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History of the Papillon


The word Papillon is the French word for butterfly. A Butterfly is what the face and ears of the non-Phalenes versions of Papillon dog should resemble.

At one time the Papillon was known as the Squirrel Spaniel because it carries its’ tail over its back in the same way a squirrel does. Even today in Europe In Europe the Papillon is sometimes called the Epagneul Nain or the Continental Toy Spaniel.


The Papillon has its’ roots in the dwarf spaniels, a particularly popular breed with nobility, throughout Europe from as far back as the 16th century. As time went on, Spain and Italy became the centers of dwarf-spaniel breeding and trading.

These early dogs had drooping ears called Phalenes which is French for moth, but through some unknown event, some dogs now have erect ears. Some say they bred them with the Chihuahua.

The court of King Louis XIV of France and his wife Queen Marie Antoinette was particularly fond of Papillons and imported many of them. It is legend that Marie Antoinette is the one who gave the dogs the name “Papillon.”

Now days both dropped eared Phalenes and erect eared Papillons can be found in the same litter. Both ear types are equally correct however, the erect-eared dog (Papillon) is much more popular in America.

By the early 1900’s the Papillon was well represented at French dog shows. The Papillon was being shown in England and America around the 1920’s. These earlier exhibits tended to be larger than those seen today and featured mostly solid-colored dogs, usually in some shade of red.

Selective breeding has resulted in a smaller dog that is distinguished by its striking colors broken by patches of white. A symmetrically marked face with white blaze adds to the butterfly appearance.

The Papillon has become one of the more popular toy dogs. They function equally well as a loving and caring dog, making great pets, as well as for shows and as service dogs.