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What’s The Difference Between A King Charles Spaniel And A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

The very similarly-named King Charles spaniel and Cavalier King Charles spaniel are two separate dog breeds, but they share the same origins and have a lot in common as well as many notable differences. If you want to know the difference between the King Charles spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles spaniel – or are trying to choose between the two breeds when deciding on your next dog – this article will tell you more.

We’ll explain what the King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles spaniel have in common and how they differ, and share some pointers on telling the difference between the two breeds. Read on to learn more.

The origins of the two breeds

As you might expect given the very similar names of the two breeds, the King Charles spaniel and Cavalier King Charles spaniel share a common origin, and were actually virtually the same – and were classed as the same breed – until the 1920’s.

The very first recorded history of the King Charles spaniel (although they were not named as such back then) in the UK goes back to the 1500’s, with toy spaniels owned by Queen Mary I. Later, Charles II became well-known for his love of spaniels in the 17th century, resulting in the name of the two modern breeds.

Over the course of the next few centuries, the appearance of the King Charles spaniel began to change, with a preference for a flatter face and head. This was something of a divergence from the appearance of dogs from Charles II’s day, which had longer muzzles. In the 1920’s, some dog breeders and dog show organisers held a class for King Charles spaniels that possessed a more historical appearance than the modern norm, with the original longer muzzle.

King Charles spaniels of this type ultimately became recognised as a breed in their own right – named the Cavalier King Charles spaniel as we know it today.

Physical appearance

Cavalier King Charles spaniels are slightly larger than King Charles spaniels, weighing up to around 8.2kg compared to the King Charles’s 6.4kg.

The two breeds can be seen in the same colour combinations – called ruby, Blenheim, black and tan and tricolour respectively. Cavalier King Charles spaniels have long, silky fur that should always be straight with no waves or curling. The King Charles spaniel, on the other hand, may have a slight wave to their coats.

Some (but not most) King Charles spaniels may have a bobbed tail, and this is a recognised and accepted as a breed trait that is not replicated in the Cavalier King Charles spaniel.

The main difference between the two breeds, other than that the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is slightly larger, comes in the shape of the head and muzzle.

King Charles spaniels have proportionate heads with a notably short muzzle and an upturned nose. They also have large, sometimes prominent eyes that are wide set and very expressive. Cavalier King Charles spaniels, on the other hand, have longer muzzles that are not finished with an obviously upturned nose, although they also have large, soulful eyes.


Cavalier King Charles spaniels and King Charles spaniels have very similar temperaments, as you might expect given that both dogs were classed as the same breed only a century ago.

They are both highly affectionate, very loving and personable little dogs that are loyal and playful but without being overly demanding in terms of their need for exercise. They are also intelligent dogs, and notably, don’t have as strong a prey drive as most other breeds, and are without the obsessive working drive of many other spaniels.

They are relatively easy to train and care for, making both breeds a good choice that is worthy of consideration by even first-time dog owners.

Grouping and classification

Both the King Charles spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles spaniel are recognised as pedigree breeds by the UK Kennel Club, and both breeds are classed within the toy dog group.

As separate breeds, show classes are held separately for King Charles spaniels and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, but as both dogs fall within the toy dog group, the two breeds may be seen competing side by side in higher-level heats for classes such as Best in Show or Best in Group.

Popularity and purchase price

Both the Cavalier King Charles spaniel and the King Charles spaniel are fairly common breeds in the UK, but the Cavalier is by far the most popular of the two – being ranked as the UK’s 19th most popular dog breed overall. The King Charles spaniel, on the other hand, is way down in 116th position.

The average purchase price for a pedigree Cavalier King Charles spaniel is £833, and for a King Charles spaniel, £543.

This places both breeds around the low to average price range for a Kennel Club registered pedigree puppy, and means that buying one is within the reach of most prospective dog owners.

However, there can be a reasonable amount of variance in terms of price between individual dogs, even sometimes within the same litter. You should expect to potentially pay a lot more than this for an excellent example of the breed, a show quality dog, or one with an impeccable pedigree of show-winning ancestors.

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