The Cavalier is by most measures the largest toy breed: though clearly a lap dog, fully-grown adults tend to fill one rather amply. It is nonetheless quite small for a spaniel, with fully-grown Cavaliers roughly comparable in size to an adolescent of a more conventional spaniel breed. Breed standards call for a height between 29 and 33 cm (12-13 inches) with a proportionate weight between 5,5 and 8,5 kg (13 and 18 lbs). Unlike most other spaniels, the Cavalier has a full-length tail well-feathered with long hair, which is typically carried aloft when walking.
The Blenheim's coat features rich chestnut markings on a pearly white background.The breed naturally grows a substantial silky coat of moderate length. Breed standards call for it to be free from curl, with a slight wave permissible. In adulthood, Cavaliers grow lengthy feathering on their ears, chest, legs, feet and tail; breed standards demand this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet cited as a particularly important feature of the breed.
The breed has four recognized colors:
Blenheim (rich chestnut on pearly white background)
Tricolor (black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, resembling eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail)
Black and Tan (black with tan markings)
Ruby (rich reddish-brown all over)
Parti-colors are the colors that include white: Blenheim and Tricolor. Whole-colors have no white: Black and Tan, and Ruby. The Blenheim is the most common color, although the others are not rare.
If you are wanting to show a Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel extra points will be given for a rich chestnut dot placed between the eyes on the top of the forehead, called the lozenge. It is rare which makes it desirable for show breeders.
The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog". Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs. A well-socialized Cavalier will not be shy about socializing with much larger dogs. (However, on occasion, this tendency can be dangerous, as many cavaliers will presume all other dogs to be equally friendly, and may attempt to greet and play with aggressive dogs).
However, the extremely social nature of the Cavalier KC Spaniel means that they require almost constant companionship from humans or other dogs, and are not suited to spending long periods of time on their own.
A young King Charles II with his King Charles SpanielsFor many centuries, small breeds of spaniels have been popular in the United Kingdom. In the eleventh century, in the reign of King Canute, it was illegal to hunt with any dog that could not fit through a gauge that was eleven inches in diameter. Hence, the "birth" of the Toy Spaniel in the United Kingdom. Some centuries later, Toy Spaniels became popular as pets, especially as pets of the royal family. In fact, the King Charles Spaniel was so named because a Blenheim-coated spaniel was the children's pet in the household of Charles I. King Charles II went so far as to issue a decree that the King Charles Spaniel could not be forbidden entrance to any public place, including the Houses of Parliament. Such spaniels can be seen in many paintings of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These early spaniels had longer, pointier snouts and thinner-boned limbs than today's.
Over time, the toy spaniels were replaced in popularity by short-snouted, dome-headed dogs of Asian descent, such as the Pug and Japanese Chin. The King Charles Spaniel was bred with these dogs, resulting in the similar-shaped head of today's English Toy Spaniel breed. The King Charles Spaniel remained popular at Blenheim Palace, home to the Dukes of Marlborough, where the brown and white version was the most popular - resulting in the name Blenheim for that color combination.
In the 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldrige offered twenty-five pounds as a prize for any King Charles Spaniel "of the old-fashioned type" with a longer nose, flat skull, and a lozenge (spot) in the middle of the crown of the head, sometimes called "the kiss of Buddha," "Blenheim Spot," or "Kissing Spot". So, the breed was developed by selective breeding of short-snouted Spaniels. The result was a dog that resembled the boyhood pet of the future Charles II of England ("Cavalier King Charles"), whence the breed derives its name.