Excellent Shape and Make of a Cavalier



The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a very loving, affectionate, sound toy
spaniel with fearless, gay temperament--a good companion both in body and
mind, capable of sitting on laps and jaunting cross country with his owner.
Elegant in appearance, glamorous, untouched by artificial alteration or
trimming, and absolutely radiating its soul from its wonderful, loving eyes,
the Cavalier is the epitome of the royal toy spaniel.

The Cavalier is an unique toy spaniel.  It is a solid little dog, a lot of
dog in a small package.  Temperament, head type and expression are
essential, but so is structure and soundness of movement. When judging the
Cavalier, please keep in mind that the Cavalier is to be shown in untrimmed
and unsculpted state, tail wagging constantly, with a happy outgoing
attitude. The gay, fearless, gentle and affectionate nature of the Cavalier
is truly the quintessence of the breed.


The beginning sentence in our standard describes the Cavalier as " an
active, graceful, well balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action;
fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and
affectionate."  Meeting a Cavalier for the first time is like greeting an
old friend; Cavaliers love everyone.  They truly never have headaches.  The
Cavalier who is shy, fearful, timid or aggressive toward people or other
dogs should never be considered for placement in the ring.  Cavaliers should
not be expected to stand woodenly like soldiers in the ring; it is in their
nature  to fidget and move about.  Judges should expect to be greeted
exuberantly; tails wagging and eyes shining.  Cavaliers are to be shown on a
loose lead both standing and gaiting. The Cavalier should gait with its head
up, wagging its tail the whole time.  Never should a Cavalier skulk around
the ring, lowering itself to the ground, tail tucked.  The tail is to be in
characteristic constant motion. Handlers should not kneel with the dogs, but
allow the Cavaliers to stand freely and happily.  Correct temperament is
absolutely essential to breed type and should never be compromised.  The
ending paragraph of our standard reinforces the importance of temperament in
our breed:  "Gay, friendly, non-aggressive, with no tendency towards
nervousness or shyness.  Bad temper, shyness, and meanness are not to be
tolerated and are to be so severely penalized as to effectively remove the
specimen from competition."  A judge can usually forgive a bit of puppy
jitters or stubbornness in very young Cavaliers, but under no circumstances
should a shy or sharp Cavalier be rewarded in the ring.  Nervous, shaking
Cavaliers are the antithesis of what our breed is supposed to be; aggressive
Cavaliers should never be seen.  Incorrect temperament should never be

Head and Expression:

One can easily tell the temperament of a Cavalier by looking in the hallmark
eyes.  Temperament and expression cannot be separated, for the soul of the
Cavalier is evidenced in the large dark eyes essential to producing a soft,
melting expression.  Head type is the defining type in a breed.  One of the
top English judges of Cavaliers, Norma Inglis of Craigowl fame, sums head
type up splendidly:  " The head has to be the most distinctive
characteristic essential to type as it is by this alone we can recognize the
breed.  Without the head features, the Cavalier identity is lost.  Making up
the head are those large dark, soulful eyes.  They are vital and must be
retained as they are the key to the gentle warmth of expression that only a
spaniel manages to capture and are what most people cannot resist.  A small
eye can totally destroy the expression."  (Dog World, England, December 8,

Everything about a Cavalier head should be soft and gentle.  The expression
and eyes contribute to a good head.  The head should be generous and
glamorous--proportionate in size to the dog, neither too big nor too little
for the body.  The back skull is rather broad and although slightly rounded
will appear flat because of the high placement of the ears.  In puppies, the
skull may appear quite rounded and the earset low until the head "breaks"
and gains the proper proportions of the adult head.  The head of a Cavalier
may sometimes go through drastic developmental changes from puppyhood to
adulthood, sometimes losing the correct proportions.  Never, however, no
matter how off the head is developmentally at the moment, should the
expression appear hard or mean.  The large round eyes should be spaced well
apart, hence the necessary broad skull.  The gently padded muzzle, never
snipy or coarse, measuring about 1 and 1/2 inches long, should be slightly
tapered giving a clean finish.  There should be just the right amount of
fill under the eyes to give the necessary soft, gentle expression.  The
cushioning under the eyes must be enough to prohibit snipiness but not too
much to suggest coarseness.  The cushioning is under the eyes, not on the
cheek pads which will exaggerate the head making it appear coarse. The
muzzle itself should be padded in the lips to increase the look of softness,
but never lead to houndiness.   Lips, ideally black, should never be
pendulous, but should gently curve into a neat finish to the muzzle, just
covering the lower jaw which should have a definite, but certainly not
protruding underchin. Without a definite underchin, the muzzle just falls
away.    Eye rim pigment and nose should be black.  Flesh marks on the nose
may be seen in young dogs but should fill in completely making the nose
uniformly black.  A black nose and eye rims are essential to correct
expression.  Many blenheims and rubies have noses that go off a bit in
winter or when in season for bitches.  A winter nose is easily
distinguishable from poor pigment.  Look at the eye rims to see the real
pigment--they should be black.

The standard calls for a scissors bite in a Cavalier.   At this point a
level bite is not considered a fault.  I  have seen a few very overshot
mouths, including a parrot mouth, and feel that they are very faulty and
should not be rewarded.  Undershot mouths are considered a fault and in my
opinion should really not be rewarded in the ring.  At one point, the
Cavalier and the English Toy Spaniel were one breed; the English Toy
influence can still be seen in very short noses and undershot mouths.
Cavalier bites can change up to three years of age; it is very frustrating
for the breeder to see a good mouth go off and a undershot mouth go right in
the most beautiful, neutered Cavalier in a pet home.  Don't fault mouths too
much in a puppy as the bite may change daily, but the scissors bite is ideal
and is strongly encouraged; undershot is strongly discouraged.

The stop is moderate, neither shallow nor deep.  Some of the whole colors
may appear to have more abrupt stops with a more defined, extreme brow.  The
brow should never be so filled as to give a "planet of the apes" look.
Moderation is the key.  Markings greatly influence the way the contours of
the head appear.  One must look past markings and color to assess the
properties of the head.  It is very difficult to describe the absolutely
correct stop as different bloodlines contribute to different appearing
stops. Again, the stop is moderate with the eyes placed mid way between the
top of the skull and the bottom of the jaw.

The ears are set on high, but never close on the head.  When alert the ears
fan forward framing the face and adding to the flat appearance of the skull.
The ear leathers ideally should be long enough to reach the tip of the nose
and should be well feathered and long. Ears should never be trimmed or
sculpted;  the hair on the ears should appear slightly uneven.  Dogs are
presently being exhibited with bell shaped ears, perfectly rounded on the
bottom, moussed into a perfect "doo," and looking totally wrong for the
natural Cavalier.


The eyes of the Cavalier are truly the distinguishing feature of the head.
The eyes are large, round, dark brown, never light or black, and lustrous.
The Cavalier expression can be described as endearing, charming, appealing,
loving, sweet, melting.  Expression is so important.  Many Cavaliers are
finishing their championships without the correct essential expression. The
shape of the head, the temperament, and the eyes form the expression that is
unlike any other breed's. 

The large eyes of the Cavalier are enhanced by the dark eye rims, making the
eyes appear even larger.  The eyes should show no surrounding white, except
for the inner corners if the third eye lids are  not dark.  White in the
corners should not be faulted if the sweet expression is not affected. Dark
scleras and third eye lids are bonuses and enhance the eyes.  White rings
surrounding the eyes themselves give a startled look and are to be faulted
as are light eyes which give a foreign expression.  Small beady eyes, almond
shaped eyes, or protruding, bulging eyes are faults and seriously detract
from correct expression.

Common Head Faults:

Almond shaped, small, or beady eyes
Protruding or bulgy eyes
Mean or hard expression
Light eyes
White ringed eyes giving startled expression
Long, snipy muzzles with no cushioning under eyes giving a sucking lemon
Too short muzzles resembling English Toys
Houndiness in the muzzle
Undershot or wry mouths.  (Seriously overshot mouths although not mentioned
in the standard)
Coarseness of head
Facial mismarks or heavy freckling on face that take away from sweetness of

Outline of Body, Structure and Movement

A few of my English friends refer to the silhouette of the Cavalier as the
shape and make of the dog.  The shape and make of the Cavalier is of a small
spaniel with lovely flowing lines both standing and moving.  The standard
calls for a well balanced toy spaniel, within the height range of 12-13
inches and the weight of 13-18 pounds.  The Cavalier should be a sturdy
little dog with good bone for its size.  The wide range in weight allows for
a real variance in size; slight variations are permissible as long as the
dog exhibits balance. Weedy specimens with fine bone and coarse, oversized
specimens are to be equally penalized. Balance is the key to the shape of
the Cavalier.  The Cavalier approaches squareness, slightly longer from the
point of shoulder to the point of buttocks than the height at the withers.
The neck is fairly long, not stuffy, with a lovely little crest giving an
elegant appearance.   The Cavalier should have good angulation on both ends:
well laid back shoulders, moderately sprung ribs (not barrel or slab), depth
of body to the elbows, a level topline both moving and standing, and strong
hindquarters with well turned stifles and well let down hocks, and compact
feet with well cushioned pads which may look long because of the
distinguishing  untrimmed hair on the feet. Too many Cavaliers have very
faulty toplines, while puppies may take high in the rear to a new art form,
the topline of the Cavalier should be level, not high in the rear or sagging
in the back. The Cavalier should have moderately muscled hindquarters, good
turn of stifle, and ideally short, well let down hocks that are set
perpendicular to the ground.  It is typical for an enthusiastic Cavalier in
its state of zealous readiness to stand a bit cowhocked, but should
definitely move true. The pelvis of the Cavalier is broad, giving it a
chunky little rear end with a very slight slope to the croup, a gentle
roundness or fullness to the rump.  This fullness is from side to side of
the rump rather than from front to back.  The tail is a continuation of the
spine and, if set on too low or too high is very unattractive, ruining the
shape of the dog. Tails are carried happily, but never much above the level
of the back.  Male Cavaliers are very macho little dogs and will lift their
tales sometimes higher than desired when posturing for each other or showing
off for the girls.  Tail carriage is different than tail set and can be
affected by the mood and attitude of the dog.  The dog with a good tail set
will sometimes carry the tail high, but it should never go over the
back--about the 1:00 o'clock position is the very highest for a tail, and
ideally the tail should never go above 2:00 o'clock..  Tails going straight
up or over the back in a big hook look horrible and ruin the shape of the
dog.  The silhouette of the Cavalier should be smooth and flowing--gentle
curves with no hard angles to mar the outline.

The Cavalier should move like a glamorous toy sporting dog, covering ground
smartly with good reach and drive and a level topline at all times.  The
construction of the Cavalier should allow it to move soundly, capable of
long country hikes, agility work, and jumping on and off couches and beds
with regularity.  The Cavalier is a sound toy spaniel.  Soundness is very
much a part of breed type.  The Cavalier should be built to move well. The
Cavalier should move front and rear straight and true.  Markings in
blenheims and tricolors may sometimes create an optical illusion in movement
so the judge needs to pay close attention so as to assess correct movement
and not be thrown by markings creating a false impression.  Movement,
especially from the side, is very important and  should be evaluated on a
loose lead at a moderate trot, not racing around the ring. The Cavalier
should exhibit free, flowing action, with a good length of stride and an
elegant outline.  The Cavalier should hold its shape while moving,
presenting a lovely silhouette of flowing lines.

Coat, Color and Markings:

The Cavalier is to be shown in a natural state without trimming, sculpting
or artificial alteration.  A Cavalier with a natural coat will have ears
that are not perfectly straight on the bottom.  The outline of the chest,
stifles, rear, leg feathering and underline will not have perfectly straight
lines like a Cocker or a Springer with every hair the same length, but will
appear uneven as in natural hair growth.  The Cavalier is a wash and wear
dog; the Cavalier is very glamorous in an unstylized fashion. The whiskers
on the face should never be touched nor should the hair on the feet.  The
untrimmed hair on the feet give the feet a slipper like appearance.  The
only trimming allowed on the feet is on the bottom of the pads.  Sometimes
the feet may appear trimmed due to the wearing of the hair on a gravel or
stone surface; please look at feet carefully to see the natural uneven
wearing of the hair.  An obviously trimmed dog should never receive first
place ribbon, nor should an inferior dog be placed over a good, but trimmed,
dog--instead just please withhold the ribbon.

The coat of a Cavalier is of moderate length, silky, and free from curl.  A
slight wave is permissible.  Older dogs, especially tricolors, may develop a
stronger wave to the coat, although a straight coat is the ideal at any age.
The coat should never be coarse; a correct coat is soft and feels like silk.
A Cavalier may not come into its adult coat and proper coat texture until
about eighteen months or more.    All four colors of Cavaliers should
exhibit the same coat texture.

The four colors are Blenheim ( chestnut red and pearly white); Tricolor
 black and pearly white with black surrounding the eyes and evenly spaced on
the head, tan over the eyes, on the cheeks, on the underside of the black
ears, on the underside of the tail and sometimes a few tan hairs on the
elbows); Black and Tan ( jet black with rich tan markings over the eyes, on
cheeks, inside ears, on chest legs, and underside of tail);  and Ruby (whole
colored rich red).

While the blenheim is certainly the most common color, no preference should
be given to color.  In fact, since really good tricolors and wholecolors are
so difficult to come by, a judge should pay careful attention when a good
one enters the ring and give it full consideration.  The coloration and the
markings of the tricolors and the whole colors often make the typical sweet
expression  a little more difficult to see so judges must take a close look
so as not to miss the melting expression in large, beautiful round eyes of a
Cavalier of any color.  The silhouette of correct Cavalier should be the
same in all four colors;  type in all four colors is far more standardized
now then it was a few years ago and there are lovely Cavaliers being
exhibited in all four colors.

The blenheim and tricolors should be well broken with the white a pearly,
clear white free from heavy ticking; heavy ticking on a blenheim or tricolor
should be faulted.  Blenheims should have white blazes between the eyes
extending  up between the ears.  The white blaze may be interrupted by the
legendary blenheim spot or by a bar of blenheim color.  The blenheim spot is
desirable only because of the lore of the breed, but should never be prized
over the overall quality of the dog. Blenheim spots are pure luck in a
breeding program The tricolor should have a blaze between the eyes, no
matter how narrow that blaze may be. Symmetry of head markings is very
desirable, with the eyes being surrounded by the blenheim color in blenheims
and the black in tricolors. Asymmetrical markings should only be faulted to
the extent they affect the expression. While breeders strive for clarity of
white, especially on the face, freckles are much a part of the breed and
should be faulted again to the extent that expression is affected. Heavy
freckling distorts expression and should be faulted.   The  ideal blenheim
color should be a deep chestnut bordering on mahogany.  The tan color on a
tricolor or black and tan should be a deep, rich tan.
Wholecolors should be free from any white markings; however, a few white
hairs on the chest, the toes, or under the chin should not be heavily
penalized in an otherwise good Cavalier.  Some of the best wholecolors
result form parti color to wholecolor breedings, with breeders risking
mismarks in order to get correct type and structure.

The Ideal Toy Spaniel

In summary, to reinforce the description of correct type in the Cavalier
King Charles Spaniel,  I would like to quote from one of the most well known
of the British Cavalier breeders, Pam Thornhill of the famous Kindrum

          "Essential characteristics in the Cavalier for me must be glamour,
which means a generous head, long well placed ears, large dark eyes with soft
gentle expression,   a happy sporty little dog with freedom and gaiety of movement,
soft flowing lines, moderately endowed with feathering and fringes all within a neat
package.  This is what I call a real toy spaniel."  (Dog World, England, December
8, 1995)

The Cavalier is a wonderful little dog;  correct breed type should be
celebrated and fostered by breeders and by judges.  Hopefully, breeders and
judges can work together to nurture and protect breed type in the Cavalier
so that this ideal toy spaniel does indeed continue to flourish.

Meredith Johnson-Snyder
Rattlebridge Cavaliers

Reprinted Top Notch Toys, November, 1998.