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A History of the English Toy Spaniel

History of the English Toy Spaniel


A History of the English Toy Spaniel

In 2011, the English Toy Spaniel celebrated the 125th anniversary of American Kennel Club recognition. The first registered ETS was Mildmay Park Beauty, AKC Stud Book #4456. This black and tan bitch was imported from England and registered in 1886 to Mrs. B. F. (the former Susannah Roberts) Wilson (22 Oct. 1847-18 Apr. 1919) of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Only the Pug and Yorkshire Terrier, recognized in 1885, precede the ETS in seniority among Toy breeds. Today, there are 201 recognized breeds, with several breeds pending full recognition in the Miscellaneous Class. In 1885, the first year of the AKC Stud Book, there were only 15 breeds, with 9 added in 1886 for a total of 24 recognized breeds. Toy fanciers may find it interesting to note that the Italian Greyhound was also recognized in 1886.

The AKC stud book entry for Mildmay Park Beauty provides an interesting bit of breed history. Mildmay Park was a shady residential area of London, England, incorporated today in the Islington district of that city. She was whelped in June of 1883; the exact date of her importation is not known. The [British] Kennel Club Stud Book lists the breeder as a Mrs. Beaven; the AKC Stud Book lists the breeder as Mrs. Benton. English census records from 1881 identify her as Harriet Beaven, aged 40, wife of James Beaven, carpenter, residing at 44 King Henry Walk, Islington East, London. It is possible that the bitch was imported through a purebred dogs importation/brokering service, and the discrepancy may have been caused by a hasty clerical error in that company’s business office. Beauty was sired by Victor out of Bet [dam appears as Pet in the AKC Stud Book].

The AKC Stud Book entry for Beauty reveals that she was exhibited in England and in this country. We also discover that Mildmay Park Beauty is the dam of the second AKC registered English Toy Spaniel, listed immediately below on the same page, Pickininny, #4457, and that this black and tan bitch was owned and bred by Mrs. B. F. Wilson. Her sire, Champion Jumbo II, appears as a sire with a registration number, but not as a champion, in the British Kennel Club Stud Book. He does not have an AKC Stud Book number. He may have been imported from England and not registered here, but based on the evidence we have, it seems that Mildmay Park Beauty was already in whelp when she endured the ocean voyage to her new home, which could take anywhere from around six to ten days, depending on conditions at sea, followed by the train ride to Pittsburgh. In any case, she must have been a healthy Toy dog with a steady temperament, and her daughter, Pickininny, is the first American-born, AKC registered English Toy Spaniel.

English Toy Spaniel history
B F Wilson with English Toy Spaniel, circa 1890

The photograph published here of Susannah Roberts Wilson has been graciously provided by her great-granddaughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Wilson Peer of San Francisco, California. Incredibly, only days before the deadline for this article’s original publication, Mrs. Peer discovered an important photograph of B. F. Wilson with a Toy Spaniel in his lap! Unfortunately, the photograph is not specifically identified. However, from other photos of her great-grandfather, which we have been able to date, we agree that this image of B. F. Wilson was made around 1890, give or take. Therefore, there is a very strong possibility that this is indeed a photograph showing Mildmay Park Beauty. Both of these photographs from Mrs. Peer’s collection are published here for the first time.

English Toy Spaniel history
Lillian Raymond Mallock

Although somewhat rare in the United States today, the English Toy Spaniel was a popular, well-known breed during the Edwardian Era, the reign of King Edward VII [reigned after Queen Victoria, from 1901-1910]. It should be mentioned here that in 1903, King Edward VII intervened personally with the Kennel Club [of the United Kingdom, attempting to rename and catalogue the breed generically as Toy Spaniels] to ensure that the breed officially retain its historic name of “King Charles Spaniel” in his realm. Around the turn of the 20th century, many English Toy Spaniels were imported by wealthy Americans.


The Toy Spaniel Club of America

Originally, the parent club’s fanciers were members of high society, concentrated along the Eastern Seaboard around Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. A New York Times article published January 28, 1911 states that the Toy Spaniel Club of America had been incorporated in 1907. Another article from The New York Times, November 27, 1913, states that the Toy Spaniel Club of America was holding its eleventh annual show, so the club must have been organized to some extent by 1903, the year of its first annual show. Meetings and shows were held at New York’s elegant Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and each of the four color varieties competed separately for trophy cups.

Early fanciers were frequently mentioned in society columns as well as show reports, which commented as much about the fashionable attire of the ladies as the characteristics of their winning show dogs! The names of gentlemen also appear as exhibitors and early club members. Entries were numerous enough, and kennel advertisements with photos of beribboned Toy Spaniels appear boastful enough to suggest an air of keen competition from the earliest decades.


The Royal Spaniels

The English Toy Spaniel is directly descended, for well over three centuries, from the royal spaniels popular in England during the reign of Charles II [reigned 1660-1685], who himself was a great admirer and kept many as his personal pets. The king’s devotion to his dogs is the historical connection which gave the breed the name King Charles Spaniel. His mother, Queen Henrietta Maria [daughter of the French King Henri IV and Marie de Medici] had arrived in England with several of her small pet French or “Continental” spaniels. Known in England as “Queen Mary,” Lord Baltimore named the colony he founded in America “Maryland” after Queen Henrietta Maria.

The king’s devotion to his dogs is the historical connection which gave the breed the name King Charles Spaniel.

Charles I was fond of his wife’s dogs, and these were obviously interbred with the small pet dogs and spaniels already in England. The ‘Epagnielles Royale’ [variously spelled] were observed at court during his reign as well as the reign of his son Charles II, who by Royal Proclamation granted the spaniels unrestricted access throughout his domain. Charles II was criticized for being distracted from cabinet meetings and other affairs of government by the presence of his playful pet dogs. Even the great Royalist supporter and important diarist of the period, Samuel Pepys, shook his head in disapproval. An unidentified courtier once reportedly quipped, “God Save His Majesty, but God damn his dogs.”

English Toy Spaniel history
Duke of Marlborough Family


The Modern Era

Except in the United States and Canada, to this day the breed is still known in all other nations as the King Charles Spaniel and must not be confused with its cousin, the relatively modern, more recently re-developed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, recognized by the AKC in 1995. Although small in number, the English Toy Spaniel today is beloved by average citizens and is quite adaptable to most any modern-era living arrangement, town or country. American fanciers remain united under the stewardship of the English Toy Spaniel Club of America and by an unmovable dedication to the preservation and protection of this delightful, truly historic breed.

Membership is a special privilege which requires adherence to an enforceable “Code of Ethics,” under penalty of suspension or permanent expulsion from the club. With continued advances in genetic research, attempting to identify and therefore possibly eliminate various recurring canine health issues, the future looks very promising. Let us work diligently to give to future generations a unique purebred dog worthy of its place in history and in our hearts.


A History of the English Toy Spaniel

By Richard LeBeau

(A version of this article appeared in the September 2012 edition of SHOWSIGHT.)