This section is from the book "Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors", by Neville Lytton. Also available from Amazon: Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors: Including The History And Management Of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, And Pomeranians.
Stonehenge says that no pictures of Charles II's day represent tricolour Spaniels, but the picture by Sir Peter Lely of about 1670 proves the contrary.
It may be of interest to point out that, though Stone-henge asserted that the Black-and-tan should be straight in coat, he held up Woolmington's Jumbo as one of the very best specimens ever exhibited, the only fault, as he said, being a high carriage of tail. Now, Woolming-ton's Jumbo was a very curly-coated dog indeed, quite as curly as the "King Charles," and it will also be seen that the specimens which he gives of shortness of face carried to excess are by no means so very short in face, compared to our modern dogs.
A relative of one of our oldest fanciers had a Toy Spaniel with a very curly coat which, early in the eighteenth century, was famous in Newcastle as a diver, and used to retrieve pennies thrown into deep water. Some Toy Spaniels belonging to a friend of mine are also very fond of fishing, and will pull fish out of a tank if allowed to do so. I think the conviction of many breeders that the King Charles Toy Spaniel should have a straight coat is due to Smellie's mistake with regard to the Gredin, which had a straight, very short coat, and is also due to the fact that the straight coat was introduced by the Pyrame cross. In my opinion this is a most pernicious error, which is perpetually refuted by the strongly curly coats which are constantly reappearing amongst the modern Toy Spaniels.
The Pyrame cross has spoilt the King Charles type, and the heavy (bulldog?) cross has completed the ruin to the great pride and delight of fanciers who like our national breed.
In a translation of Buffon's "Natural History," corrected by John Wright, 1831, I find the following important passage:
"The Springer is a lively and pleasant species of dog, very expert in raising woodcocks and snipes from their haunts in the woods and marshes. . . . Buffon gives the name of Pyrame to a variety of this dog which is distinguished by a patch of red on the legs and another over each eye.
"Of the same kind 1 is that elegant little dog which in this country is well known under the appellation of King Charles, as having been the favourite companion of that monarch, who scarcely ever walked out without being attended by several of them; it has a small rounded head with a short snout, the tail is curved back, the hair is curled, the ears are long, and the feet are webbed. The large water dog is of an analogous breed, but is less handsome. It has curly hair which bears a great resemblance to wool, and it swims excellently in consequence of the webs between the toes, being much larger than those of most other dogs."
1 The Italics are mine.
It would appear from this that King Charles, Springers, and Water Dogs were at that date all closely allied. It is clear, also, that the Pyrame was not identical with the King Charles. In fact, Wright distinctly states that the King Charles was curly as opposed to Buffon's smooth Pyrame. Rees's "Cyclopaedia" also gives the curly King Charles as a separate species, quite distinct from the Pyrame.
Loudon's "Entertaining Naturalist," 1850, says: "The beautiful breed of Spaniels known as the King Charles are highly prized for their diminutive size and length of ears. They are found of all colours, but those which are black with tanned cheeks and legs are considered the purest breed." It is evident that by this time the breeds had been crossed.
John Wright's reference to the curly coats of the King Charles proves that he is not referring to the Gredin any more than to the Pyrame, and his comment on its webbed feet is exceedingly interesting. It corroborates my theory that the present Black-and-tan Toy Spaniel has Water Spaniel blood in his ancestry, and, above all, is confirmed by the fact that Toy Spaniel puppies are still very often born with this peculiarity. I have five dogs now in my possession which have these webbed feet, and I consider this goes far to prove that the modern King Charles is descended from the curly, web-footed1 variety, the Pyrame being only an out cross.
This also would suggest the probability of the descent from the Truffle Dog, which is described as a nearly pure miniature Poodle or Petit Barbet, which was originally half Water Spaniel and half Toy Spaniel, weighing about four to six pounds. The Water Spaniel had very pronounced webs between its toes. The Truffle Dog was a very curly little dog with a smooth head. The Barbets also had smooth heads according to Buffon, who says that their heads were silky and also their ears, and the hair on their tails,"a peu pres comme celui des epagneuls." The Truffle Dog was indigenous to France, Italy, and Spain, and some were imported into England in 1640-50.
I have a stuffed King Charles of about 1850. It is very curly and exactly the type of the illustration, square, compact, and cobby, eleven inches high and eleven inches long; ears set very high and carried forward; a deep stop, nose finely pointed, one and a quarter inch long; skull broad, but not domed; head small; eyes set very wide apart, indeed, and showing the whites, which I presume was done to imitate nature. Neck well arched, very long feathering, and white breast It has faint tan markings, showing the Pyrame cross. A more fascinating little creature could not be devised, and when I think of what our breeders have evolved in sixty years from this little dog I feel fairly disgusted. From its solid square shape I should judge it to have weighed about twelve pounds, but its bones are exceedingly slender, and its proportions being perfect, it looks much smaller. I have also seen a stuffed Pyrame of about the same date. It has a different type of head. The dog is smooth and much larger, with short ears, and a narrow "wedge" skull, with a shallow stop, nor is it well made like the King Charles.
1 In the best show specimens the two middle toes are often absolutely joined together, one broad claw doing duty for both toes. The two middle pads occasionally merge into one, and a third toe nail appears in the centre.