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Papillons in New Zealand

The origin of the Papillon is mixed with that of most "royal" small dogs, but there is no doubt that it is an early breed in its present form. Many of the better dog books give a slightly varied version of this breed's history, but there is a clear pattern running through them.

We are lucky that our breed has been so faithfully recorded in paintings by the old masters, in distinct likeness as early as 1337, and it will interest you to note that the breed was appearing in portraits long before Columbus discovered America, and the traditional Chihuahua was brought across the Atlantic from Mexico.

There was perhaps some adventurous trading earlier - or an evolution similar on the continent we will leave to the experts, but that the Papillon had, in common with other small dogs an ancestry of similar lines is certain . With the evidence left us by such noted artists as Veronese, Titian, Van Dyke, Watteau and many others. It is also certain that this breed is a pure, distinct and ancient breed.  Some examples of these paintings are shown on this page.
(Hold your mouse over the picture for an enlargement.)

The list is long and some that are claimed to be Papillons could be Cavalier King Charles, King Charles, Japanese Chins etc. or the other way around! It is more than likely that everybody is right and that these controversial paintings depict common ancestors of all these breeds.

We find that the Papillon was well distributed through the courts of Europe, owned by Phillip of Spain, the Queen of Poland, James I of England (VI of Scotland) and were well established in the court of France in 1570. Henry III took several with him to the council chamber, and paid high salaries to a crowd of men and women who had no other occupation than to look after them. Both Henry and Madame de Pompadour would amuse themselves by having the dogs dressed in large collections of fine jewels, and the little dogs would be adorned in the finest gems, some threaded in their ear fringes, as often as not a fortune hanging from the long hair of their ears.

Marie Antoinette had her Papillons with her during her imprisonment and even took one in the tumbrill, to comfort her on her way to the guillotine.  There is still a house in Paris called the "Maison du Papillon" in memory of this little dog, who was cared for by the inhabitants after her execution.

The Papillon was first noted on the Continent in many prestigious courts and became the Royal Toy Dog of France in fact, and its type is still quite stable with the early dogs portrayed is also quite evident. That the Papillon owes some of its exquisite beauty to the courts of the East is also obvious and new blood was introduced from the small dogs travelling on the Old Silk Road, between the Far East and Europe.

In 1907 the Kennel Encyclopędia Part II, Volume 1 shows that they are firmly recognised in England and a book published in 1911 gives a likeness of the type of our dogs today. Probably the first Papillons came much earlier, when the French nobility fled the Revolution.

The Papillon Club (England) was founded in 1923, Challenge Certificates in 1924, and 1930 sees about a score of Champions. 1949 saw the first Papillons in Australia, (the Bunteen Kennels) 1976 our first recorded Best In Show All Breeds. Nowadays Papillons are regularly seen in group placings, and our top flight of Butterflies are taking "In Show" awards with regularity.

Colleen Mitchell
Waiwurri Papillons

The New Zealand Papillon Club (Inc)
Established 1984