The Papillon also called the Continental Toy Spaniel, is a breed of dog, of the spaniel type.
One of the oldest of the toy spaniels, it derives its name from its characteristic butterfly-like look of the long and fringed hair on the ears.
A Papillon with dropped ears is called a Phalene, which translates to moth in French.
Papillons are very intelligent and self-assured dogs that have a very easy time learning new tricks. These dogs can be sociable with children and strangers, but are generally reserved around new people.
Widely known as great companion dogs, they have the spirit and energy to keep up with active families, but can also be calm enough to be happy with sleeping in the arms of an equally affectionate owner. They are also known as excellent watchdogs, as they will alert their owner to changes in their environment.
A slender, graceful dog with a plumed tail, the papillon stands 28 cm (11 inches) or less and weighs up to 5 kg (11 pounds).
The coat is soft, full and usually white with patches of black or of pale tan to dark reddish brown.
The most iconic aspect of Papillons are their ears, which are large and well fringed, giving them a butterfly wing-like appearance.
The history of the Papillon is traced through works of art.
The earliest toy spaniels resembling the papillon are found in Italy. Tiziano Vicelli painted these small dogs in many famous paintings beginning around 1500, including the Venus of Urbino (1542).
In a painting after Largillierre in the Wallace Collection in London, a Papillon is clearly shown in a family portrait of Louis XIV.
Papillons are also in paintings of royal families around Europe and paintings of merchant-class families.
Some believe that the breed originated in China, where a similar-looking dog eventually became the modern day Pekingnese. Others look to the Japanese chin as an influencer of the breed.
Marie Antoinette is said to have walked to the guillotine clutching her small dog under her arm, likely an apocryphal tale. However, tradition has it that Marie Antoinette’s dog was a small spaniel that had been brought to the French court from Spain on the back of pack mules. According to the story, her pup was spared and cared for in a building in Paris still called the Papillon House. Marie Antoinette’s dog was said to have descended from a very old drop-eared breed known as the Epagneul Nain, or Continental Dwarf/Toy Spaniel that appeared in church frescos and paintings as early as the 13th century.
The first papillon, i.e. with angled ears, is said to have been born in 1896. It has never been proven if it was a mutation or just a freak of nature – in that case a very nice whim. For sure is that it was not caused by mixing breeds.
The two varieties, papillon and phalène, were accepted at the Belgian shows in 1902, and name papillon was given to dogs with oblique ears. On the continent generally the dropped ear dogs were referred to as the continental dwarf spaniels; it was not until 1955 that the name phalène was finally approved.
The name “papillon” meaning butterfly in French was given to the breed in the late 19th century, when a variety with large, flaring ears resembling the wings of a butterfly came into vogue.
Papillons were brought to the US during the late 19th century. The breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915 and fully represented by their own breed club in 1935.
In 1999, Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being (call name “Kirby”) owned and handled by John Oulton of Norwalk, Connecticut, became the first Papillon to win the prestigious “Best in Show” at the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Kirby also won international success for the breed by taking the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland, and the Royal Invitational in Canada in 1998.
In 2019, Planet Waves Forever Young Daydream Believers (call name “Dylan”) became the first Papillon to win Best in Show at Crufts.
When the actress Lauren Bacall passed away in 2014, she left behind $26.6 million, which was split among her three children—as well as her beloved papillon. The dog, named Sophie, was given a whopping $10,000 in order to maintain the lavish lifestyle she had grown accustomed to.
Usually, the average price of a Papillon puppy from a reputable breeder is between $1,000 and $2,000, while a top-quality Papillon puppy can cost as high as $3,000 and upward.