Papillons and Phalènes originate from old dwarf spaniel type dogs. They may have developed from hunting type spaniels that were mixed with smaller dogs. Some sources speculate that the breed could be related to East Asian dwarf dogs that arrived in Europe in the 13th century. The modern day Papillon, however, is considered having been bred in France and Belgium.
Papillons have also carried the names “Dwarf Spaniel” and “Continental Toy Spaniel”. The latter was a name given to the breed to differentiate it from the English Dwarf Spaniel type dogs.
Papillons are known to be seen in numerous historical paintings and they were popular among Europian royalty. The breed was especially adored in France during the reign of Louis XIV.
The original variant of the breed had drooping ears. Today we call this variant by the name Phalène which means “moth” in French. During the French revolution the breed had spread to Belgium and that is where the first erect-ear type Dwarf Spaniel was born in the end of the 19th century. It is this erect-ear variant that carries the name Papillon today, because the dog’s ears resemble the wings of a butterfly and Papillon means “butterfly” in French. Both ear types can appear in puppies born in the same litter.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1915. In 1935 the breed was represented by their own breed club. FCI recognized the breed in 1934.
The Papillon is a toy breed dog with an alert appearance. They are elegant dogs with a graceful looking walk. The Papillon weighs 3-5kg (5.5lb -10lb) and they are 25-28cm (8-11″) at the shoulder.
The breed is described as having a small and slightly rounded head with medium size eyes and ears that are either erect (Papillon) or drooping down (Phalène). The dog’s tail arches over the dog’s back letting the long hair of the tail fall down.
The coat of a Papillon is long, fine and silky without an undercoat. The Papillon is always parti-color meaning that the dog is mostly white with a pop of some other color such as black or red. White should not be the dominant color on the dog’s head.