Showsight Presents The Papillon


By Arlene Czech

A Brief History of tHe PAPillon I n sorting through vast amounts of reference material I have gath- ered on the Papillon for the last fifty nine years I discovered a pamphlet printed in 1957 that has great information on the history of the Papillon. It was written by Rachel D. Kemmerer, President Emeritus of the Papillon Club of America. I have copied it here, and it is with permission from the Papillon Club of America Board as it is copyrighted by them in 1957. Th e origin of the Continental Toy Spaniel, of which the papillon is the mod- ern representative, can be traced through the paintings of the Old Masters of every country in Western Europe as far back as the earliest years of the 16th Century. Beginning about 1500, Vecelli, called Titian, painted a number of tiny span- iels, rather similar to the hunting spaniels of the day. In this century and the next, dogs—so like the Titian spaniel that it is safe to assume this was a pure breed— made their appearance in Spain, France and the Low Countries. We can only speculate on the ancestry of the Titian spaniel. Classical Greece and Rome possessed toy dogs but these were a spitz type which seems to have become extinct. During the Dark Ages only hunt- ing and working dogs would have been of value, but with the dawn of the Renais- sance, Italy became a prolific source of toy breeds of many varied types: toy grey- hounds, dwarf barbets (a sort of miniature poodle, often clipped lion-fashion), of Cayenne (which were curiously pug-like),

and a number of breeds which probably resulted from crosses of various sorts. Th e toy spaniel was quite di ff erent in its char- acteristics from any of these. One authority has suggested that the toy spaniel was brought from China, with which country the Venetians had traded since the days of Marco Polo. Th e Chi- nese did, in fact, have as late as the 18th century a parti-colored, long-coated dog not unlike the Titian spaniel, along with those resembling the modern Pekingese. But the breeders of the Renaissance were unable to reduce greyhounds and barbets to minute size, it seems unnecessary to resort to the Chinese theory to account for the toy spaniel. Th e name spaniel means dog of Spain, for which reason it has often been inferred that the spaniel breeds originated there. Th e spaniel family, which includes the set- ters, is as old as such other basic canine patterns as the hounds, the masti ff s or the spitzes. It is therefore probable that the hunting spaniels came to Europe along with successive Asiatic tribes. In this case, spaniel was a misnomer for the hunting breeds as well as for the toy. Th e often repeated story that the con- querors of Mexico brought the Chihuahua to Spain and that the papillon is descended from it seems to have no historical basis. Th e Titian spaniel had been developed as a pure breed prior to the Conquest of Mexico. Furthermore, this theory seems to have been fabricated to account for the erect, oblique ears of the papillon. But it explains nothing, because the Continental Toy Spaniel did not become the butterfly

dog with erect ears until two and a half centuries after the Conquest. Th e continued popularity of the little spaniel in court circles gave the breeders a ready market for their dogs. Evidently they conducted an intensive breeding program for its refinement. Over the years it devel- oped finer bone, more abundant coat and profuse feathering. Th e most characteristic change, however, was in the shape of the head. Titian’s spaniels had relatively flat heads with little stop; a type of toy spaniel painted shortly after by Veronese and oth- ers had high-domed, sometimes bulging heads. By the time of Louis XIV, French and Belgian breeders had perfected the type they sought. Mignard, the o ffi cial court painter, in his portraits of the child Marie de Bourbon, the Dauphin and His Family, and several paintings of Henriette d’Orleans, shows us a little spaniel that could scarcely be improved upon today. From Titian through Mignard and his contemporaries, all of the Continental Toy Spaniels had drooping ears. Th e ears were set high, although far enough apart to show the curve of the skull. Th ey were of medi- um size, hanging, as one writer expressed it, “lightly.” Th ere may, however, have been an occasional dog with leathers of su ffi cient strength for the ears to stand erect. Two 18th Century paintings suggest this. Suddenly, toward the end of the 19th Century, the erect ear carriage with its but- terfly appearance became highly fashion- able. In fact, it so caught the public fancy that the new term of “papillon” quickly became the name for the entire breed. Sev- eral attempts have been made in the past


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