Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Updated: Jun 17
by Jim Marks
The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club website calls the Cavalier “The ultimate companion. His quintessential temperament is that of a happy, devoted toy spaniel – tail wagging, and eager to please.” The website is not wrong.
Cavs are, indeed, inveterate tail wagers. If the energy involved in that endeavor could be captured it could light several sizeable cities. And talk about devoted! These dogs were developed and nurtured for over four hundred years as lap dogs, long before Velcro was invented. Maybe that material should have been called Cavalierium. Not that Cavs only lie by your side or sit in your lap.
One thing that all breeders and lovers of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels agree upon: They need action. They need to run and jump and play. Unleashed, they will instinctively chase almost anything that moves – from birds to chipmunks to rabbits to larger black and white striped things you really don’t want them to catch. But Cavs have zero awareness of cars. They are simply not “street wise”. That’s why they must be kept leashed when outdoors, or let loose only in an enclosed area. In fact, some breeders require that Cavalier buyers have a fenced in yard for them to play in. (By “them” we mean the Cavs, not the buyers, but the buyers will always be welcomed to the Cav’s domain.)
Cavaliers are wonderful family dogs. As members of the Toy group, they are small enough to not be clearing coffee tables with their incessantly wagging tails nor tall enough to go counter surfing in the kitchen. Their American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard says they should be about 12-13 inches at the withers (shoulder) and weigh 13-18 pounds. That’s a great size for the family kids to play with, although Cavs and rambunctious types under five years old might not be a great match.
According to the AKC website, the Cavalier breed “is notable for its four distinct color patterns, each of which, at various times, was associated with a particular noble family: Blenheim (chestnut markings on a white background), Tricolor (black markings on a white background), Black and Tan (black with tan markings), and Ruby (a rich red)”. The Blenheim is the “default” pattern for Cavaliers in the minds of both enthusiasts and ordinary observers, but all are perfectly acceptable for AKC conformation competitions. The AKC breed standards for Cavaliers also state: “Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alteration is essential to breed type.” Although they are members of the Toy group, they also carry spaniel genes from the sporting group, so should look more like they’ve come from the hunt than the salon.
The breed’s history and English royal connections can be traced at least as far back as Charles I. But it was his son, Charles II, who really popularized the breed when he assumed the throne in 1660 after returning from exile in France. He almost always had a pack of eponymous spaniels around him, and even on his deathbed insisted that his beloved dogs be with him.
There are about two dozen breeders and enthusiasts currently involved with the Cavalier in the WNC area. Two are Jim Shreffler and Betty Ann Brown. Shreffler and wife Linda are owners of the Stepamgar Kennels, a dog and cat boarding facility, and breeders of championship Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. (The Stepamgar name is an amalgam of the names of the Shreffler’s three children – Steve, Pamie and Garrett). Shreffler has also served as President of the Asheville Kennel Club and the BRCKCSC (Blue Ridg Cavalier King Spaniel Club).
Betty Ann Brown, an Asheville Certified Public Accountant, contributes her expertise to several canine organizations. She serves as Treasurer for the Obedience Club of Asheville, the Asheville Kennel Club, the Hendersonville Kennel Club, the BRCKCSC and the American CKCSC. She is also the proud owner of Champion Athercroft James Blonde, aka “Calvin”.
Whether you raise champion Cavaliers as Brown and Shreffler do, or simply have one as part of your family, you can be sure that you will always have fun in your life. And never lack for love.
Editor’s full disclosure: PetGazette editor, Jim Marks and publisher Carol Marks are the ownees of Lady Charlotte of Candler, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Jim simply loves her. Carol is besotted.