Papillon (and Phalene)

PapillonHistory and Development

The Papillon has bred true to type for sonic 700 years or more, as can be verified in the art galleries and museums of the world. It was undoubtedly developed much earlier, and may well have its origin as far back as the 2nd century a.d., or even before then.

A terra cotta statue of a somewhat similar dog has been located in Belgium in a Roman tomb of the 2nd century, by Baron Houtart, but there is then a gap until the appearance of dogs typical of the drop-eared variety of today in paintings and frescoes from the late 13th/early 14th centuries. From that time onwards, they have figured in many famous works of art. A close investigation of old paintings reveals that a number of the Toy Spaniels can be clearly identified as Papillons, and yet others bear distinct earmarks of being ancestors of the present Cavalier. By about the 16th century the Papillon had spread from Central Italy, where it bad been first identified, to virtually the whole of Europe, and became a favorite of the Royalty and Courtiers of many lands, including France, Spain, England, Sweden, the Netherlands and Poland.

The breed today exists in two distinct forms. The Papillon has erect – or more correctly – oblique ears. Identical with the Papillon, except that its cars arc fully dropped, is the Phalene, or Continental Toy Spaniel. In French, the former means “butterfly” and the latter “moth”. The Papillon derives its name from the head, in which the oblique cars, which must be heavily furnished with long, abundant, silky “curtain” fringes, resemble the wings of a butterfly. When the dog “uses” its cars, an irresistible effect of a butterfly in flight is produced, heightened by the figure-of-eight blaze on the forehead which resembles the body of a butterfly. In the Phalene, the dropped ears resemble the folded wings of the moth. Unlike many Spaniel breeds, the tail is carried in an are, loosely, over the back, with the heavy tail plume falling gracefully to one side or other of the spine. In fact, this last feature at one time gave the breed the soubriquet of “chien ecureuil”, squirrel dog.

Papillon: Color

This must be predominantly white, but relieved with some other color. Any color, or admixture of colors is permissible in most countries, although certain color combinations entail disqualification in America. These are liver (which also is not an admissible color in Great Britain), coat of solid color or all white or one with no white, and white patches on the cars or around the eyes.

Papillon: Care

This is a breed which is absolutely normal in all respects, with no exaggerations of structure or features. They accustom themselves readily to varying climates and altitudes and are successfully bred from sea level to 9,000 feet, and from the tropics to the frigid winter conditions of the Canadian Plains. Little out of the ordinary care is, therefore, called for. The feeding can vary a little, but is basically meat and cereal, with occasional fish, eggs and lightly cooked vegetables. The quantities should be proportionate to the size of the dog.

The coat and fringes arc important features of the breed and regular grooming and coat care is essential to preserve these

Being free from physical abnormalities, they usually are easy whelpers, and make good mothers. However, as in any breed, there are exceptions to this generalization.

Papillon: Character

They are by nature dainty little creatures in appearance, but arc physically extremely resilient and adaptable. Active by nature, they love plenty of exercise, and when in good physical condition, are well capable of enjoying a ton mile walk. However, exercise is not necessary as they will happily take adequate exercise on their own, it allowed to run tree in a garden of reasonable size. As house dogs they are excellent. Passionately attached to their owners, they tend to resent intruders, and will raise the root with their barks it an unrecognized person enters the premises. Also they lend themselves well to training.


There exist substantial differences between the Standards in various parts of the world. The British and American Standards differ little in intent. the main divergence as we have seen being concerned with color. In both the U.S.A. and Britain the Papillon and the Phalene are covered by the same Standard and judged together as one breed. In the U.S.A. a specimen over 12″ in height is disqualified. Height limits arc 8″ to 11″; weight must be in proportion.

In France, the Standard of the Federation Cynologique Internationale (F.C.I.) however, separates the Papillon and the Phalene into two separate breeds, judged separately. Both French Standards refer to the breeds as Spaniels, and are, in fact, the only ones to recognize them as such. It also emphasizes the necessity of the dogs resembling miniature Spaniels, and that they should bear no resemblance to the “Spitz” breeds. Basically, the Standard lists two types, those under 5i lbs. and those over this weight. The former are required to have a more pronounced “stop” and rather shorter foreface than the latter. The F.C.I, and American Standards arc much less forceful on the matter of the blaze on the forehead than the British. It is mentioned, but not as a firm requirement, neither is the color of the blaze specified. In all these Standards, there is absolute agreement on the structure, build and movement of the dog. In short, this calls for a sound, balanced dog, the proportions generally similar to a miniaturized Spaniel, with a free movement and no points exaggerated in any way.

Selections from the book: “The World encyclopedia of Dogs” (1971)