By Royal Appointment: Dogs with Noble Heritage

So, it’s official – we have a new King and Queen! Who watched the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at the weekend?

Whether all the pageantry is your thing or not, it was a nice excuse for a party! In honour of the new King, I thought I’d write a blog about his namesake pet, the King Charles Spaniel, as well as taking a look at some other breeds that are associated with royalty around the world.

The King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Following the Coronation on Saturday, another parade took place down King’s Road in London – 100 King Charles Spaniels took to the streets and marched alongside their owners to celebrate the official crowning of the King.

King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

As you probably know, given how long the breed has been around, the King Charles Spaniel wasn’t actually named after our current King, but rather reflects the monarchy’s love of the breed going back many centuries. As far back as 1500s toy spaniels were owned by Queen Mary I, and later King Charles I was said to be a huge spaniel fan, too. In fact, some historians claim that, such was his love for his dogs, when King Charles I was executed in 1649 during the English Civil War his black and white spaniel, Rogue, was by his side. But, more notable for his love of spaniels was his son King Charles II – and it is thought that it’s this king that the toy breed was ultimately named after. King Charles II was devoted to his spaniels and took them everywhere he went, often resulting in complaints from the Royal Court. He was accused of being more interested in breeding spaniels than ruling the country. They had ‘access all areas’ in the palace, even during state events, which was frowned upon by some. I can certainly sympathise; I think if I had the task of being king, I’d happily allow my furry four-legged friends to distract me!

Nowadays, there are two different breeds of King Charles Spaniels – King Charles, and Cavalier King Charles. They’re often mistaken as one and the same, but they are actually two distinct breeds with significant physical differences (despite sharing a lot of similarities, too). They were actually classed as the same breed until the 1920s when it was noticed that certain characteristics of the breed had changed over time, and special prizes at Crufts were awarded for ‘the old type’ in 1926 – 1930. This ‘old’ type breed (which are larger, with longer muzzles, flatter skulls and more sporting instincts) became known as the ‘Cavalier King Charles’ breed, with the smaller type with a shorter nose, domed head and silky flowing coat known as the ‘King Charles Spaniel’. Although the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed in 1928, the breed wasn’t recognised separately by The Kennel Club until 1945.

Both breeds are great family dogs – they’re keen to please and love company, making excellent companions. Despite their size they’re energetic little dogs so will need plenty of exercise to keep them fit, happy and healthy but they’re certainly loving and loyal pets.

However, although they share a name, King Charles Spaniels aren’t King Charles’s dog of choice! In fact, King Charles and Queen Camilla have two Jack Russells, Bluebell and Beth, who reside with them at Buckingham Palace. They rescued the dogs from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – how’s that for a change in fortune! From shelter to palace; it sounds like the plot of a Disney film! The monarchy is well-known as being dog lovers and has been for centuries. King Charles’s late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, was famed as a huge Corgi fan and heir to the throne, Prince William, has a Cocker Spaniel named Orla.

It’s not just the British monarchy who have a love of dogs though. Dogs are linked with royalty all over the world and many breeds have regal roots or associations with aristocracy.

Saluki

These elegant-looking creatures, known as the ‘Royal Dog of Egypt’, are one of the oldest living dog breeds, dating back as far as 7000 BC. They’ve been depicted on tombs in ancient Egypt and even found mummified with the bodies of their owners, which was a said to be a great honour. Known for their grace and elegance, they’re also fast – they were originally bred for hunting gazelles.

Shih Tzu

These little dogs have strong Chinese royal roots. It’s thought that the breed was developed by Tibetan Monks who gifted them to the Chinese emperors. They were known as Shih-tzu Kou in Chinese, which literally translates as ‘lion dog’ due to their facial features. They became holy pets of the palace and, at one time, were exclusive to the palace – anyone else caught owning one could be sentenced to death! Luckily the Chinese emperors came to their senses with regards to sharing their beloved breed of dogs with others. They began gifting their royal Shih Tzus to other countries and their popularity spread.

Pekingese Like Shih Tzus, this breed was once ‘exclusive’ to the Imperial Palace of Peking and was considered sacred. In the 19th century, five of these little dogs were gifted to the UK, one being presented to Queen Victoria, where it took up residence as the Queen’s beloved pet, Looty.

Poodles

Although it’s not thought that the breed originated in France, poodles became popular with French royalty – originally the larger standard poodles were used to hunt ducks but it’s the smaller, toy varieties that really caught the eye of the nobility and could often be seen with rich aristocrats and Parisian royalty. The coiffed look may be a far-cry from their hunting days, but these intelligent and versatile dogs seem equally at home with either role!

So, there you have it – the most regal of dogs! Is your four-legged friend a ‘royal’ breed? Or, maybe they just think they ‘rule’ your household?! She may not have blue blood but I know there are times when Poppy looks like she would happily don a crown and have us all run around after her like servants! Talking of which, it’s about time for her walk. I’d better be off … mustn’t keep Her Majesty waiting!