King Charles vs Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


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People often confuse these smaller spaniel breeds as the same dog but in fact they are different. In this article we explore the differences and similarities of these affectionate, happy and fun-loving little dogs

The Breed History of King Charles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Spaniels have been cherished for centuries, and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and King Charles Spaniel are no exception, both originating in Great Britain and being ‘english toy spaniels’. As a small companion breed, these pups make great companions for those looking for a loyal, loving pet. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was bred in the 16th century while the King Charles Spaniel was bred in the 15th century and is the smallest spaniel.

The King Charles Spaniel gained popularity in Scotland when Queen Mary I kept several of them as her pets. On the other hand, King Charles II was a big fan of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Later the Duke of Marlborough bred cavalier king Charles spaniels at Blenheim palace hence the name of the coat colour.

In the 1920’s Robert Eldridge renewed interest in the breed offering a prize for a dog like those in King Charles II reign. In the 1940’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were imported from England to the United States (and the Cavalier King Charles Kennel Club was started) but did not grow further in popularity until they gained official breed status in 1995 with the American Kennel Club.

While these two breeds share many similarities as they are both small in size and companion dogs, there are also notable differences in appearance and temperament that set them apart. Despite their similarities they are now officially two different breeds as defined by the UK and American kennel clubs. In the United States the King Charles Spaniel is also called the English Toy Spaniel.

Is there a difference in temperament between these small spaniel dogs?

Both these small spaniels are very sociable dogs who very much enjoy being with their owners. Our experience of owning a cavalier king charles is (like other spaniels) is they can struggle with separation anxiety and get anxious on walks if family members split up! They share similar temperaments as companion dogs with a cheerful demeanour.

They both tend to be okay with other pets and meeting other dogs if they have been socialised from when they are puppies.

What are the physical differences between the King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels?

The King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may both have “King Charles” in their name, but the two breeds have some striking physical differences. Perhaps the most noticeable difference lies in the head shape of each breed.

While the King Charles has a more domed head and flatter face with an upturned nose, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a longer muzzle and flatter head. Some breeders also emphasize that the Cavalier King Charles may have larger, more alert eyes compared to the slightly smaller eyes of the King Charles Spaniel. These distinct features give each breed a unique look and personality that many dog lovers may find appealing.

Both breeds are of similar size, but the Cavalier King Charles is slightly bigger at 33cm height, up to 8kg weight vs 27cm height, up to 6kg weight for the King Charles Spaniel.

Is there a difference in coat and colours between the King Charles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

When it comes to the King Charles and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the first thing that comes to mind is their adorable appearance with a slight wave in the long and silky coat. The King Charles Spaniel comes in four colours: black and tan, ruby, tricolour, and blenheim. Blenheim, which is a combination of white and chestnut red, is the most popular colour among breeders and owners.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has the same colour options, but they have a straighter coat that requires regular grooming. Though they are both royalty-named breeds, the toy spaniel (as the King Charles Spaniel is sometimes called) has a crisp, straight coat while the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s coat is softer and silkier. Regardless of their colours, both breeds are cherished by their owners for their loving and loyal personalities.

Exercise needs of the King Charles Spaniel vs Cavalier King Charles?

There little dogs are small, but they are still both spaniels! Whilst they won’t need as much exercise as larger very active spaniels like a Springer, they will require daily walks of at least an hour. Cavalier King Charles can require slightly more being a marginally larger dog.

Which is the better pet dog for families with children?

As small companion dogs they make fantastic pets but there a few considerations around family members:

  • They are small and not as robust as other dogs so need to be supervised around smaller children.
  • Both breeds are easy to train and intelligent, finding joy in games and playing with their owners.
  • They both suffer from separation anxiety so leaving them at home all day is not advised so would suit families where one person is at home or can access it easily.
  • Cavalier king Charles is more active requiring more exercise which can be good for young active families.

Health considerations & Issues

Both spaniels are at risk of common health issues that impact spaniels for example Hip (or elbow) Dysplasia, Ear Disorders, Urinary Incontinence.

The King Charles Spaniel can suffer more in the heat than the Cavalier king Charles due to its shorter muzzle and the limiting impact this has on its ability to breathe and pant to cool down. This is the same for other shorter muzzle dogs such as pugs as brachycephalic breeds . The other side effect of a short muzzle is bad teeth so make sure to use dental sticks or get your vet to check them.

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