The Papillon (French for butterfly) got its name from its ears, which look like butterfly wings. It is one of the oldest breeds and has been portrayed in paintings since 1952. A descendent of toy Spaniels, the Papillon was originally bred as a lap dog. The Papillon was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club since 1915 and it is the 53rd most popular dog breed in the United States. The Papillon is a small dog with a big personality and fun attitude that is bred primarily for companion or show purposes. They are friendly, active, and affectionate and can get along well with other pets and children when supervised.
The Papillon breed has been traced back to Italy in the year 1500 when Tiziano Vecellio started painting family portraits with dogs that looked similar to the Spaniels used for hunting but much smaller. During the Renaissance period, these Tetian Spaniels were only found in France and Spain. The Spaniels are named as such because they are dogs of Spain. Therefore, it was assumed that they originated there. However, they are said to have been perfected in France by Louis the XIV in the 1600s where they changed the name to the Continental Toy Spaniel or the Toy Spaniel. They considered the Toy Spaniel to have two types, the Papillons (with erect ears) and Phalenes (with floppy ears). Both of these types are still bred today but are considered to be of the same breed in the United States. According to the Papillon Club of America, Marie Antoinette carried a Papillon under her arm when she walked to the guillotine at her execution during the French Revolution. The Papillon was said to have been brought to France and Belgium from Spain on the back of mules and were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) when the Papillon Club of America was formed. These little dogs are bred for two main reasons, as companion pets and for showing. In fact, the first Papillon to win Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was Loteki Supernatural Being (also called Kirby) of Connecticut in 1999. Kirby went on to win all three major international dog shows, the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland, the Royal Canadian Show, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The Papillon can be white with patches of any colors. Some of these color combinations include white and black; white and lemon; white and red; white and sable; hound tri-color; black, brown, white, and lemon; black, red, and white; brown and white; fawn and white; red, white, and sable; red; sable; white; white and liver; and white and silver. Markings can be black; black mask; red; sable; and tan. Since they have a single coat of hair with no undercoat, they do not do well in cold temperatures but they can handle very warm climates. They are elegant with a slight build, dainty and lively, with a curious and intelligent expression. Their eyes are round, dark, and medium sized with black eye rims. The ears are large (their important feature) with rounded tips, and they can be dropped (Phalene) or erect. They have a short muzzle that is one third the size of its head, a small, round, black nose, scissors bite, and black lips. They are only about 10 inches tall and about eight pounds so they are a toy breed with short legs, a long, plumed tail, and a feisty attitude.
The Papillon sheds seasonally and needs to be brushed daily to prevent mats and tangles. You can use any kind of brush for long-haired dogs and a metal comb, but you should use your fingers to gently separate any mats you find. Your Papillon does not need to be bathed unless she gets dirty since they are clean dogs with a low smell level and they do their own grooming regularly. Because of their large ears, they are prone to ear infections such as otitis media so you should check your dog’s ears regularly. In addition, their nails should be trimmed on a regular basis. If you have difficulty trimming your dog’s nails, you can take her to a groomer or your veterinary care provider who will be happy to do it for you. It is a good idea to brush your dog’s teeth daily to keep them clean and prevent halitosis, which Papillons are susceptible to. You should feed your Papillon a high-quality dog food recommended for her breed, age, and size.