The Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a toy breed best suited as a companion pet, has a very interesting history that perfectly – one that exemplifies how humans have manipulated canine genes through selective breeding.
The ancestry of toy spaniels, from which the Cavalier and closely related King Charles spaniel descend, can be traced to the Far East (likely Japan, which suggests a common ancestry with the Pekingese). It’s believed that these toy spaniels were given to European royalty as gifts.
History shows that the earliest recorded appearance of a toy spaniel in England was in a painting of Queen Mary I and King Philip in the early 1500s. However, it was during the reign of King Charles II (1649-1685) that the small spaniel breeds exploded in popularity – and from when they were first identified with the monarchy by name. So enamored with them was Charles, that the dogs reported had complete freedom within Whitehall Palace – and that Charles had a tendency to pay more mind to the dogs than visitors and state business.
The toy spaniels of Charles’ day were said to possess a flatter skull and short noses, which is the biggest distinction between the two breeds ...