Monday, February 22, 2010

The Spaniel in the 18th Century

In honor of Reinette, who is curled up with her head in my lap, we're going to look at spaniels in the 18th century. I love the picture to the left, not only because it is utterly ridiculous (a wig that big in any material will crush your head into your neck), but for the adorable little dog riding on the lady's rump.

My beautiful 10 week old puppy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which given the name has got to be a period breed, right? Not exactly. There was and is a type of spaniel called the King Charles Spaniel, and these were back in the 17th century the favorite companion of King Charles II of England, which is how they got their name. The picture to the right is what they used to look like back then.

Fast forward to 1926 and the KC spaniel had become so interbred with other breeds, notably those with short muzzles, that the original variety no longer existed. That's when an American names Roswell Eldridge started offering prizes at dog shows for spaniels that resembled the ones from the 17th and 18th century paintings. In time the winners were bred to recreate the look seen above. This new version of an old classic was dubbed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, after the cavalier King who had so adored them.

Of course there were other varieties of spaniel, but we will save them for another day.

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