The History of Papillons

The Papillon breed is believed to originate in the early 16th century in Western Europe, most likely in Italy or Spain making them the oldest toy breed recognized by the AKC. The breed was originally seen as dogs of royalty, sitting on the laps of kings and queens. It is believed that Marie Antoinette owned a Papillon, which she took to the guillotine with her. They were then called the dwarf spaniel because of their dropped ears.

The French claim that they perfected the breed in the late 1800’s by breeding the dwarf spaniel with other versions of spaniels with erect ears. The French named this new breed the Papillon given its resemblance to the butterfly (the word “Papillon” is French for butterfly). The dropped eared variety are known today as Phalenes, the French word for moth. AKC officially recognized Papillons in 1915.

Correct Papillon Appearance

Papillons can produce several different coat colors along with a mixture of either Papillons (erect ear) or Phalenes (dropped ear) in the same litter. The variety of coat colors include a mostly white body with small patches of any color. The face should resemble the butterfly having both ears being completely covered by any color but white. They should prefferably have a white blaze starting at the forehead, narrowing between the eyes, and finishing by covering the entire muzzle, resembling the body of the butterfly.

Papillons have a single, silky coat that sheds very minimally. They typically range in size between 8 and 11 inches at the shoulder blade and weigh between 4 and 10 lbs. Their tail should curl over their back creating a full plume.

Typical Papillon Behavior

Papillons are a very intelligent breed, ranking in the top ten of the smartest breeds recognized by the AKC. They need very few repetitions to learn a task, but are always thinking “what’s in it for me?”. Since they were bred for royalty, they are very good companion dogs being content to sit on your lap all day. Still they are very energetic, happy dogs, willing to play with you or with other dogs all day long.