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The Papillon, also known as the Epagneul Nain, the Epagneul Nain Continental, the Chien Ecureuil, the Squirrel Dog, the Butterfly Spaniel, the Squirrel Spaniel, the Continental Toy Spaniel, the Dwarf Spaniel and the Pap, is a graceful yet hardy little dog that has been prized as a lapdog in continental Europe for over 200 years. Despite their delicate appearance, Papillons do not require coddling in cold weather, nor do they particularly suffer in hot climates. Papillons can have erect up-ears or dropped down-ears. They enjoy both rural and urban environments and are equally content in a city apartment as on a country farm. Papillons are known for their distinctive appearance, diminutive size and delightful disposition. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1915, and was accepted for full registration as a member of the Toy Group in the mid-1930s.
Mature Papillons stand 8 to 11 inches at the withers; height over 11 inches is a fault, and height over 12 inches is a disqualification. Weight should be in proportion to height. This breed has an abundant, long, fine and flowing straight coat with profuse frill on the chest. There is no undercoat. Both the ears and the back of the legs are covered with feather and fringe. The tail appears as a long, flowing plume. Acceptable colors are white with patches of any color(s), called "parti-colored." Solid colors are not permitted in the American show ring.

History & Health


The ancestry of the Papillon is still a mystery. Some people argue that the Papillon descends from Asian toy breeds such as the Japanese Chin, while others believe that the miniaturization of European spaniels occurred simply from crossing smaller and smaller breed specimens, without introducing blood from the Far East. Whatever their exact origin, tiny spaniels (called Continental Toy Spaniels and Dwarf Spaniels) were well established in Europe by the 1200s. The Papillon is the modern version of those tiny dogs, which often were depicted in paintings and tapestries, sitting in the laps of or being held by noble ladies of the day. Many great artists painted Papillons in their portraits, including Titian, Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Watteau, Van Dyke, Velasquez, Toulouse-Lautrec and Boucher, among others. Madame de Pompadour owned two Dwarf Spaniels – Inez and Mimi. Marie Antoinette was another proud admirer and owner of the breed. There is record of a Papillon being sold in 1545 to a lady who later ascended to the throne of Poland. The Papillon has always been a high-status dog. Spain is largely responsible for initiating the breed's immense popularity, although Bologna, Italy, is probably responsible for the highest volume of trade. Many Dwarf Spaniels were sold to Louis XIV, who chose among all that were brought into France. A Bolognese man named Filipponi was the primary trader of these little dogs in the early day and developed a good business with the French court. Most Dwarf Spaniels initially were transported between countries on the backs of pack mules.
During the reign of Louis the Great, the Dwarf Spaniel had long, folded ears and was also known as the Phalene (after a kind of moth that drops its wings). Over time, some of these dogs were born with large erect ears, set far down on the head and well-fringed with long, silky hair. Why this development happened is unclear; some suggest a mutation in the original down-eared Phalene, while others claim that the drop-eared Phalene was crossed with prick-eared miniature spitz dogs to produce the erect ear set. Regardless, today we have a toy breed whose body type and coat are identical to that of the original Dwarf Spaniel, but whose ears may be either erect (up) or drooping (down).
Both varieties can appear in the same litter, regardless of the ear-type of the parents. The name "Papillon" means "butterfly" in French and was chosen for this breed in reference to the newer variety with erect, fully fringed ears. The drop-eared Papillon is still called the "Phalene" throughout Europe, where the Phalene and the erect-eared Papillon are recognized as separate varieties of the Continental Toy Spaniel. In North America, the Papillon is a single breed, with two acceptable styles of ear carriage. Both types are judged together in this country, and neither is preferred over the other under the American breed standard. Once the erect-eared variety became established, it rapidly overtook the Phalene in popularity – so much so that many people think the down-eared type is a minor variant of the up-eared Papillon, instead of its immediate ancestor. Actually, it would be more accurate to call the Papillon a "Prick-Eared Phalene" than to call the Phalene a "Drop-Eared Papillon." Another development in this breed pertains to color. The original Dwarf Spaniels were solid in color. The modern Papillon has white as its predominant color, with patches of other colors scattered about. Solid colors are disqualified from the show ring today.
Despite its broad popularity, the Papillon did not arrive in England until 1901. The Kennel Club (England) accepted the breed in 1923. Papillons arrived in the United States during the first decade of the 20th century. The American Kennel Club recognized the Papillon in 1915, and admitted it for full registration eligibility in the mid-1930s as a member of the Toy Group. It was not until 1935 that Papillons were represented in the AKC by their own breed club, the Papillon Club of America.
Papillons have long been highly effective ratters. While they are too small to pursue and kill a healthy adult rat outright, they will play it (or "worry" it) relentlessly until it tires. Once the rat is completely exhausted, the Papillon will finish the job. In addition to its rodent-catching skills, the Papillon is an excellent tracking dog, a titled performer in obedience and agility, a show ring standout and a wonderful hearing ear dog and therapy assistant. Mostly, however, it is a happy, unusual and treasured personal companion.


The average life span of the Papillon is 13 to 16 years. Breed health concerns may include patellar luxation, black hair follicular dysplasia, congenital deafness, entropion, cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.

Temperament & Personality


The name "Papillon" is french for "butterfly" and this breed got that name from their butterfly shaped ears. Papillons are spirited little dogs with energy to spare. They love to chase balls and run around the house, though they are happy to take a break to soak up a little love and attention whenever they can get it. They learn things quickly, and are often at the top of their class in obedience and agility. Papillons make excellent family dogs, in that they can keep up with kids who want to play, but know when it's time to relax for a belly rub and a nap. They make excellent companion animals for first time dog owners.

Activity Requirements

Papillons are tiny, but they have lots of energy. Though they can entertain themselves by running around the house for hours, they should be allowed to play outdoors whenever possible. They also appreciate daily walks, and are very easy to leash train. Their size makes them ideal apartment dogs, though they can be just as happy in a home with wide open spaces.
Papillons are smart and need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. Playing interactive games with them is a welcome activity, as is agility training. They will soak up the added time with you, and will excel on the obstacle course, as they think quickly on their feet.


Papillons are highly trainable dogs. They possess a strong desire to please and are highly intelligent, often picking up on commands in one lesson. Some can be a little rebellious, so don't think your dog is defective if he's a little rebellious. Food motivates them to do just about anything, and positive reinforcement should always be the method of choice for training sessions.
Once basic obedience has been mastered, many people enroll their Papillons in advanced training with the goal of entering their dog in competitions. This breed is often the grand champion of the toy group in agility and competitive obedience.

Behavioral Traits

Because Papillons love people so much, Separation Anxiety can develop fairly easily. They do not like to be left alone for long periods of time and will bark excessively or break their house training rules if they get too anxious. Papillons are best served by people who work flexible hours, families with a stay at home parent, or active retirees.
Like other toy breeds, Papillons are barkers. They will bark to let you know that someone is coming to the door, someone walked by the door, or someone two houses down opened a door. This makes them excellent watchdogs, but can try your patience and kill your eardrums. Teaching your Papillon commands to stop barking is a must at an early age.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Papillon is a small, friendly, elegant toy dog of fine-boned structure, light, dainty and of lively action; distinguished from other breeds by its beautiful butterfly-like ears.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size - Height at withers, 8 to 11 inches. Fault - Over 11 inches. Disqualification - Over 12 inches. Proportion - Body must be slightly longer than the height at withers. It is not a cobby dog. Weight is in proportion to height. Substance - Of fine-boned structure.

Eyes dark, round, not bulging, of medium size and alert in expression. The inner corners of the eyes are on line with the stop. Eye rims black. Ears - The ears of either the erect or drop type should be large with rounded tips, and set on the sides and toward the back of the head. (1) Ears of the erect type are carried obliquely and move like the spread wings of a butterfly. When alert, each ear forms an angle of approximately 45 degrees to the head. The leather should be of sufficient strength to maintain the erect position. (2) Ears of the drop type, known as the Phalene, are similar to the erect type, but are carried drooping and must be completely down. Faults - Ears small, pointed, set too high; one ear up, or ears partly down. Skull - The head is small. The skull is of medium width and slightly rounded between the ears. A well-defined stop is formed where the muzzle joins the skull. Muzzle - The muzzle is fine, abruptly thinner than the head, tapering to the nose. The length of the muzzle from the tip of the nose to stop is approximately one-third the length of the head from tip of nose to occiput. Nose black, small, rounded and slightly flat on top. The following fault shall be severely penalized - Nose not black. Lips tight, thin and black. Tongue must not be visible when jaws are closed. Bite - Teeth must meet in a scissors bite. Faults - Overshot or undershot.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck of medium length. Topline - The backline is straight and level. Body - The chest is of medium depth with ribs well sprung. The belly is tucked up. Tail long, set high and carried well arched over the body. The tail is covered with a long, flowing plume. The plume may hang to either side of the body. Faults - Low-set tail; one not arched over the back, or too short.

Shoulders well developed and laid back to allow freedom of movement. Forelegs slender, fine-boned and must be straight. Removal of dewclaws on forelegs optional. Front feet thin and elongated (hare-like), pointing neither in nor out.

Well developed and well angulated. The hind legs are slender, fine-boned, and parallel when viewed from behind. Hocks inclined neither in nor out. Dewclaws, if any, must be removed from hind legs. Hind feet thin and elongated (hare-like), pointing neither in nor out.

Abundant, long, fine, silky, flowing, straight with resilient quality, flat on back and sides of body. A profuse frill on chest. There is no undercoat. Hair short and close on skull, muzzle, front of forelegs, and from hind feet to hocks. Ears well fringed, with the inside covered with silken hair of medium length. Backs of the forelegs are covered with feathers diminishing to the pasterns. Hind legs are covered to the hocks with abundant breeches (culottes). Tail is covered with a long, flowing plume. Hair on feet is short, but fine tufts may appear over toes and grow beyond them, forming a point.

Always parti-color or white with patches of any color(s). On the head, color(s) other than white must cover both ears, back and front, and extend without interruption from the ears over both eyes. A clearly defined white blaze and noseband are preferred to a solidly marked head. Symmetry of facial markings is desirable. The size, shape, placement, and presence or absence of patches of color on the body are without importance. Among the colors there is no preference, provided nose, eye rims and lips are well pigmented black.
The following faults shall be severely penalized - Color other than white not covering both ears, back and front, or not extending from the ears over both eyes. A slight extension of the white collar onto the base of the ears, or a few white hairs interspersed among the color, shall not be penalized, provided the butterfly appearance is not sacrificed. Disqualifications - An all white dog or a dog with no white.

Free, quick, easy, graceful, not paddlefooted, or stiff in hip movements.

Happy, alert and friendly. Neither shy nor aggressive.

Height over 12 inches.
An all white dog or a dog with no white.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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