Choosing a Papillon

Named after a butterfly because of their fringed ears, the papillon is a sweet and gentle, though not overly popular, breed. A favorite of royalty, this diminutive dog loves nothing better than to sleep the day away on a nice comfortable lap.

History and Origin

The papillon is a toy breed whose earliest recorded history dates to the early 1500s. This little breed, then referred to as a dwarf spaniel, is thought to have originated in Spain. As time passed, the pet became a very popular lapdog especially among royalty. The breed flourished in Italy, France, Poland and other European countries by the 1600s. By this time, the breed gained the name of papillon, which means butterfly in French. While some members of this breed have erect ears with fringe resembling butterflies, some have pendulous ears. Interestingly, both are accepted in competition. The papillon was accepted by the American Kennel Club as an official breed in 1915.


The papillon's coat is long and fine without an undercoat. The ears have long fringe and the tail is a silky plume. The coat is white with patches of many accepted colors. Hair on the head, including the ears, must not be white. Also, all white papillons are not accepted in competition. The nose, lips and eyelids are pigmented black. Eyes are brown to black. The breed has a small head with an intelligent expression. Papillons move lightly and gracefully.


Adult papillons average 8 to 11 inches in height at the shoulder and weigh around 5 to 10 pounds.


The papillon is a pleasant companion that enjoys interacting with people. They are loved for their alert, congenial nature. Papillons do not generally bark excessively.

Home and Family Relations

The papillon is a wonderful pet. The breed, in general, tends to get along well with children and other pets. It is best if others are introduced while your papillon is young. This pet enjoys walks and the small size makes the breed ideal for apartment dwellers.


The papillon is intelligent and easy to train. This breed is alert and eager to learn.

Special Concerns

Papilllons are fairly easy to care for; however, extra attention should be paid to the coat. The silky hair can become matted if not brushed regularly. Brushing several times a week for 10 to 15 minutes is ideal. Longer hair behind the ears and on the belly are more prone to mats.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Papillon is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Corneal dystrophy causes the appearance of spots on the surface (cornea) of the eye. This condition usually occurs in both eyes and does not affect vision.
  • Congenital deafness may be present at birth in some dogs.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the papillon is approximately 12 to 15 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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