CHAPTER XLIV. THE KING CHARLES SPANIELS

The Blenheim must also have a pearly-white ground with bright rich chestnut or ruby red markings evenly distributed in patches over the body. The ears and cheeks must be red, and a white blaze should stretch from the nose to the forehead and thence in a curve between the ears. In the middle of the forehead there should be, on the white blaze, a clear red spot about the size of a sixpence. This is called the “Blenheim spot,” which, as well as the profuse mane, adds greatly to the beauty of this particular Toy Spaniel. Unfortunately, in a litter of Blenheims the spot is often wanting.

The Ruby Spaniel is of one colour, a rich, unbroken red. The nose is black. There are now some very beautiful specimens of Ruby Spaniels, but it is only within the last quarter of a century that this variety has existed. It seems to have originally appeared in a litter of King Charles puppies, when it was looked upon as a freak of nature, taking for its entire colour only the tan markings and losing the black ground.

The different varieties of Toy Spaniels have been so much interbred that a litter has been reputed to contain the four kinds, but this would be of very rare occurrence. The Blenheim is now often crossed with the Tricolour, when the litter consist of puppies quite true to the two types. The crossing of the King Charles with the Ruby is also attended with very good results, the tan markings on the King Charles becoming very bright and the colour of the Ruby also being improved. Neither of these specimens should be crossed with either the Blenheim or the Tricolour, as white must not appear in either the King Charles or the Ruby Spaniel.

It is regretted by some of the admirers of these dogs that custom has ordained that their tails should be docked. As portrayed in early pictures of the King Charles and the Blenheim varieties, the tails are long, well flagged, and inclined to curve gracefully over the back, and in none of the pictures of the supposed ancestors of our present Toy Spaniels—even so recent as those painted by Sir Edwin Landseer—do we find an absence of the long tail.

If left intact, the tail would take two or three years to attain perfection, but the same may be said of the dog generally, which improves very much with age, and is not at its best until it is three years old, and even then continues to improve.

Although the Toy Spaniels are unquestionably true aristocrats by nature, birth, and breeding, and are most at home in a drawing-room or on a well-kept lawn, they are by no means deficient in sporting proclivities, and, in spite of their short noses, their scent is very keen. They thoroughly enjoy a good scamper, and are all the better for not being too much pampered. They are very good house-dogs, intelligent and affectionate, and have sympathetic, coaxing little ways. One point in their favour is the fact that they are not noisy, and do not yap continually when strangers go into a room where they are, or at other times, as is the habit with some breeds of toy dogs.

Those who have once had King Charles Spaniels as pets seldom care to replace them by any other variety of dog, fearing lest they might not find in another breed such engaging little friends and companions, “gentle” as of yore and also “comforters.”

Although these dogs need care, they possess great powers of endurance. They appreciate warmth and comfort, but do not thrive so well in either extreme heat or intense cold. One thing to be avoided is the wetting of their feathered feet, or, should this happen, allowing them to remain so; and, as in the case of all dogs with long ears, the interior of the ears should be carefully kept dry to avoid the risk of canker.

In going back to a period long before the last century was half-way through, we find that a great number of these ornamental pets were in the hands of working men living in the East End of London, and the competition among them to own the best was very keen. They held miniature dog shows at small taverns, and paraded their dogs on the sanded floor of tap-rooms, their owners sitting around smoking long church-warden pipes. The value of good specimens in those early days appears to have been from P5 to P250, which latter sum is said to have been refused by a comparatively poor man for a small black and tan with very long ears, and a nose much too long for our present-day fancy. Among the names of some old prominent breeders and exhibitors may be mentioned those of C. Aistrop, J. Garwood, J. A. Buggs, and Mrs. Forder.

It is interesting to note, on looking over a catalogue of the Kennel Club Show, that in 1884 the classes for Toy Spaniels numbered five, with two championship prizes, one each for Blenheims and Black and Tans, and the total entries were 19. At this date neither Tricolours nor Rubies were recognised as a separate variety by the Kennel Club, and they had no place in the register of breeds until the year 1902. At the Kennel Club show in 1904 thirty-one classes were provided and eight challenge certificate prizes were given, the entries numbering 109.

The formation of the Toy Spaniel Club in 1885, and the impetus given to breeders and exhibitors by the numerous shows with good classification, have caused this beautiful breed to become more popular year by year. Fifty years ago the owners might be almost counted on the fingers of one's hands; now probably the days of the year would hardly cover them.

Among the most successful exhibitors of late years have been the Hon. Mrs. McLaren Morrison, the Hon. Mrs. Lytton, Mrs. Graves, Mrs. L. H. Thompson, Miss Young, Mrs. H. B. Looker, Mrs. Privette, Miss Hall, the Misses Clarkson and Grantham, Mrs. Dean, Mr. H. Taylor, Mrs. Bright, Mrs. Adamson, Miss Spofforth, Mrs. Hope Paterson, Mrs. Lydia Jenkins, and Miss E. Taylor.