The Papillon owes its name to its ears that resemble the wings of a butterfly. It is one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world, with a recorded history in Europe dating back 700 years. Originating in France, the breed was then called the epagneul nain, or dwarf spaniel, and sported spaniel-type dropped ears. It was very popular with the European aristocracy; their original function was to be a lapdog. The court of France's Louis XIV was particularly fond of papillons and imported lots of them.
Recognizable in Italian frescoes of the 13th through 15th centuries, the tiny breed was featured in many paintings of the Renaissance period. Much of the papillon's development is known because of its depiction in paintings. Although a butterfly knows the breed for its resemblance, it has also been said to look like a squirrel because of the way it carries its tail. Although the early dogs had drooping ears, an unknown event caused some dogs to start sporting erect ears. Sometimes both drop and erect eared papillons came from the same litter.
Today, both ear types are correct according to the breed standard, although the erect-eared dog is much more popular. The drop-eared dogs are known as phalene, which is French for moth. By the 1900’s, the papillon was well represented at French dog shows and soon afterward was being shown in England and America. The dog was later known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, or just toy spaniel.
The papillon has a small, fragile body with an abundant coat of fine long and silky hair. The breed has butterfly-like ears, a profuse frill on the chest and a plume covered tail. The papillon's is quick and graceful, and its expression is alert. It has no undercoat and its colouring is white or parti-coloured with patches of any colours. They stand at an average height of 8-11 inches, and weigh in around 9-10 pounds and tend to live 12 - 15 years.
This animal is friendly, playful, intelligent and obedient. Its activity level is moderate. It can also be calm, patient and gentle. The breed is good with older children and with cats, if socialized early, but may be aggressive towards larger dogs and may become possessive of its owner. Some papillons can be timid or nervous and occasionally difficult to housebreak, it is otherwise easy to train. It loves to be cuddled and to frolic outdoors. The breed's talents include watchdogging, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks.
Daily combing and brushing of the long, silky, single coat is definitely a must. Papillons are a breed that sheds average and its coat does not matt or tangle. Minimal bathing is required as this breed stays fairly clean and is odourless. The papillon won’t mind being kept in the house for days at a time, however it needs to get out and exercise regularly. Although they can be good city dogs, they are sometimes not convenient apartment dogs because of a strong instinct to protect their property. Papillons bark at casual sounds and those worthy of alarm with equal enthusiasm. This lively breed thrives on mental stimulation and enjoys a daily walk on a leash as well as challenging games indoors or out. This is not a breed that can live outdoors.