This year saw our first litter of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross Brittany Spaniel pups and for me it has proved to be a Grand Alliance. To get the title of this blog you will need to understand a bit of European history and thus why the orange and white coloured Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are called Blenheim.
Here you can find out about the Battle of Blenheim https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blenheim and how it prevented the collapse of the Grand Alliance, the European Union of its day back in 1686. This union ended because us British got dissatisfied by how much money we were putting in to it and it will be interesting to see if history will repeat itself.
John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough was instrumental in victory at the Battle of Blenheim and it is from this battle that stems the tale of the Duchess of Marlborough stroking a Blenheim coloured Spaniel bitch's head whilst waiting for news of her husband from Blenheim. The bitch was pregnant and then produced a litter of pups with an orange thumbprint on each of their heads and thus the legend of the Blenheim thumbprint was born and until this day it is still thought desirable for a Cavalier of Blenheim colouring to have this thumbprint marking on its head.
The spaniels bred by the Duke were originally known as the Marlborough Spaniel, but with the building of Blenheim Palace
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blenheim_Palace as a reward to the Duke, somewhere in history the Marlborough Spaniel became the Blenheim Spaniel, eventually being unfortunately merged with the King Charles, being bred a lot smaller in frame and with the flat faced breeds becoming popular in the Royal courts during the Victorian era, we see the shortening of the muzzle until almost into non existence.
The 1st Duke of Marlborough was an English soldier and statesman who must of been a pretty astute fella because he managed to serve under five monarchs with out losing his head, dying in his bed at the age of 72, for his time that was no mean acheivement https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Churchill,_1st_Duke_of_Marlborough
Many think Marlborough is the greatest British commander in history and some are not so taken by him, but this may be more to do with where their politics lie. Marlborough was ruthlessly ambitious, relentless in the pursuit of wealth, power and social advancement, which with many earned him a reputation for being greedy and mean, but he probably was made of his time. The historian George Trevelyan says of Marlborough, "nearly all other statesmen of the day were engaged in founding families and amassing estates at the public expense; Marlborough only differed in that he gave the public much more value for their money" Although one could argue quite robustly, that not much has changed there then, when you look at some in high office today. The beast may change, but the nature rarely does.
The family type spaniel we are trying to breed at Poundlane are more reminiscent of the Marlborough Spaniel and the Toy Spaniels of the Royal Courts before the influence of the flat faced breeds. Toy Spaniels it is thought from the time of King Charles I and King Charles II were influenced by Far East dogs such as the Japanese Chin and Pekingese. This may be the case later on in their history, but I would put my money on the Papillon and Phalene having a lot of influence in Toy Spaniels of King Charles I and King Charles II time, due to the head shape being spaniels with most defiantly a length of muzzle, but a lot of the King Charles Spaniel's history is conjecture, as most breeds are, but that won't stop a breeder spouting out the history of a breed like it is totally factual. Most breeds histories are word of mouth sprinkled with a good measure of fairy dust.
This painting is of the Blenheim Spaniel in 1816. It is very much like the Marlborough Spaniel, but we can see a reduction in leg length ratio-ed to back length. These were small cocking spaniels that were very sought after, as they worked seemingly indefatigably in dense cover flushing anything and everything. Used in packs, but apparently prone to breaking. Breaking means they would bugger off on a jolly, oblivious to the huntsman's cries. Sounds like a few of my Cavaliers still have the Blenheim Spaniel very much about them. Lol
Then fast forward to 1898, the Victorian era and we can see what showing is starting to do to the Blenheim Spaniel and the idea of closed off gene pools. These Blenheim Spaniels are notably smaller and many of them you can see the muzzle is disappearing, as they start to be primarily a lap dog and certainly at this time looking at these dogs that the flat faced breeds like Japanese Chins and Pekingese are influencing the look of them and as the Pug become ever more popular in Victorian England we start to see their influence as well on the Toy Spaniel.
By the end of the 1800's the King Charles Spaniel has lost its muzzle and has been turned into a shadow of its former glory and prowess as a spaniel in the field.
The English Toy Spaniels of King Charles I and King Charles II did not originally have a flat face, as we are lead to often believe and did not look like the King Charles Spaniel we see today. The photo below is a young King Charles II with two of his sisters, with the type of Toy Spaniel he was brought up with and looks nothing like the King Charles Spaniel we see today or neither the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was an attempt to get back to what you see in the painting above sitting at the knees of King Charles I's three oldest children, but it has become stagnated and halted by one simple thing, a closed off gene pool. When the Cavalier separated from the King Charles around 1942, it only had five stud dogs to move the breed forward and the inbreeding that took place and still does, has now caused that much damage to the general health of this breed, it is questionable without looking outside the closed off gene pool, that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will soon be bred into its own extinction in the foreseeable future.
At Poundlane we are trying to move the Cavalier in to the 21st Century, breeding from a widened gene pool to create a small/medium spaniel type dog, being less exaggerated in the head and going back to the more elegant and refined head of the Marlborough Spaniel, reduce the heavy coat and improve the all round structure of the dog, so it is a spaniel that could do an occasional days work in the field still, whilst retaining what really makes a Cavalier special that sweet, friendly, gentle nature that make them such a wonderful companion dog.
Six years ago I crossed our first Cavalier with a Miniature Poodle and this produce a lovely litter of fluffy family dogs and although I think the Cavapoo is a lovely sweet little dog. I did not see the Cavapoo as the end game, but rather a stepping stone in the game. From the Cavapoo litters we have bred, we have retained one Cavapoo bitch, Treacle from a litter bred in 2013. Our Miniature Poodle, Reggie is Treacle's Dad and Treacle's Mum is Dolly and she is now eight years old without a heart murmur, being Cardiologist examined over five without a heart murmur. Treacle was MRI scanned last year and has no sign of Syringomyelia (SM).
Then three years ago after trawling through breed after breed, researching, I set my heart on the Brittany Spaniel as the other breed to bring in to the mix. Henry came in to our lives just over two years ago and my research proved me right, unless I have just been lucky with Henry. Henry has been a joy to have in our lives and his colourings and type seemed ideal to cross with our biggest Cavalier bitch, Smudge.
One of the most important things Henry brings into the mix is his temperament. Brittany's seem not as driven as working Cockers and Springer Spaniels. They love to run and if they can have a good run out every day you have yourself a very gentle, sensitive souled, loving spaniel. I also hoped that with his less exaggerated head this cross would improve the skull shape of the Cavalier more than the first cross with the Poodle. The Poodle improves the muzzle, but the cranium is still more brachy than I hoped for. I'm glad we never used the smaller Toy Poodle as a cross, as I can imagine that little improvement will be achieved with the cranium size using such a small breed of dog, as a cross.
Spring this year saw our first litter of Cavalier cross Brittany pups arrive. A whopping litter of nine vigorous pups, Blenheim in colouring with five of them with the distinct Blenheim thumbprint on their heads. Five boys and four girls.
As they grow you can see the vast improvement in the head conformation and at just over four months old now, they have no where near the profuse coat of the Cavalier and seem to all have the lesser moulting single coat of the Brittany. The temperament of them is very laid back, active when on walks, looking like a type that could easily be at work in the field flushing and retrieving being very biddable, thus showing a good aptitude to being trained and above all of this retain that gentle loving a cuddle temperament of the Cavalier.
We have kept two girls back as potential brood bitches, Blottie and Bumble. So now the next stepping stone. We have just had our Cavapoo bitch Treacle on heat and on her next heat, just before she is three years old, we plan to mate her with our pure Cavalier boy, Toby. This will produce what is called an F1b litter. The offspring from this pairing will be 3/4 Cavalier, 1/4 Miniature Poodle. Litters I have seen with this ratio of Cavalier and Poodle, revert very quickly back towards the look of the Cavaliers. We hope that from this litter, to keep back a male pup as a potential stud for our Cavalier/Brittany bitches Blottie and Bumble in the future and this would produce in the future pups that are 1/8th Poodle, 2/8ths Brittany and 5/8ths Cavalier.
See, having a bit of Poodle in a Spaniel is not a new thing, you just need to take a look at the Irish Water Spaniel thought to have Poodle in it and then to go back to two breeds not around any more the Norfolk and English Water Spaniel.
Both these breeds were thought to have Poodle ancestry and are thought to be ancestors of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Ever wondered where some Cavaliers get their very curly profuse chest hair from ?
So for 2016, at the moment we only have plans for one litter of pups and that is from Treacle with Toby. With her just gone off heat, she should be on again around Feb/March 2016 and the next stepping stone starts to be laid down.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself, too.”
― Samuel Butler
Me (Jane) with Puddin' and Teagol, waiting patiently to flush a patch of kale, December 2019
Hello, I am Jane!