In the fourth chapter of Macaulay's History of England we read of King Charles II. that “he might be seen before the dew was off the grass in St. James's Park, striding among the trees playing with his Spaniels and flinging corn to his ducks, and these exhibitions endeared him to the common people, who always like to see the great unbend.”

Queen Elizabeth's physician, Dr. Caius, described these little Spaniels as “delicate, neate, and pretty kind of dogges, called the Spaniel gentle or the comforter,” and further said: “These dogges are little, pretty, proper, and fyne, and sought for to satisfie the delicatenesse of daintie dames and wanton women's wills, instruments of folly for them to play and dally withall, to tryfle away the treasure of time, to withdraw their mindes from their commendable exercises. These puppies the smaller they be, the more pleasure they provoke as more meete playfellowes for minsing mistrisses to beare in their bosoms, to keepe company withall in their chambers, to succour with sleepe in bed, and nourishe with meate at board, to lie in their lappes, and licke their lippes as they ryde in their waggons, and good reason it should be so, for coursenesse with fynenesse hath no fellowship, but featnesse with neatnesse hath neighbourhood enough.”

There would appear to be much divergence of opinion as to the origin of this breed, and the date of its first appearance in England, but it was certainly acclimatised here as early as the reign of Henry VIII., and it is generally thought that it is of Japanese origin, taken from Japan to Spain by the early voyagers to the East, and thence imported into England. The English Toy Spaniels of to-day, especially the Blenheim variety, are also said by some to be related to some sporting Spaniels which belonged to Queen Mary about the year 1555, and might have been brought over from Germany. Mary kept a pack of Spaniels for hunting purposes.

There is another theory advanced, and with some reason that the English Toy Spaniel of the present day derived its origin from the Cocker Spaniel, as these larger dogs have the same colours and markings, black and tan, tricolour, and red and white. The Cocker also occasionally has the spot on the forehead which is a characteristic of the Blenheim.

Be the origin of the King Charles Spaniel, and its advent in this country, what it may, King Charles II. so much indulged and loved these little friends that they followed him hither and thither as they pleased, and seem to have been seldom separated from him. By him they were loved and cherished, and brought into great popularity; in his company they adorn canvas and ancient tapestries, and are reputed to have been allowed free access at all times to Whitehall, Hampton Court, and other royal palaces.

There are now four recognised varieties of the English Toy Spaniel, or, more properly speaking, five, as the Marlborough Blenheims are considered a distinct type. The latter are said by some to be the oldest of the Toy Spaniels; by others to have been first brought over from Spain during the reign of Charles II. by John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, from whose home, Blenheim Palace, the name was derived, and has ever since been retained.

If we may take the evidence of Vandyck, Watteau, Francois Boucher, and Greuze, in whose pictures they are so frequently introduced, all the toy Spaniels of bygone days had much longer noses and smaller, flatter heads than those of the present time, and they had much longer ears, these in many instances dragging on the ground.

The Marlborough Blenheim has retained several of the ancestral points. Although this variety is of the same family, and has the same name, as the short-nosed Blenheim of the present day, there is a great deal of difference between the two types. The Marlborough is higher on the legs, which need not be so fully feathered. He has a much longer muzzle and a flatter and more contracted skull. The Marlborough possesses many of the attributes of a sporting Spaniel; but so also does the modern Blenheim, although perhaps in a lesser degree. He has a very good scent. Mr. Rawdon B. Lee states that “the Blenheims of Marlborough were excellent dogs to work the coverts for cock and pheasant, and that excepting in colour there is in reality not much difference in appearance between the older orange and white dogs (not as they are to-day, with their abnormally short noses, round skulls, and enormous eyes), and the liver and white Cockers which H. B. Chalon drew for Daniel's Rural Sports in 1801.”

This will bear out the statement that the smaller type of Spaniel may be descended from the Cockers.

The ground colour of this dog is white, with chestnut encircling the ears to the muzzle, the sides of the neck are chestnut, as are also the ears. There is a white blaze on the forehead, in the centre of which should be a clear lozenge-shaped chestnut spot, called the beauty spot, which by inbreeding with other varieties is fast being lost. Chestnut markings are on the body and on the sides of the hind-legs. The coat should incline to be curly; the head must be flat, not broad, and the muzzle should be straight. The chestnut should be of a rich colour.

The four varieties—the King Charles, Tricolour or (as he has been called) Charles I. Spaniel, the modern Blenheim, and the Ruby—have all the same points, differing from one another in colour only, and the following description of the points as determined by the Toy Spaniel Club serves for all:—

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HEAD—Should be well domed, and in good specimens is absolutely semi-globular, sometimes even extending beyond the half-circle, and projecting over the eyes, so as nearly to meet the upturned nose. EYES—The eyes are set wide apart, with the eyelids square to the line of the face, not oblique or fox-like. The eyes themselves are large, and dark as possible, so as to be generally considered black, their enormous pupils, which are absolutely of that colour, increasing the description. There is always a certain amount of weeping shown at the inner angles. This is owing to a defect in the lachrymal duct. STOP—The “stop” or hollow between the eyes is well marked, as in the Bulldog, or even more so; some good specimens exhibit a hollow deep enough to bury a small marble. NOSE—The nose must be short and well turned up between the eyes, and without any indication of artificial displacement afforded by a deviation to either side. The colour of the end should be black, and it should be both deep and wide with open nostrils. JAW—The muzzle must be square and deep, and the lower jaw wide between the branches, leaving plenty of space for the tongue, and for the attachment of the lower lips, which should completely conceal the teeth. It should also be turned up or “finished,” so as to allow of its meeting the end of the upper jaw turned up in a similar way, as above described. EARS—The ears must be long, so as to approach the ground. In an average-sized dog they measure twenty inches from tip to tip, and some reach twenty-two inches, or even a trifle more. They should be set low on the head, hang flat to the sides of the cheeks, and be heavily feathered. In this last respect the King Charles is expected to exceed the Blenheim, and his ears occasionally extend to twenty-four inches. SIZE—The most desirable size is indicated by the accepted weight of from 7 lb. to 10 lb. SHAPE—In compactness of shape these Spaniels almost rival the Pug, but the length of coat adds greatly to the apparent bulk, as the body, when the coat is wetted, looks small in comparison with that dog. Still, it ought to be decidedly “cobby,” with strong, stout legs, short broad back and wide chest. The symmetry of the King Charles is of importance, but it is seldom that there is any defect in this respect. COAT—The coat should be long, silky, soft and wavy, but not curly. In the Blenheim there should be a profuse mane, extending well down in the front of the chest. The feather should be well displayed on the ears and feet, and in the latter case so thickly as to give the appearance of their being webbed. It is also carried well up the backs of the legs. In the Black and Tan the feather on the ears is very long and profuse, exceeding that of the Blenheim by an inch or more. The feather on the tail (which is cut to the length of three and a half to four inches) should be silky, and from five to six inches in length, constituting a marked “flag” of a square shape, and not carried above the level of the back. COLOUR—The colour differs with the variety. The Black and Tan is a rich glossy black and deep mahogany tan; tan spots over the eyes, and the usual markings on the muzzle, chest, and legs are also required. The Ruby is a rich chestnut red, and is whole-coloured. The presence of a few white hairs intermixed with the black on the chest of a Black and Tan, or intermixed with the red on the chest of a Ruby Spaniel, shall carry weight against a dog, but shall not in itself absolutely disqualify; but a white patch on the chest or white on any other part of a Black and Tan or Ruby Spaniel shall be a disqualification. The Blenheim must on no account be whole-coloured, but should have a ground of pure pearly white, with bright rich chestnut or ruby red markings evenly distributed in large patches. The ears and cheeks should be red, with a blaze of white extending from the nose up the forehead, and ending between the ears in a crescentic curve. In the centre of this blaze at the top of the forehead there should be a clear “spot” of red, of the size of a sixpence. Tan ticks on the fore-legs and on the white muzzle are desirable. The Tricolour should in part have the tan of the Black and Tan, with markings like the Blenheim in black instead of red on a pearly-white ground. The ears and under the tail should also be lined with tan. The Tricolour has no “spot,” that beauty being peculiarly the property of the Blenheim. The All Red King Charles is known by the name of “Ruby Spaniel”; the colour of the nose is black. The points of the “Ruby” are the same as those of the “Black and Tan,” differing only in colour.

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The King Charles variety used to consist of black and tan and black and white Spaniels, and it is thought that by the inter-breeding of the two specimens the Tricolour was produced. The colour of the King Charles now is a glossy black with rich mahogany tan spots over the eyes and on the cheeks. There should also be some tan on the legs and under the tail.

The Prince Charles, or Tricolour, should have a pearly-white ground with glossy black markings evenly distributed over the body in patches. The ears should be lined with tan; tan must also be seen over the eyes, and some on the cheeks. Under the tail also tan must appear.

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.

The novice fancier, desirous of breeding for profit, exhibition, or pleasure, when price is an object for consideration, is often better advised to purchase a healthy puppy from a breeder of repute rather than to be deluded with the notion that a good adult can be purchased for a few pounds, or to be carried away with the idea that a cheap, indifferently bred specimen will produce first-class stock. It takes years to breed out bad points, but good blood will tell.

When you are purchasing a bitch with the intention of breeding, many inquiries should be made as to the stock from which she comes. This will influence the selection of the sire to whom she is to be mated, and he should excel in the points in which she is deficient. It is absolutely necessary to have perfectly healthy animals, and if the female be young, and small stock is desired, her mate should be several years her senior. A plain specimen of the right blood is quite likely to produce good results to the breeder; for example, should there be two female puppies in a well-bred litter, one remarkable as promising to have all the requirements for a coming champion, the other large and plain, this latter should be selected for breeding purposes as, being stronger, she will make a better and more useful mother than her handsome sister, who should be kept for exhibition, or for sale at a remunerative price.

The modern craze for small specimens makes them quite unsuitable for procreation. A brood bitch should not be less than 9 lb. in weight, and even heavier is preferable. A sire the same size will produce small and far more typical stock than one of 5 lb. or 6 lb., as the tendency is to degenerate, especially in head points; but small size can be obtained by suitably selecting the parents.

The early spring is the best season for breeding, as it gives the puppies a start of at least six months in which to grow and get strong before the cold weather sets in, although, of course, they can be bred at any time, but autumn and winter puppies are more troublesome to rear. It is always wise to administer occasionally, both to puppies and adults, a dose of worm medicine, so as to give no chance to internal parasites—the most troublesome ill with which the dog owner has to wrestle, causing even more mortality than the dreaded scourge of distemper.

The rules of hygiene cannot be overlooked, as upon them hangs the success of the breeder; plenty of fresh air, light, and sunshine are as necessary as food. Puppies of this breed are essentially delicate, and must be kept free from cold and draughts, but they require liberty and freedom to develop and strengthen their limbs, otherwise they are liable to develop rickets. Their food should be of the best quality, and after the age of six months, nothing seems more suitable than stale brown bred, cut up dice size, and moistened with good stock gravy, together with minced, lean, underdone roast beef, with the addition, two or three times a week, of a little well-cooked green vegetable, varied with rice or suet pudding and plain biscuits. Fish may also be given occasionally.

When only two or three dogs are kept, table scraps will generally be sufficient, but the pernicious habit of feeding at all times, and giving sweets, pastry, and rich dainties, is most harmful, and must produce disastrous results to the unfortunate animal. Two meals a day at regular intervals are quite sufficient to keep these little pets in the best condition, although puppies should be fed four times daily in small quantities. After leaving the mother they will thrive better if put on dry food, and a small portion of scraped or finely minced lean meat given them every other day, alternately with a chopped hard-boiled egg and stale bread-crumbs.