A Renewed Grand Alliance of Blenheim
To understand the title we will need to delve into a bit of European history and thus why the orange and white coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are called Blenheim. Here you can find out about the Battle of Blenheim and how it prevented the collapse of the Grand Alliance, the European Union of its day back in 1686 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blenheim. This union ended because us British got dissatisfied by how much money we were putting in to it and it will be interesting to see if history will repeat itself.
John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough was instrumental in victory at the Battle of Blenheim and it is from this battle that stems the tale of the Duchess of Marlborough stroking a Blenheim coloured Spaniel bitch's head whilst waiting for news of her husband from Blenheim. The bitch was pregnant and then produced a litter of pups with an orange thumbprint on each of their heads and thus the legend of the Blenheim thumbprint was born and until this day it is still thought desirable for a Cavalier of Blenheim colouring to have this thumbprint marking on its head.
The spaniels bred by the Duke were originally known as the Marlborough Spaniel, but with the building of Blenheim Palace as a reward to the Duke, somewhere in history the Marlborough Spaniel became the Blenheim Spaniel, eventually being unfortunately merged with the King Charles, being bred a lot smaller in frame and with the flat faced breeds becoming popular in the Royal courts during the Victorian era, we see the shortening of the muzzle until almost into non existence.
Lady Hamilton 1758 to 1805
According to history, it is very likely that the Marlborough Spaniel is the foundation breed of spaniel that King Charles loved, bred in his courts, and later bore his name "King Charles Spaniel". Over time the Marlborough Spaniel is bred to smaller breeds which reduced it's size and structure drastically.
The Marlborough Spaniel by Charles Towne 1781 to 1854
Attributed to Daniel Clowes 1774 to1829
A Marlborough Spaniel in an interior
Source Unknown -- a Marlborough Spaniel of the same era as shown to the the left in black & white.
The family type spaniel we are trying to breed at Pleasant Meadows are more reminiscent of the Marlborough Spaniel and the Toy Spaniels of the Royal Courts before the influence of the flat faced breeds. Toy Spaniels it is thought from the time of King Charles I and King Charles II were influenced by Far East dogs such as the Japanese Chin and Pekingese. This may be the case later on in their history, but from what can be seen in paintings, we would put our money on the Papillon and Phalene having a lot of influence in Toy Spaniels of King Charles I and King Charles II time, due to the head shape being spaniels with most defiantly a length of muzzle, but a lot of the King Charles Spaniel's history is conjecture, as most breeds are, but that won't stop a breeder spouting out the history of a breed like it is totally factual. Most breeds histories are word of mouth sprinkled with a good measure of fairy dust.
This painting is of a Blenheim Spaniel in 1816. It is very much like the Marlborough Spaniel, but we can see a reduction in leg length ratio-ed to back length. These were small cocking spaniels that were very sought after, as they worked seemingly indefatigably in dense cover flushing anything and everything. Used in packs, but apparently prone to breaking. Breaking means they would bugger off on a jolly,
Henry Bernard Chalon - Blenheim King Charles Spaniel In A Landscape 1816
oblivious to the huntsman's cries. Which is still a trait found in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel today when they gallivant off to chase a butterfly or a leaf blowing in the wind.
Then fast forward to 1866 to 1898, the Victorian era and we can see what showing is starting to do to the Blenheim Spaniel and the idea of closed off gene pools. These Blenheim Spaniels are notably smaller and many of them you can see the muzzle is disappearing, as they start to be primarily a lap dog and certainly at this time looking at these dogs that the flat faced breeds like Japanese Chins and Pekingese are influencing the look of them and as the Pug become ever more popular in Victorian England we start to see their influence as well on the Toy Spaniel.
A painting of a King Charles Spaniel by Édouard Manet, from c. 1866
1898 Blenheim Spaniels owned by the 9th Duke of Marlborough already showing the decreased body size and reduction in muzzle.
And from 1903 to 1915 the result of breeding the once beautiful King Charles Spaniel to the "high fashion" Pugs and Pekingese is clearly evident and catastrophic!
A Blenheim Spaniel in 1903
Headshot of an early 20th-century Ruby Spaniel
King Charles Spaniels from 1915
This would have been the end result of the King Charles Spaniel if it were not for one man who fell in love with the spaniels he saw in paintings with the longer nose and larger body type.
In the early days, there were no dog shows and no recognized breed standard, so both type and size varied. By the mid-nineteenth century, England took up dog breeding and dog showing seriously. Many breeds were developed and others altered. This brought a new fashion to the Toy Spaniel - dogs with the completely flat face, undershot jaw, domed skull with long, low set ears and large, round frontal eyes of the modern King Charles Spaniel (known in the United States today as the English Toy Spaniel). As a result of this new fashion, the King Charles Spaniel of the type seen in the early paintings became almost extinct.
It was at this stage that an American, Roswell Eldridge, began to search in England for foundation stock for Toy Spaniels that resembled those in the old paintings, including Sir Edwin Landseer’s "The Cavalier's Pets". All he could find were the short-faced modified King Charles Spaniel (Toy Spaniel). Eldridge persisted, persuading the Kennel Club in 1926 to allow him to offer prizes for five years at Crufts Dog Show - twenty-five pounds sterling for the best dog and twenty-five pounds sterling for the best bitch -- for the dogs of the Blenheim variety as seen in King Charles II's reign (which were descendants of the Marlborough Spaniel before fashion destroyed the breed). The following is a quotation taken from Crufts’ catalog: "As shown in the pictures of King Charles II's time, long face no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with the spot in the center of the skull" and the prizes to go to the nearest to the type described.
Not many among the King Charles breeders took this challenge very seriously as they had worked hard for years to do away with the long nose. Gradually, as the big prizes came to an end, only people really interested in reviving the dogs as they once had been were left to carry on the breeding experiment. At the end of five years little had been achieved, and the Kennel Club was of the opinion that the dogs were not in sufficient numbers, nor of a single type, to merit a breed registration separate from the Charlies.
But finally in 1928 a dog owned by Miss Mostyn Walker, Ann's Son, was awarded the prize. Unfortunately Roswell Eldridge died in 1928 at age 70, only a month before Crufts, so he never saw the results of his challenge prizes. It was in the same year that a breed club was founded, and the name Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was chosen. It was very important that the association with the name King Charles Spaniel be kept as most breeders bred back to the original type by way of the long-faced throwouts from the kennels of the short-faced variety breeders. Some of the stock threw back to the long-faced variety very quickly. Pioneers were often accused of using outcrosses to other suitable breeds to get the long faces, but this was not true, and crossing to other breeds was not recommended by the club.
But the questions that remains is would Roswell Eldridge have been satisfied with "Ann's Son"? Make no mistake, Ann's Son was a beautiful King Charles Spaniel, but did he actually look like the Marlborough Spaniel and deserve to be set as the breed standard by which all King Charles Spaniels should look like under the new classification of "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel" founded by the Kennel Club?
There is only one known photo of Ann's Son and it's hard to tell structure, type, and size from a laying down position. But Ann's Son does have a longer nose, and is the correct colouring. We do have to give the devoted breeders some credit in that they did actually achieve getting a longer snout on the King Charles Spaniel which allowed it to be recognized as a separate breed and adopted the preface of "Cavalier" King Charles Spaniel.
However, the creation of Cruft's in 1928 actually delt a further blow to this beautiful spaniel. Here is the actual stud listing for Ann's Son who is the foundation sire for all of the known Cavalier lines that exist today.
Remember, it was highly discouraged to outcross to other spaniel breeds to achieve the longer nose, and so they did the unthinkable and bred very closely related dogs together repeatedly for generation, after generation, after generation. And you don't have to take our word for it -- below are links for you to explore for yourself tracing the line from Ann's Son:
http://ingrus.net/cavalier/en/details.php?id=1424 -- Lineage of Ann's Son.
http://ingrus.net/cavalier/en/details.php?id=1567 -- Sample of a few of the dog's bred by Ann's Son leading up to Little Dorrit of Ttiweh.
http://ingrus.net/cavalier/en/details.php?id=1422 -- Little Dorrit of Ttiweh's father was Bouncer Rupert, who was a son of Plantation Gilbert, who was a son of Plantation Robert, who was a son of Rangers Bimbo, who was a son of Peter of Ttiweh, who was a son of Ann's Son.
And that's only one example of how inbred the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was right from it's infancy. If you explore around on those links you will see travesty after travesty of related dogs being bred together. And there were supposedly only five spaniels that were considered to be the foundation that set the stage for Ann's Son which continued on to sire the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel line that we know today.
This painting depicts the three eldest children of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. By Sir Anthony van Dyck 1637. Shown here are the daughter Mary, the future King Charles II (the oldest of the two boys), and future King James II. Both of the spaniels shown are thought to be of the breed that Roswell Eldridge fell in love with and was the original spaniel in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's lineage before they were interbred with flat-nosed dogs to create the now seperate breed of the King Charles Spaniel (English Toy Spaniel).
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was an attempt to get back to what you see in the painting above sitting at the knees of King Charles I's three oldest children, but the rebuilding of the breed that was started by Roswell Eldridge's passion to see the spaniel he had fallen in love with has become stagnated and halted by one simple thing, a closed off gene pool. When the Cavalier separated from the King Charles around 1942, it only had five stud dogs to move the breed forward and the inbreeding that took place and still does, has now caused so much damage to the general health of this breed, it is questionable without looking outside the closed off gene pool, that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will soon be bred into its own extinction in the foreseeable future.
At Pleasant Meadows we are trying to move the Cavalier in to the 21st Century, breeding from a widened gene pool to create a small/medium spaniel type dog, being less exaggerated in the head and going back to the more elegant and refined head of the Marlborough Spaniel, reduce the heavy coat and improve the all round structure of the dog, so it is a spaniel that could do an occasional days work in the field still, whilst retaining what really makes a Cavalier special that sweet, friendly, gentle nature that make them such a wonderful companion dog.
A Marlborough Spaniel in a wooded landscape, a windmill beyond, 1830 by Charles Towne (British, 1763–1840)
We find ourselves looking longingly at the paintings of Marlborough Spaniel! And it's our most sincere desire to breed dogs that are healthy and will be a thriving companion for families to enjoy! We started our journey with being the first breeder in Canada to raise the Cavapoo (Cavalier x Poodle), and we are so proud of our dogs and the amazing health that they have had as wonderful companions and as therapy dogs. We attribute our line of Cavaliers success to the fact that they have not been inbred with generations of line breeding (related dogs bred together), however, the diversity within the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is so limited that in reality all Cavaliers today are related at some level. So much so, that we are questioning the future of the breed and we have been unable to source out another line of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that are as healthy as ours have proven to be! For the past few years (2015 to current) we have been researching an alternative breed to add new blood to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and we have settled on the Brittany to bring the Cavalier into the 21st century. We have been following a blog from a breeder in the UK that started out raising Cavapoos just a few years ahead of us starting in 2011, and like us, she did so to improve the health and structure of the Cavalier while creating a wonderful family dog in the process. Fast forward a bit, and this breeder in the UK has been successfully crossing the Brittany to the Cavalier and has even integrated her Cavapoo line into the mixture to improve the overall structure, especially to elongate the nose of the Cavalier, and to improve the size and fur type to be less maintenance. And all of this accomplishes the most important thing ... it improves the health of our beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Our journey of creating the ultimate family dog began in May of 2011 when we had our first litter of Cavapoo puppies. Our goals today are still the same as they were when we began, to improve the overall health and structure of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and to create a dog that will fit well into most family types. Pictured below is our first litter of three puppies from our foundation Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dulcie, and our Miniature Poodle, Tobi, that were born May 1st, 2011.
Our first litter was a roaring success! Not only were the puppies absolutely beautiful, but they had a wonderful temperament and we could see from this litter that the Cavapoo was exactly what we had always hoped they would be and so for our second litter in April 21st, 2012 we kept a sturdy Cavapoo female, Norah Faye! And these were our humble beginnings on our journey of improving the Cavalier and creating a all around family dog that would be allergy friendly for those who love the Cavalier, but can't have a purebred because of their allergies.