By Linda Cole
The early years of the Phalene were spent in the company of kings and queens as lap dogs to help keep their royal masters warm. The dogs were also good at catching rats that dared to wander the great hallways and rooms of these majestic castles.
This small dog breed has also been called Little Squirrel Dog (because of his bushy tail), Continental Toy Spaniel, Belgium Toy Spaniel, Royal Toy Spaniel and Epagneul Dwarf Spaniel. The name most people will recognize, however, is the Papillon. The Phalene and Papillon are considered separate breeds, but both are judged by the Papillon standard by the AKC, even though there is a difference between the two.
The history of the Phalene and Papillon are one and the same, with the Phalene being the older of the two breeds by a couple of centuries. The Phalene was bred as a companion pet, mainly for ladies, and their primary function today remains that of a companion pet. This is a happy dog that gets along well with other pets and wants to be with his human at all times. He is extremely loyal and protective of the one he loves.
No one knows for sure where or when the Phalene roots began, but three countries – Spain, Belgium and France – insist that the breed originated in their country. This little dog was also widely found in Italy. From the 15th to 18th centuries, Italian artists created portraits and tapestries of kings and queens with small dogs at the feet of their royal owners, and the earliest known portrait that included a Phalene is Italian, dating back to the 1400s.
This breed is believed to be a descendant of the Cayenne Dog and the English Toy Spaniels that are commonly seen in centuries old paintings. He is considered among the oldest of the toy spaniels. King Louis XIV, a 1600 French king, was very fond of this dog breed, as was Marie Antoinette. After the French Revolution, the Phalene became more popular in Belgium.