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Never heard of a Phalène (pronounced fa-len)?  Well, it is the drop-eared version of the Papillon and the word means a night moth in French.  But, I hear you say, Papillon means butterfly so how can a hanging ear be correct? The answer to that lies in the fact that the word Papillon is only of very recent usage and the original term European Dwarf Spaniel is still used in many FCI countries, with the words Papillon and Phalène add to differentiate. In FCI countries they are shown as

two separate breeds; only in English speaking countries are they shown as one breed.  Visit the history page to see the Old Masters’ paintings - in all but a couple the dogs are depicted with hanging ears or flying them in excitement.


So what is a correct Phalène?

There should be no difference between the two varieties other than in the carriage of the ears.  This means that there will be as much variation in type as with a normal erect eared Papillon.  If erect ears are held down, or drop ears gently cupped in the hand as the head is tilted back, ideally they should both look the same.  However, often there is type difference noticeable, due to the lines down which they have been bred.  This has led many people to have misconceptions over the years since Phalènes went out of favour to the Papillons.


Certainly there were many big, long legged, long nosed, plain dogs; but in both varieties there have always been the sweet faced, dainty versions.


Why did the Phalène go out of fashion?

For one thing, it can take much longer for Phalène ears to stabilise and people with a quick breeding programme are often unwilling to have valuable space taken up waiting to see how they turn out.  Yes, some never go up, but it is not unknown in European kennels that have generations specialised in only them for ears to go up when teething, then down, and occasionally up and even down again.  People not knowing this can happen will think, or be told, that this means they have an incorrect soft-eared Papillon.


However, the European fanciers will say that an incorrect soft eared Papillon is one where either the ears lie flat against the face and do not show the mobility required, or it is a half mast or tipped ear.   In fact, the ears should be able to be raised and lowered or pulled back at will or when startled. A noted Swedish breed authority used a series of pictures in her book to illustrate this during a photography session with flash.


The erect ear was a novelty and in the early days much prized as such,  it accentuated the dog’s animation and size of ear and its mobility.  It also proved to be more dominant once it had appeared.


Now the wheel is turning and people are once again discovering the charm of the original variety and for some strange reason it is resurfacing in lines that have not seen it for known generations. Now there are a few breeders dedicated to re-establishing it and the general public is starting to ask for it. In Australia there are already a few champions as well as imports.


Thelma Morrell
Farfalla Papillons
Patron, The New Zealand Papillon Club

The New Zealand Papillon Club (Inc)
Established 1984