Papillon: History and Appearance
The Papillon is a breed that has been around for centuries. Believed to have been well established in Europe by the 1200’s and known in the 15th century as the “dwarf spaniel,” the Papillon was the favored pet among aristocratic women and royalty.
The exact origin of the Papillon is unknown, though there are theories that the breed may have originated in China or other Asian countries and traveled to Europe through trade. Other theories suggest that the breed may have been developed from other spaniel breeds in Spain. Regardless, the Papillon owes much of its success during the 15th century to Italy and Spain, as both countries bred the dogs and exported them to other countries.
The Papillon was favored by the court of Louis XIV, as well as the ruler himself. There are records of the breed being owned by the queen of Poland, Marie Antoinette, and several other noted figures. Prices for the breed ran rather high, and it became the valued pet of the wealthy. A Bolognese man named Filiponi handled much of the trade of the breed in those days, and provided the aristocracy with the best specimens.
The Papillon was a favorite of painters, as well as their subjects. Many women insisted on having their portraits painted with the dog. Many famous artists such as Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt, and later, Toulouse-Lautrec featured the dog in their works.
Though mainly the elegant pet of the wealthy, the Papillon had another skill that was highly valued. The breed was excellent at ratting. They would drive the rat out of hiding and wear it out, then quickly kill it. Despite being a pampered lapdog, the Papillon was actually quite a hardy breed. It did not experience difficulties with temperature and climate like other toy breeds, and was just as happy outdoors as it was indoors.
At some point in time, there was a shift in the Papillon’s general appearance. The breed that was featured in the paintings of the greats and most likely owned by royalty featured large, pendulous ears. After some time, the ear appearance shifted to ears that were held erect. The ears were fringed and set in a way that they resembled butterfly wings. The dog ceased to be referred to as the “dwarf spaniel” and was soon called Papillon, which is French for “butterfly.” The reason for this change is unknown. Today, Papillons with butterfly ears and drop ears can be born in the same litter. Papillons with drop ears are referred to as “Phalenes” in Europe. In many countries, both ear types are judged equally.
Another change the Papillon went through over time was a change in coat color. In the past, most Papillons were solid colored. The modern Papillon is predominately white with patches of color, and solid colored dogs are considered less desirable. In fact, solid colored Papillons are disqualified from show.
Papillons were bred in the United States for many years, and exhibited in a variety of dog shows, though they were not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1935.
The Papillon is an elegant, yet hardy little dog. It possesses a fine boned structure and should appear light and dainty. It is lively, alert, and friendly. Though many Papillons can still be found in the drop eared variety, the breed is distinguished by its large butterfly ears.
The Papillon has a smaller head that is slightly rounded. The muzzle is fine and thin, and tapered to the nose. The nose is usually black. It is more rounded and slightly flat on top. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. The Papillon’s eyes should be dark, medium, and round.
The ears must meet certain criteria, whether they are drop ears or butterfly ears. Butterfly ears should be carried and spread like the wings of a butterfly. When alert, the ears should form a 45 degree angle from the head. Drop ears must be shaped similarly, but should be carried down. Both ear types should be large with rounded tips. Ears are set on the sides towards the back of the head.
The Papillon has a tucked up abdomen, straight back, and tail that is set high. The tail is fully plumed and carried high. The dog’s legs are slender and fine boned. The legs should be straight. The feet are quite long and thin, similar to that of a hare.
The Papillon has a longer coat. The fur is fine and silky. The hair grows flat on the back and down the sides of the body. The Papillon should have an abundant frill on the chest and ears. The hair is shorter on the head. The legs are feathered, and the tail is lush and full.
The Papillon is either parti colored or white with colored patches. On the head, colored patches cover both ears and both eyes. A white blaze on the head is preferred. Colored markings should be symmetrical.
Showing a Papillon
In show, the Papillon should meet certain criteria. Undershot or overshot bites, a nose colored anything but black, and bulging eyes are considered faults. Particular attention is paid to the ears, as they are considered the breed’s signature feature. Ears that are small, pointed, set too high, or set at different heights shall be severely penalized.
The Papillon’s coat can also lead to severe penalties if it does not conform to the expected standard. Dogs should not be solid colored, nor should they primarily be white. Dogs should all feature some white in the coat. There should not be coloring other than white covering both ears or extending over the eyes.
The Papillon should have a fine, delicate appearance and should not by husky or heavy boned. Dogs over 11 inches tall will be faulted. Dogs over 12 inches tall will be disqualified. The Papillon should have a gait that is graceful and easy. It should not be stiff or jerky. The dog should appear happy and alert.
1$ soldfor sale in: Pennsylvania