The Papillon, also known as the Epagneul Nain, the Epagneul Nain Continental, the Chien Ecureuil, the Squirrel Dog, the Butterfly Spaniel, the Squirrel Spaniel, the Continental Toy Spaniel, the Dwarf Spaniel and the Pap, is a graceful yet hardy little dog that has been prized as a lapdog in continental Europe for over 200 years. Despite their delicate appearance, Papillons do not require coddling in cold weather, nor do they particularly suffer in hot climates. Papillons can have erect up-ears or dropped down-ears. They enjoy both rural and urban environments and are equally content in a city apartment as on a country farm. Papillons are known for their distinctive appearance, diminutive size and delightful disposition. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1915, and was accepted for full registration as a member of the Toy Group in the mid-1930s.Mature Papillons stand 8 to 11 inches at the withers; height over 11 inches is a fault, and height over 12 inches is a disqualification. Weight should be in proportion to height. This breed has an abundant, long, fine and flowing straight coat with profuse frill on the chest. There is no undercoat. Both the ears and the back of the legs are covered with feather and fringe. The tail appears as a long, flowing plume. Acceptable colors are white with patches of any color(s), called “parti-colored.” Solid colors are not permitted in the American show ring.


The Papillon, a member of the toy group is a tiny, fine-boned spaniel with a friendly, alert, and intelligent expression. The ears are described as butterfly-like, and the name “Papillon” is French for butterfly. These distinctive ears are either erect or drooping. The droopy-eared Papillons are known as Phalene, and in Europe these dogs are considered a separate breed from the Papillon. The coat is shiny, silky, long and straight. The tail is plumed and the ears are covered in long fringe. The muzzle is fine, tapered and should be much thinner than the head. The eyes are round, medium sized and should always be alert. The neck is medium-length and the topline level. The gait is free and quick and should make the dog seem as though he is easy going. Papillons are parti-colored, with white being the dominant color and patches of any color adorning the body. The ears and eyes are always colored.

Coat and Color

The Papillon wears a long, flowing single coat that is straight, fine and silky to the touch, when properly groomed. The large ears are fringed with hair, and the inside is covered in medium-length hair, as well. There is feathering adorning the backs of the forelegs and the hind legs wear “breeches,” and the long hair on the thigh is known as “culottes.” The tail is also plumed.

Papillons are parti-colored, with white being the dominant color and patches of any color adorning the body. The ears and eyes are always colored. Ideally, the dog will have a well-defined white blaze and a nose band, though the absence of these markings does not count against a companion dog.

Size and Weight

Adult Papillons stand between 8 and 11 inches at the withers, and any show dog over 11 inches is faulted, and those over 12 are disqualified from the ring. The dog should be slightly longer than he is high. This tiny breed typically weighs between 5 and 11 pounds.


The ancestry of the Papillon is still a mystery. Some people argue that the Papillon descends from Asian toy breeds such as the Japanese Chin, while others believe that the miniaturization of European spaniels occurred simply from crossing smaller and smaller breed specimens, without introducing blood from the Far East. Whatever their exact origin, tiny spaniels (called Continental Toy Spaniels and Dwarf Spaniels) were well established in Europe by the 1200s. The Papillon is the modern version of those tiny dogs, which often were depicted in paintings and tapestries, sitting in the laps of or being held by noble ladies of the day. Many great artists painted Papillons in their portraits, including Titian, Goya, Rubens, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Watteau, Van Dyke, Velasquez, Toulouse-Lautrec and Boucher, among others. Madame de Pompadour owned two Dwarf Spaniels – Inez and Mimi. Marie Antoinette was another proud admirer and owner of the breed. There is record of a Papillon being sold in 1545 to a lady who later ascended to the throne of Poland. The Papillon has always been a high-status dog. Spain is largely responsible for initiating the breed’s immense popularity, although Bologna, Italy, is probably responsible for the highest volume of trade. Many Dwarf Spaniels were sold to Louis XIV, who chose among all that were brought into France. A Bolognese man named Filipponi was the primary trader of these little dogs in the early day and developed a good business with the French court. Most Dwarf Spaniels initially were transported between countries on the backs of pack mules.

During the reign of Louis the Great, the Dwarf Spaniel had long, folded ears and was also known as the Phalene (after a kind of moth that drops its wings). Over time, some of these dogs were born with large erect ears, set far down on the head and well-fringed with long, silky hair. Why this development happened is unclear; some suggest a mutation in the original down-eared Phalene, while others claim that the drop-eared Phalene was crossed with prick-eared miniature spitz dogs to produce the erect ear set. Regardless, today we have a toy breed whose body type and coat are identical to that of the original Dwarf Spaniel, but whose ears may be either erect (up) or drooping (down).

Both varieties can appear in the same litter, regardless of the ear-type of the parents. The name “Papillon” means “butterfly” in French and was chosen for this breed in reference to the newer variety with erect, fully fringed ears. The drop-eared Papillon is still called the “Phalene” throughout Europe, where the Phalene and the erect-eared Papillon are recognized as separate varieties of the Continental Toy Spaniel. In North America, the Papillon is a single breed, with two acceptable styles of ear carriage. Both types are judged together in this country, and neither is preferred over the other under the American breed standard. Once the erect-eared variety became established, it rapidly overtook the Phalene in popularity – so much so that many people think the down-eared type is a minor variant of the up-eared Papillon, instead of its immediate ancestor. Actually, it would be more accurate to call the Papillon a “Prick-Eared Phalene” than to call the Phalene a “Drop-Eared Papillon.” Another development in this breed pertains to color. The original Dwarf Spaniels were solid in color. The modern Papillon has white as its predominant color, with patches of other colors scattered about. Solid colors are disqualified from the show ring today.

Despite its broad popularity, the Papillon did not arrive in England until 1901. The Kennel Club (England) accepted the breed in 1923. Papillons arrived in the United States during the first decade of the 20th century. The American Kennel Club recognized the Papillon in 1915, and admitted it for full registration eligibility in the mid-1930s as a member of the Toy Group. It was not until 1935 that Papillons were represented in the AKC by their own breed club, the Papillon Club of America.

Papillons have long been highly effective ratters. While they are too small to pursue and kill a healthy adult rat outright, they will play it (or “worry” it) relentlessly until it tires. Once the rat is completely exhausted, the Papillon will finish the job. In addition to its rodent-catching skills, the Papillon is an excellent tracking dog, a titled performer in obedience and agility, a show ring standout and a wonderful hearing ear dog and therapy assistant. Mostly, however, it is a happy, unusual and treasured personal companion.


The average life span of the Papillon is 13 to 16 years. Breed health concerns may include patellar luxation, black hair follicular dysplasia, congenital deafness, entropion, cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy.


The name “Papillon” is french for “butterfly” and this breed got that name from their butterfly shaped ears. Papillons are spirited little dogs with energy to spare. They love to chase balls and run around the house, though they are happy to take a break to soak up a little love and attention whenever they can get it. They learn things quickly, and are often at the top of their class in obedience and agility. Papillons make excellent family dogs, in that they can keep up with kids who want to play, but know when it’s time to relax for a belly rub and a nap. They make excellent companion animals for first time dog owners.

Activity Requirements

Papillons are tiny, but they have lots of energy. Though they can entertain themselves by running around the house for hours, they should be allowed to play outdoors whenever possible. They also appreciate daily walks, and are very easy to leash train. Their size makes them ideal apartment dogs, though they can be just as happy in a home with wide open spaces.

Papillons are smart and need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. Playing interactive games with them is a welcome activity, as is agility training. They will soak up the added time with you, and will excel on the obstacle course, as they think quickly on their feet.


Papillons are highly trainable dogs. They possess a strong desire to please and are highly intelligent, often picking up on commands in one lesson. Some can be a little rebellious, so don’t think your dog is defective if he’s a little rebellious. Food motivates them to do just about anything, and positive reinforcement should always be the method of choice for training sessions.

Once basic obedience has been mastered, many people enroll their Papillons in advanced training with the goal of entering their dog in competitions. This breed is often the grand champion of the toy group in agility and competitive obedience.