Papillon Dog Breed

This royal pup is very affectionate.
By: PawCulture Editors

About the Papillon Dog Breed

The Papillon breed originated in 17th century France, they were bred specifically to be companion dogs for European royalty. The breed has been seen in paintings by Rembrandt, Fragonard, and Titian.

Papillon Physical Characteristics

The Papillon is a small and delicate dog with large erect ears called “bat ears.” The ears have long, fringed hair that grows out rather than down, creating the distinctive butterfly-like appearance the breed is known for. The tail is long and full and carried curled over the back.


The breed is usually white with spots of any color. A mask of color on both eyes and ears is very common, further accentuation the butterfly appearance.


The Papillon’s coat is long, straight and silky.

Papillon Personality and Temperament

Activity Level

Moderate to high


The Papillon is intelligent, friendly, and very affectionate. They love to stay close to their owners. They are great lap dogs and want nothing more than your total attention. The breed is generally good with kids and other dogs.

Things to Consider

The breed is known for being a calm lap dog, but they do need daily exercise, both in the form of neighborhood walks and with play. They should be brushed regularly, and because of the full hair in and around the ears, the ears should be checked for debris and cleaned to prevent ear infections.

Papillon Care

Ideal Living Conditions

The Papillon would do well in the country or city.

Special Requirements

Papillons have special grooming needs that may require a professional.

Papillon Health

The following conditions are commonly seen in Papillons:


Papillon History and Background

The French word meaning butterfly was first applied to this breed in the 1500s, when the fashion for this elegant little dog turned from the floppy eared Spaniel style (the drop eared Papillon is called a Phalène) to the sprightly winged look that is still popular today. The breed was hugely popular amongst the upper ranks of society, and artists of the period preserved a wealth of images of the miniature Spaniels with their royal and noble counterparts.

During this time, Italy and Spain became noted centers for the extensive trading and breeding of these little dogs. Louis XIV of France was very fond of the small dogs, and Marie Antoinette and King Henry III were also ardent admirers. Another name given to the breed was Squirrel Spaniel, as it bore its plumed tail on its back in the manner of squirrels. In Europe, the breed is known as the Continental Toy Spaniel or Epagneul Nain.

The drop-eared relation, the Phalène, is also a French name, meaning night moth. The two ear types are usually born within the same litters, but the erect-eared variety scores over the other in terms of popularity.

With the turn of the 20th century, the Papillon became popular in French dog shows and achieved the same fame in England and the U.S. The earlier show dogs were larger in size than their modern counterparts are, and were allowed solid coloration, like red. Through selective breeding, a smaller and more brilliantly colored dog with white patches, called blaze, was produced. The butterfly appearance is enhanced with a white blaze down the center of the face and nose and a symmetrically shaded face and ears.

Because of its striking performances in the show ring, its high intelligence, and its love of human companionship, the Papillon has easily maintained its status as a popular family pet.