King Charles Spaniel

Reviewed by: BD Editors

A King Charles spaniel profile standing in a flowery yard
A King Charles Spaniel
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Canidae
Genus Canis
Species C. lupus
Species C. lupus familiaris
Niche Domestic
Height 9-11 inches (23-28 cm)
Weight 8-14 lbs (3.6-6.4 kg)
Lifespan 10-16 years
Social Structure Social, domesticated
Breed Status Vulnerable Native Breed (UK), 126th Most Popular (US)
Preferred Habitat Domestic
Average Litter Size 5 puppies
Main Food Item Dog Food

The Basics

The King Charles Spaniel is a small domestic dog breed. Classed in the toy group, it is a common show and therapy dog as well as a popular pet. It is thought to have originated in East Asia and was in Europe in the 1500s. They have been long been linked with British royalty. Indeed, they received their namesake after King Charles II of Great Britan and Ireland who made the breed popular along with other royal family members over the centuries.

Two King Charles spaniels in a field
Two frolicking King Charles Spaniels


Also known as the English Toy Spaniel, King Charles Spaniels are small, weighing about 8-14 lbs (3.6-6.4 kg) and standing 9-11 inches (23-28 cm) tall. They have very smooth coats and smooth, undocked tails. The breed has a domed head and a flat face, with large eyes and a short snout. They have compact bodies and long, hanging ears that are typical of most spaniel breeds.

They appear similar to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which is a slightly larger breed with a longer muzzle. The King Charles spaniel consists of four strains distinguished by their color schemes, namely, the Blenheim, King James Ruby, and Prince Charles varieties. The Blenheim variety was introduced when the Duke of Marlborough gave his red-and-white varieties their names, in honor of his residence, Blenheim Palace. The King James variety is black and tan while the Prince Charles or ‘tricolor’ variety is black, tan, and white. The final variety of King Charles spaniel is known as ‘Ruby’ and is a solid-coated red variety of the breed.

The King Charles Spaniel is the 126th most popular breed in the USA according to the American Kennel Club. However, it is far less popular than its cousin, the larger Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and is listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed by the Kennel Club in the UK.


The breeds that became the modern-day King Charles Spaniel were initially used for hunting but eventually became obsolete in favor of larger breeds. After being made famous due to its association with Kind Charles II, the breed eventually changed significantly due to cross-breeding efforts with flat-nosed species like the Pug.

For centuries, the different color varieties of King Charles Spaniels were treated as separate breeds. However, in 1903 the Kennel Club created the Toy Spaniel Club and amalgamated the four varieties together as the English Toy Spaniel, distinguishing them from Toy spaniel breeds such as the Japanese spaniel. This was a controversial process but, eventually, the American Kennel Club also recognized the English Toy Spaniel the following year.

King Charles Spaniel As Pets

King Charles Spaniels are popular pets due to their friendly demeanor and small size. This allows them to live in apartments and other small houses. They are good with children and other pets, especially if socialized at a young age. However, like most dogs, they require a significant amount of attention and should not be left alone for long periods. Due to their slight stature, they are not known as effective guard dogs but will bark to alert their masters of others. Females typically give birth to about 5 puppies, and the average lifespan for individuals is between 10 and 16 years.

A portrait of a King Charles spaniel
A King Charles spaniel portrait

Fun Facts about King Charles Spaniel!

Although not nearly as popular as Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the King Charles Spaniel has an equally long and regal history and is known for many of the same endearing traits as its larger, longer-nosed cousin.

A Calming Presence

King Charles spaniels are a popular family pet due to their affectionate and predictable spirit. This stability is also relied upon by medical professionals who use dogs for therapy. Along with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these breeds’ predictable temperament is helpful to patients who require their calming presence. These may be patients with physical injuries or emotional and mental health struggles, but in any case, the spaniels provide a soothing presence.

A King Charles spaniel lounging on a couch
King Charles spaniel are popular pets and adapt well to apartment living

Me or the Dog

You may have heard of people fighting over their dogs in a divorce or break up, but have you ever heard of someone breeding so many dogs their partner had to kick them out? The King Charles Spaniel has been the source of such a dispute in the past.

In the 1920s, the Duchess of Marlborough became well-known for breeding many Blenheim King Charles Spaniels. In fact, her husband, the Duke, first moved out to avoid all the animals. However, this arrangement must not have sat well with him and, eventually, he returned to evict the Duchess and her dogs instead.

A Gift for a King

The lineage of King Charles spaniels can be traced to East Asia, most likely Japan. It is thought they made their way to Europe when some members of the breed were gifted to European royalty by Japanese diplomats. They likely share a heritage with the Pekingese and Japanese Chin dog breeds and were later crossed with Pugs, another breed with Asian roots.

Cite This Article

MLAAPAChicago Editors. "King Charles Spaniel." Biology Dictionary,, 04 Sep. 2020, Editors. (2020, September 04). King Charles Spaniel. Retrieved from Editors. "King Charles Spaniel." Biology Dictionary., September 04, 2020.

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