By Pearl George
In Continental Europe the Papillon (erect ear) is one variety of the breed known as The Continental Toy Spaniel (Epagneul Nain Continental). The Phalène (drop ear) was the original variety of the breed with the Papillon being a considerably later development.
In countries governed by the FCI, the Continental Toy Spaniel Phalène variety is judged as a separate variety from the Papillon, each variety having its own set of CAC’s and CACIB’s and both varieties being represented in the ‘Fancy (Toy) Dog’ group.
In the early years of the breed in this country the Phalène was often seen at the shows but as more and more emphasis was put on the fact that ‘Papillon’ was the French word for ‘Butterfly’ the Phalène, or drop ear variety of the breed, gradually disappeared until it was almost extinct.
While the original small Continental Toy Spaniel was often seen in paintings as the pets of Royalty and members of the aristocracy the larger type of the CTS was purported to be used on farms for herding geese and, from the way I have seen the CTS of today go on ‘point’ or try to herd other animals, I can well imagine that they were well suited to such work. Today fanciers are making a concentrated effort to bring the Phalène, the original variety of the breed, back to its correct place as an equal partner of the Papillon. In an endeavor to maintain the original Spaniel heritage, fanciers are attempting to maintain not only the intelligence and ‘birdiness’ that is inherent in the breed but also the dainty size, and the structure and movement of the true toy sized sporting spaniel.
In Judging the Phalène it should be remembered that apart from the ears the variety is identical in all other respects to the Papillon and should be judged accordingly. The ears are probably the most important area for discussion for although the Phalène is a true Spaniel in a miniature size there are notable differences between the Phalènes ears and those of most other Spaniel breeds.
The Phalène ear is set onto the skull in the normal fashion of the Papillon, that is, at the 45-degree angle. It should not be low set on the side of the head as in the Cocker Spaniel. Due to the ear carriage Phalène ears will often look as if they are a little low set so it is not unreasonable, when judging the variety, to wish to take a closer look at the set on. This is not done by pulling the ears up by their tips but rather by gently pushing the ears up until the set can be clearly seen.
The ear has a slight rise where it joins the skull and this slight rise is extremely important to the health of the dog. Whereas in most Spaniel breeds the ear leather lays heavy against the ear canal, and the breeds are often plagued with ear infections as a result of this, the slight rise in the set-on of the Phalène ear, along with its mobility, allows for adequate ventilation of the ear canal which, in turns, helps to maintain ear health. The mobility of the light ear leather of the Phalène is not only normal but also desirable. Light currents of air, as will be present when the dog is in motion, will often lift the ear leather lightly and give the appearance of gently wafting ‘wings’. The ears do not come up in the manner of the erect eared Papillon but rather pull back against the neck. When at rest the ears are dropped in the manner of any other Spaniel breed but with the slight rise being present. As with the erect eared Papillon the ears need to be large with a reasonably wide base and rounded tips and, in the adults, covered with long silken hair.
Some Phalène puppies will tend to have more lift to the leather at the base of the ear and it takes time for the ears to ‘settle’. As the puppy grows into an adult and gets the normal ear fringing the weight of the ear fringe will stabilize the drop of the ear leather. Slight instability of the ear leather on a puppy should be faulted to the same extent that an erect eared puppy of like age, with a slightly soft ear, would be faulted. No more and no less.
Another area that can be quite deceptive is the backline. In the erect eared variety of the breed the eye tends to be drawn along the back and up to the top of the ears. In the Phalène the eye follows the line from the back and down the drop of the ear. This can result in a Papillon and Phalène of equal proportions on the body length appearing different, the drop eared Phalène will have a tendency to appear to have a longer backline than the erect eared Papillon.
The same deception of the eye can occur in height. The drop ear Phalène that is of the same height as its erect ear counterpart will, because of the drop ears, sometime look smaller than it actually is.
Once judges and breeders are more used to seeing the Phalène the eye will automatically adjust but for those who are unfamiliar with the drop ear variety of the breed it is sometimes interesting to take a second look at the proportions.
Head shape can also be somewhat deceptive, as the drop ear will sometimes have a tendency to make the exhibit look wider and flatter between the inner set-on of the ear. The drop ear does have a tendency to give a softer look to the dogs face as opposed to the more ‘perky’ appearance of the erect eared Papillon and this difference in expression should be taken into consideration when judging the drop ear variety.
Copyright 2002, Papillon Club of America, Inc.