King Charles Spaniel vs Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

By helloBARK!
Updated on 2 March 2022
Fact Checked

You’ve probably heard of a King Charles Spaniel and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

However, you may not be aware these two dogs are not the same breed. They’re are some subtle differences.

While they’re descendants from the same dogs, breeding practices have led to differences over the past century or so.

The King Charles Spaniel also goes by the name the English toy spaniel.

The influx of Asian dogs into Great Britain in the 18th and 19th century led to interbreeding.

The King Charles Spaniel’s muzzle and face slowly changed from their traditional appearance in the 17th century.

In this article, helloBARK! will take a close look at the difference between King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The history of King Charles Spaniel

The origins of the King Charles Spaniel (the English Toy Spaniel) can be traced back to Asia, with these dogs sharing similarities with breeds like the Pekingese and Japanese Chin.

If we’re tracking back the history of the King Charles Spaniel in Great Britain, we have to go back to the 15th century when the descendants of these dogs first arrived in UK.

They were thought to have been brought to Scotland from France in the 15th century. Indeed, there’s a painting of Queen Mary I (aka Bloody Mary) and King Phillip.

Mary, Queen of Scots was also a fan of these English Toy Spaniels but it was Charles I and his son Charles II who really put the breed on the map in the 17th century.

King Charles II was rarely seen without a couple of members of this breed by his side. Indeed, they had access all areas in his Palace even during state events.

Such was his affection and love for the breed that they now carry his name: the King Charles Spaniel.

When Charles II died in 1685, these dogs remained popular until King Willian III and Queen Mary II came to power and introduced the Japanese breed Pug to UK.

The arrival of the pug and other Japanese breeds led to interbreeding and some big changes to the King Charles Spaniel. They started to display the features of these Asian breeds.

During the 18th century, the Duke of Marlborough John Churchill became associated with the chestnut and white King Charles Spaniel. Churchill earned recognition for his famous win at the Battle of Blenheim, which inspired the name of his residence, Blenheim Palace.

As a result, the chestnut and white English Toy Spaniel are often called Blenheim King Charles Spaniel.

In 1903, the intervention of King Edward IV was required when the Kennel Club attempted to amalgamate the King James (black and tan), Prince Charles (tricolour), Blenheim and Ruby spaniels into a single breed called the Toy Spaniel. The monarch insisted the breed retain the name King Charles Spaniel.

These dogs had developed a large domed head with a snub-nosed muzzle. However, an American called Rosswell Eldridge was keen to see a return to the old style English Toy Spaniel and offered a cash reward for breeders in 1926.

It led to a distinction being made between the King Charles Spaniel (English Toy Spaniel) and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Eldrige’s desired style).

The Cavalier was recognised by the Kennel Club in 1945 before the American Kennel Club granted the breed status in 1995.

Physical differences between King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The Kennel Club and American Kennel Club both provide guidelines called breed standards that outline what physical traits each breed should have.

The King Charles Spaniel is viewed as a square dog, while the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is viewed as a more well-rounded dog.

Let’s take a closer look at how the Kennel Club defines key features differently for both breeds.

General appearance

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The English Toy Spaniel: “is a compact, cobby and essentially square to dog possessed of a short-nosed, domed head, a merry and affectionate demeanor and a silky, flowing coat.”

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: “is an active, graceful, well-balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action; fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate.”

Size, Proportion, Substance

The English Toy Spaniel: – The most desirable weight of an adult is eight to fourteen pounds. General symmetry and substance are more important than the actual weight; however, all other things being equal, the smaller sized dog is to be preferred. Proportion – Compact and essentially square in shape, built on cobby lines. Substance – Sturdy of frame, solidly constructed.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Size – Height 12 to 13 inches at the withers; weight proportionate to height, between 13 and 18 pounds. A small, well balanced dog within these weights is desirable, but these are ideal heights and weights and slight variations are permissible. Proportion – The body approaches squareness, yet if measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The height from the withers to the elbow is approximately equal to the height from the elbow to the ground. Substance – Bone moderate in proportion to size


The English Toy Spaniel: large in comparison to size, with a plush, chubby look, albeit with a degree of refinement which prevents it from being coarse.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Proportionate to size of dog, appearing neither too large nor too small for the body.


The English Toy Spaniel: High and well domed; from the side,
curves as far out over the eyes as possible. Deep and well-defined.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Slightly rounded, but without dome or peak; it should appear flat because of the high placement of the ears. Stop is moderate, neither filled nor deep.


The English Toy Spaniel: Very short, with the nose well laid back and with well developed cushioning under the eyes. Jaw – Square, broad, and deep, and well turned up, with lips properly meeting to give a finished appearance. Nose – Large and jet black in color, with large, wide open nostrils.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Full muzzle slightly tapered. Length from base of stop to tip of nose about 1½ inches. Face well filled below eyes. Any tendency towards snipiness undesirable. Nose pigment uniformly black without flesh marks and nostrils well developed. Lips well developed but not pendulous giving a clean finish.

Similarities between King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier

Both the King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel share some similarities.

They both have the same coat colours: The Blenheim (red and white) Prince Charles (tricolour), King Charles (black and tan) and ruby (red).

While the colours may be the same (although called different names on occasion), their coats are different. The King Charles Spaniel has a heavy coat, while the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a coat of moderate length.

Their temperament is also quite similar. Both the English Toy Spaniel and Cavalier should be affectionate and loving dogs. They’re eager to please their owners, making them pleasant dogs.

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