Different dogs: King Charles are not Cavaliers

Article about the difference between King Charles and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
By Laure-Anne Viselé, June 2010

I am often surprised to see that that a lot of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels owners think it is the same breed as King Charles Spaniels. Dog geek that I am, I had to do some research. Here is what I found out:

Confusion all around

Even the professionals get confused, it seems. According to cavaliers.co.uk, “The media often incorrectly describes most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the press as being King Charles Spaniels.” Even vets get frequently confused, according to cavaliers.co.uk, occasionally going as far as suggesting that a perfect King Charles is a faulty Cavalier. In extreme cases, this can result in misdiagnoses and unnecessary surgical procedures such as:

  • unnecessary surgery for fused toes
  • incorrect hydrocephalus diagnosis (because the dog has a domed head)
  • unnecessary surgery for undershot jaw

Facts true for both breeds

  • Belong to Section 7 of the FCI (English toy spaniels) of Group 9 (Companion and toy dogs).
  • Coat colours allowed for showing are:
    • black and tan,
    • ruby,
    • Blenheim and
    • tri colour.


Traits unique to King Charles Spaniels

  • FCI #: 128
  • Character (FCI): Reserved
  • Stop (FCI): Well-defined
  • Nose (FCI): Very short and turned up to meet the skull
  • Jaw (FCI): Lower jaw wide. Bite should be slightly undershot. This ‘prognate’ look is reminiscent of other ‘squashed-face’ dogs such as the pug.
  • Ears (FCI): Set low
  • Chest (FCI): Wide and deep
  • Weight (FCI): 3.6 to 6.3kg, making them the smallest spaniel breed.
  • Head (FCI): domed
  • Foot (cavaliers.co.uk): Compact, with occasionally central pad and nails fused together
  • History (FCI): Documented (in Great Britain) since at least 15th century
  • Numbers (cavaliers.co.uk): In the year 2000, 185 were registered at the UK Kennel Club

Photos of King Charles Spaniels: [nggallery id=164]

Traits unique to Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels

  • FCI #: 136
  • Character (FCI): Fearless
  • Stop (FCI): Shallow
  • Nose (FCI): Well-developed
  • Jaw (FCI): Perfect, regular and complete scissor bite
  • Ears (FCI): Set high
  • Chest (FCI): Moderate
  • Weight (FCI): 5.4 to 8kg
  • Head (cavaliers.co.uk): Skull almost flat between the ears
  • Foot (cavaliers.co.uk): Compact
  • History (cavaliers.co.uk): Not recognized (by UK Kennel Club) until 1945
  • Numbers (cavaliers.co.uk): In the year 2000, over 11,000 were registered at the UK Kennel Club


Any comments

I would love to hear from you if you’d like to share your view on the topic. I would particularly like to hear your comments:

  • If you own, breed, or have contact with King Charles and/or Cavalier King Charles.
  • If you would recommend, or discourage people from getting these breeds? What are the pros and cons?
  • If you have a breed of dog (or a mixed breed) that is frequently confused for another breed.
  • If you are often advised, even by pet professionals, that your King Charles is a faulty Cavalier.

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  1. Posted 15 October 2011 at 00:49 | Permalink

    Hi there, You’ve done a great job. I’ll certainly digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this site.

  2. Denise
    Posted 18 February 2018 at 00:42 | Permalink

    I have English Toy Spaniels (ETS), as they are known in the United States. Other Countries refer to them as King Charles Spaniels (KCS) and they are a different breed from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (CKCS). But I’m shocked by how many Cavalier owners don’t realize their dog is not a King Charles, and that if they are going to abbreviate/shorten their breed name it should be to Cavalier, not to King Charles as the KC is a different breed.

    Finding a veterinarian who is familiar with the ETS/KC is a challenge.

    They may not be the breed for everyone, but I adore my dogs. Mine are my companions, but they are also registered therapy dogs who work alongside me as volunteers. We are also involved in agiliity competitions. Most recently, my youngest ETS and I have been competing in conformation shows. They are perfect for my personality and lifestyle. We enjoy being outdoors and going on walks/hikes, but they are also happy to hang out at home on the couch.

    You can see more of my dogs on Instagram, our acct is dfitz_englishtoyspaniels
    I’ve also posted youtube videos, acct is: https://www.youtube.com/user/dfitz0321

    • Posted 21 March 2018 at 11:43 | Permalink

      Hi Denise. Every King Charles and Cavalier that I’ve met has been lovely. Very sociable, and not too quick to get excited. Temperament-wise, I tend to really like them. Healthwise, I would like to see more being done to address the flurry of hereditary conditions (particularly neurological) that plague them.

      • Denise
        Posted 29 April 2018 at 20:57 | Permalink

        My first question when I contact a breeder about a new puppy is “do you health test, and do you register the results of the health tests”. Both of my current ETS come from breedrs who have done generation sof health testing, and register the results. What the general public needs to know is that a breeder who does register health test results will be able to provide a link that shows those results. Of course, clear health test results are not a guarantee, but a good step in attempting to eliminate hereditary health problems.

        I do appreciate that you have written this article to help educate about English Toy Spaniels (aka King Charles Spaniels) being a different breed from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

      • Posted 9 May 2018 at 14:39 | Permalink

        Absolutely. I know of a breeder of French bulldog who really focuses on health, so they are, for example, a lot less brachycephalic. I am sure responsible breeders with years of verifiable tests for heritable disease are a step in the right direction.

  3. Michael Dean
    Posted 14 March 2018 at 20:38 | Permalink

    Thank you for such an authoritative article on the questions I’ve been stewing over. It is such a great feeling to have my confusion resolved !
    I had a King Charles Spaniel for 7 years, but did not know that Chulito was no Cavalier. He died last November, so I ordered what I thought would be a close replacement. I went to the Blue Rose Cavalier Breeders in Nebraska because they’ve been breeding for 15 years and they do genetic tests to help weed health problems. Elvis, the Cavalier, has a V shaped chest similar to the kind you’d find on a greyhound, instead of the barrel chest on Chulito. The character differences, reserved vs. fearless, are right on target and I am not sure I was aware until you pointed to them.
    Both breeds are just awesome companions and I highly recommend these companion dogs.

    • Posted 21 March 2018 at 11:42 | Permalink

      Hi Michael. I have nothing but positive experience with King Charles, and Cavalier. They are lovely little dogs! It is such a shame that so many of them suffer from neurological problems.

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