A Comparison of the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

By: Chewy EditorialPublished:

A Comparison of the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Many people are unable to recognize the difference between the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They are two entirely different breeds and, apart from sharing the same coat colors, have totally separate breed standards and characteristics.

A Brief History

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as we know it today was not given official AKC recognition until 1996. [Prior to that time, the breed spent many years in the Miscellaneous Class and was also exhibited at shows put on by the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA. CKCSC, USA breed shows continue to this day and many breeder-exhibitors show in both venues. — Eds.] The English Toy Spaniel, whose history has been documented since the 15th century, has its origins in the courts of Europe and gained official AKC recognition in 1886. In 2006 only 161 English Toy Spaniel litters were registered with the AKC, while the litter registration for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels exceeded 4,000.

The first written reference to the King Charles Spaniel was around 1570. Named after King Charles II, it was originally a small sporting spaniel with a long muzzle. In the 1800s, those spaniels were bred with an oriental short-nosed spaniel to produce the modern King Charles Spaniel known in America as the English Toy Spaniel. The longer-nosed King Charles Spaniel was given separate breed status in 1945.

What you must keep in mind when reading the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standard is that it was written in a way to distinguish the difference between the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

General Appearance

The English Toy Spaniel is a compact, cobby and essentially square toy dog, whereas the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a well-balanced toy spaniel. The Cavalier approaches squareness, yet if it is measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, it is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should demonstrate a gay temperament combined with true elegance and a look of royalty. He must have a natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alteration of the dog or coat.

Size, Proportion and Substance

The English Toy’s desirable weight for an adult is 8 to 14 pounds. It is compact, square in shape, built on cobby lines and sturdy of frame, solidly constructed. The Cavalier’s desirable adult weight is 13 to 18 pounds. The Cavalier height is 12 to 13 inches at the withers with moderate bone in proportion to size.

Head, Muzzle and Mouth

The English Toy head is large in comparison to the size of the dog, with a plush, chubby look. The skull is high and well-domed, full over the eyes. The ears are very long, set low and close to the head. The English Toy’s eyes are large, very dark brown or black and set squarely in line with the nose.

The Cavalier head is proportionate to size of dog, appearing neither too large nor too small for the body. The skull is almost flat between the ears, and the ears are set high but not close on top of the head. The eyes are large, round and well set apart with dark rims.

The English Toy has a deep, well-defined stop, and the muzzle is very short with nose well laid back. This breed should have a slightly undershot bite with a square, broad, deep and well turned-up jaw. A wry mouth should be penalized.

The Cavalier stop is moderate, and the length of muzzle from base of stop to tip of nose is about 11/2 inches. The Cavalier has a perfect, regular scissors bite. An undershot bite, weak or crooked teeth or crooked jaw are faults in this breed.

Neck, Topline, Body and Tail

The neck on an English Toy is moderate in length and nicely arched. The body is short, compact, square and deep on cobby lines with a broad back. The breed should be sturdy of frame with good rib and deep brisket. The English Toy tail is docked to 2 to 4 inches in length and carried at or just slightly above the level of the back. The set of the tail is at the back’s level. Many are born with a shorter or screw tail, which is acceptable. The feathering on the tail should be silky and from 3 to 4 inches in length, constituting a marked “flag” of a square shape. The tail and its carriage is an index of the breed’s attitude and character.

The Cavalier neck is fairly long, without throatiness, and muscled enough to form a slight arch at the crest. The body is short-coupled with ribs well sprung but not barreled. The chest is moderately deep, extending to elbows. Slightly less body at the flank than at the last rib but with no tucked up appearance. The Cavalier tail is well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back and in constant characteristic motion when the dog is in action. Docking is optional, but if docked, no more than one-third is to be removed.

The topline on both breeds is level.

Coat and Colors

The English Toy is profusely coated, having heavy fringing on the ears, body and chest, and with flowing feathering on both the front and hind legs, and feathering on the feet. The coat is straight or only slightly wavy with a silken, glossy texture. Over-trimming of the body, feet or tail fringes should be penalized.

The Cavalier coat is of moderate length, silky and free from curl. A slight wave is permissible. Feathering on ears, chest, legs and tail should be long, and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed. No trimming of the dog is permitted. The standard clearly states that specimens whose coat has been altered by trimming, clipping or any other artificial means shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition.

The Blenheim color for both breeds consists of pearly white ground with deep red or chestnut markings. The English Toy standard states it is preferable that there be red markings around both eyes. The Cavalier standard states a clear pearly white ground and calls for the color to be evenly spaced on the head surrounding both eyes.

Prince Charles or Tricolor.
For the English Toy, the black, white and tan color pattern is called Prince Charles, whereas this pattern is called Tricolor on the Cavalier. Both standards read the same, calling for a pearly white ground with evenly spaced black patches, solid black ears and black face markings. The English Toy states it is preferable that there be black markings around both eyes. The Cavalier standard states the pearly white ground be clear and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes. Both standards call for rich tan markings over the eyes, inside the ears and under the tail. The English Toy standard calls for rich color on the face. The Cavalier standard specifically calls for rich tan on the cheeks.

King Charles or Black and Tan.
The black with mahogany tan markings for the English Toy is called the King Charles. The same color pattern for the Cavalier is called the Black and Tan. Both standards read much the same, with the exception of the presence of a small white chest patch about the size of a quarter, or a few white hairs on the chest. This is not to be penalized on the English Toy, but any white marks on a Cavalier are a fault.

Ruby. The Ruby color for both breeds is a rich mahogany red. The English Toy allows for the presence of a small white chest patch about the size of a quarter or a few white hairs on the chest. For the Cavalier, any white marks are a fault.


The English Toy Spaniel is a bright and interested little dog, affectionate and willing to please. The Cavalier is gay, friendly, non-aggressive with no tendency toward nervousness or shyness. Bad temper, shyness and meanness are not to be tolerated and are to be so severely penalized as to effectively remove the specimen from competition.

Ring Presentation

The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (ACKCSC), the AKC parent club, strongly recommends that in the ring, the Cavalier be handled naturally and with a minimum of fuss. The Cavalier is normally shown on a loose or semi-loose lead and is allowed to self-stack while free baiting with the handler standing. It is totally unacceptable to see handlers on their knees hand stacking their Cavaliers, and judges should instruct exhibitors who make this mistake to stand while showing their dog. Cavaliers are not to be raced around the ring but shown at a moderate trot.

The ETSC of America does not specify a preference for ring presentation.

These two frequently confused breeds are entirely different in every respect except for coat colors. Both parent clubs are adamant that the distinctions be respected and maintained.

By: Cindy Huggins

Featured Image: Via Shutterstock/Mariia Kenig


By: Chewy EditorialPublished:

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