The papillon (from the French word for butterfly, pronounced: [papiˈyɔ̃]), 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 phalène (French for moth). The small head is slightly rounded between the ears with a well defined stop. The muzzle is somewhat short, thin tapering to the nose. The dark, medium sized, round eyes have thin black rims, often extending at the junction of the eyelids towards the ears. The large ears can either be erect or dropped with rounded tips. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. The long tail is set high carried over the body, and covered with long, fine hair. Dewclaws are sometimes removed. The straight, long, fine, single coat has extra frill on the chest, ears, back of the and the tail. Coat color is white with patches of any color. A mask of a color other than white covers both ears and eyes from back to front. Appearance The papillon's ears are very large and look like butterfly wings. Papillons are parti-colored (white with markings of any color). An all white dog or a dog with no white is disqualified from the conformation show ring. A papillon without the signature white blaze extending down between the eyes is not disqualified. Papillons can be registered with the American Kennel Club as the following colors, though not all of these colors are permitted in the conformation ring: White and Black White and Lemon White and Red White and Sable White Black and Tan Black Brown and White Black Red and White Brown and White Fawn and White Red Red White and Sable Sable White White and Liver White and Silver White and Red Sable The most distinctive aspect of the papillon is its large ears, which are well fringed with colored (not white) silky fur. The color covers both eyes and the front and back of the ears to give the ideal butterfly look. A white blaze and noseband is preferred over a solid-colored head. Nose, eye-rims, and lips should be black. Paw pads vary in color from black or pink depending on the coloring of the dog. The papillon has a coat of fine fur, single length coat. As puppies, papillons have short length fur and as adults, the coat is long and silky. Their fur is very long, plush and soft to touch, until about three months old. It may take two years for a papillon to develop the tufts of hair that sprout off of its ears and chest. There are two ear variations of this breed, the completely upright ears of the more common papillon, and the dropped spaniel-like ears of the Phalène. The American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale consider the Phalène and the papillon the same breed. The papillon's coat is abundant, long, and silky. There is no undercoat. Ears are well-fringed with the inside covered with silken fur of medium length. Tail is long, well-fringed, set on high, arched over back with fringes falling to side to form plume. The head is slightly rounded between the ears, and the muzzle is fine, tapering, and narrower than the skull with an abrupt stop. Height: 20–28 cm (8-11 inches), over 11 inches is a fault and over 12 inches is a disqualification from the conformation show ring. Weight: 5-10 pounds (3–5 kg).
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). Other well known artists who included them in paintings are Watteau, Gonzalez Coques, Fragonard, Paolo Veronese, and Mignard. 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. The breed was popular in England, France, and Belgium, which are considered countries of origin by the FCI.
The "Titian spaniels" and those portrayed by later artists through Mignard and his contemporaries had the drooping ears characteristic of today's Phalène; it was not until the end of the 19th century that the erect-eared appearance became fashionable and gave the breed's modern name, papillon, French for "butterfly". The Titian spaniels were also exclusively red-and-white in coloration, in contrast to the many recognized colorations of today's papillon.
The papillon's history and long association with royalty have led to many stories about 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 Continental, or Continental Dwarf/Toy Spaniel that appeared in church frescos and paintings as early as the 13th century.
The papillon is still officially referred to as the Epagneul Nain Continental (ENC) in non-English-speaking countries. The name Squirrel Spaniel also has been used, most likely referring to an earlier standard in which the tail set is described as "curling over the back as a squirrel's". One version of the history of the two varieties of ear shape in the ENC ("papillon" to denote the erect ear and "phalène" to denote the dropped ear) is that toward the end of the 19th century, breed fanciers bred a version of the spaniel whose ears stood up. This dog was said to have been nicknamed papillon based on the impressively large, erect ears that resembled the wings of a butterfly. The drop-eared variety of the breed came to be called the Phalène (which means "night moth"). Both types are still bred today and appear in the same litter. The papillon variety is much more common, although recently the Phalène has undergone a resurgence in popularity.
The papillon was first recognized by the AKC in 1935 with the formation of the Papillon Club of America. 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. Papillons also enjoy success today in competitive fields outside of conformation, including obedience and agility.