Charles Spaniel’.


The American Kennel Club combined the four breeds into one breed which was known as The English Toy Spaniel. At the time, the Japanese Spaniel was also classed as a toy spaniel but was not added to the new breed, instead was recognized as its own breed.


The Kennel Club officially listed the new breed as ‘King Charles Spaniel, Cavalier Type’

1945 & 1997

In 1945 The Kennel Club finally recognized the breed in its own right, but The American Kennel Club waited until 1997.

My Final Thought

Cavaliers have gone from dainty, long-nosed lapdogs, to a small pug-like breed. Only to be transformed into something completely different in pursuit of finding the original look.

Many people had many different opinions of the perfect dog and after centuries of cross-breeding, and so many different names, I think we got there.

Cavvy’s are beautiful inside and out, now they just need us to love them.

2 thoughts on “Where Do Cavaliers Originally Come From?”

  1. Pingback: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Temperament – My Cavvy
  2. Pingback: What is a Blenheim Cavalier? – My Cavvy

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