Papillon History

The Papillon (pah-pee-yown) is one of the oldest toy breeds in European history. They were established as court favorites by the Renaissance and have been found in paintings and wall murals as early as the 1300's. Many of the grand Masters such as Rubens, Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher often depicted a Papillon or two in their work. Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Sophia Dorothea of Germany, and Queen Ann of Austria are among the aristocratic ladies that allegedly owned these small spaniels. Henry III of France was said to have carried his little spaniel to court in a basket. Marie Antoinette is known for carrying her beloved little spaniel with her to the guillotine when she was beheaded. The dog was said to later be cared for in a Parisian building still named the Papillon House. The breed's origins are subject to debate, but Italy, Belgium, France and Spain are the leading contenders. Over the years, they have been known as Epagneuls Nains, Dwarf or Continental Spaniels, Little Squirrel Dogs or Belgian Toy Spaniels. Throughout most of their history Papillons had drop ears, making their Spaniel ancestry more obvious. The erect eared Papillon, now popular in the United States, seems to be a mutation dating from the late 1800's. The name Papillon (French for "butterfly") is based on their erect ears that resemble the wings of a butterfly while the drop eared variety came to be called the Phalene (or night moth in French). In the U.S. and U.K., the two are considered varieties of the same breed, and are shown together. Both types are still bred today and can show up in the same litter.

The Papillon Today

The Papillon today has a straight silky coat that drapes down the side. It should never appear fluffy or double-coated. They are versatile excelling in conformation, agility, obedience, fly-ball, rally, pet therapy, service dogs and sometimes even tracking and herding. They actually rank as one of the top toy breeds in agility competition due to their high intelligence and drive. They have often been called a large dog in a small body. This is funny because they can travel miles on foot with their owners and fly through an agility course with ease and yet refuse to walk in wet grass because they don’t want to get their feet wet in true toy dog style. In order to thrive and become a highly respected member of your family they should be mentally challenged daily with training, tricks etc…A family who enjoys training a dog will be well-rewarded in having a Papillon as they can literally learn most anything you spend the time to teach them.

Papillon Sizes

They range from 7-12 inches at the shoulder with the average range being 8-11 inches. Families with children and other dogs should consider getting a Pap that meets their size requirements. A small child or larger dog could easily injure a small Papillon just by accident. A family who enjoys regular hiking, boating or camping would enjoy the company of the highly athletic Papillon, but one of the smaller 8 inch size likely would not be able to keep up as well as one who is 10 or 11 inches. An elderly person might be tripped by an enthusiastic puppy running between the feet so getting a more mature calmer Papillon might be better in this instance, while a smaller Papillon can easily be traveled with and would be easier to pick up and handle for some people. Thinking about your family setting, age of children, other pets, life-style and needs in a companion is all very important before deciding on which breed you want. Choosing the appearance and care requirements are just the beginning. Below is a photo of an 11 inch Papillon and an 8 inch Papillon. Both are young, but old enough to have reached their full height and the difference is obvious.


The breed is easy to care for with regards to grooming. They are what we often refer to as a “wash-n-go” breed meaning you literally wash, condition, brush, dry and go with very little excess grooming required. Their silky coat seldom matts horribly if kept conditioned properly and brushed every few days. Brushing a 5-8 lb single coated dog is no comparison to brushing a double-coated Pomeranian or Sheltie. A little minor foot and nail trimming is basically all that is required.

For more information on Papillon Grooming visit our Basic Papillon Grooming page.


As with all toy breeds they can be subject to knee injuries, liver shunts, periodontal issues due to their small mouths, hypoglycemia and thyroid issues, but all in all they are a very sturdy, resilient and healthy breed, living easily to 15 years of age and showing little sign of slowing down until near the very end.

Choosing The Sex

Both sexes can make excellent companions, but you should first consider your own personality and needs in order to choose the right sex for your family. The males are often more loving and willing to please while the females can be more independent and have a mind of their own. The males live for you while the females expect you to live for them. If you want a pup who will think more independently and freely and possibly even challenge your way of thinking then you want a female. If you want a pup who is more of a follower who only wants to be with you and please you then you want a male. Of course, there are exception on both sides, but you will hear this time and again from experienced breeders.

For more information on Choosing the Right Sex visit our Male Vs. Female page.

For more information on Finding a Reputable Breeder visit our Tips page.

For more information on Papillon Versatility visit our Versatility page.

For more information on Papillon Colors visit our Colors page.

Visit the Papillon Historical Website.

Tinker was the one that started it all for us in 1991.
She was our first Papillon. She was purchased as a pet
and spaid at 8 months of age. She taught us very quickly
this is the breed for us and we knew right away we would
enjoy the company of this breed for many years to come. Depsite
growing up with large breed dogs, it was quickly evident these
little guys are large breeds at heart wrapped in small packages.
Their intelligence, ease of training and beauty led us to the
show ring where we have enjoyed them ever since.

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