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The Papillon is one of the oldest spaniel breeds, a small, friendly and elegant lap dog. The Papillon's ears are very large and butterfly-like ( 'papillon' means butterfly in French). Papillons are beautiful and are bred in a range of colors including pure white, red and white, white black and tan, fawn and white & white and silver. The most distinctive aspect of the Papillon is its large ears, which are well fringed with colored (not white) silky fur.
The color covers both eyes and the front and back of the ears to give the ideal butterfly look. A white blaze and noseband is preferred over a solid-colored head. Nose, eye-rims, and lips should be black. Paw pads vary in color from black or pink depending on the coloring of the dog. The Papillon is considered to be a "wash and wear" breed and does not require excessive grooming. Papillons have a coat of fine fur, single length coat. As puppies, papillons have short length fur and as adults, the coat is long and silky. Their fur is very long, plush and soft to touch, until about three months old.
Don't be surprised by this dog's size and appearance; they are extremely athletic. In contrast to its staid and stately representation in the Old Master portraits, the Papillon is highly energetic and intelligent. The breed is far older than any other represented by the AKC and is notable for its oft-cited "psychological abilities"; some proponents of the Papillon claim that its true strength lies in its ability to perceive the emotional needs of its owner and to translate them into a healthy psychological environment. But this is of course totally without substantiation in the scientific literature.
In other words, the animal becomes what the owner needs at the time, depending on circumstances. Provided their genetic structure is sound, and they are not the product of "puppy mill" inbreeding, they are generally healthy animals. Papillons are built for movement, and most do not need any encouragement to apply their energy to athletic activities. They enjoy at least a half hour running about.
They can also be difficult to housebreak, but are in general easy to train otherwise. If you allow this dog to become pack leader to humans, it may become very possessive of its owner and resent outsiders.
The papillon is sometimes prone to problems with the kneecaps (patella) in the legs. Also fontanel (an opening at the top of the skull similar to a baby human's "soft spot"). It sometimes corrects itself but if it does not, the dog needs to be protected. Some have a difficult time under a general anesthetic.
The Papillon is one of the oldest Toy breeds. Its roots can be traced back almost 700 years to a trading route between Asia, France, Italy, and Belgium. It is believed that when Marco Polo opened up the trading route between China and Italy, he also opened the path by which the small breed was transported from China to Italy. The Italians brought the dropped-eared variety of the breed into other European countries, such as France and Spain, where the nobility became fascinated by the tiny personable dogs. European royalty loved the dogs because they were friendly, easy to train, and light-weight. The dog became most popular in French courts, where they were named Papillon (French for “butterfly”), and also where they were featured in tapestries, sculptures and paintings with their owners.
Until 1923, the Papillon still predominantly consisted of the dropped-eared variety. Around this time, the Papillon was cross bred with the Pomeranian in an effort to create an erect-ear Papillon. Luckily, the erect ear of the Pomeranian is a dominant trait, and the breeders were successful in creating their hybrid. From then on, the popularity of the erect-eared Papillon skyrocketed. The Papillon was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1935.
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