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A dog breed known as the butterfly dog sounds very appealing. 

Many dog breeds are provided with nicknames that often highlight their virtues including physical and behavioral traits or perhaps the nicknames are just there to point out some of the utilitarian roles these dog breeds may have played in the past.

 The "Butterfly dog" is a cute nickname that is given to a distinctive dog breed that boasts an interesting physical trait that is quite unique compared to other dog breeds.

Can you guess what dog breed this is? 

Introducing the "Butterfly Dog"

The dog breed known as the butterfly dog is the papillon. 

Also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, the papillon is a small dog measuring about 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder. Due to this dog's size, the American Kennel Club has categorized the Papillon under the toy group. 

Papillons are one of the oldest toy spaniels. They were obtained by crossing existing toy breeds with spaniels. Their history is to a great extent traced down to paintings that featured them in the arms of noble ladies.

Some of of the earliest appearances of dogs resembling papillons were found in Italy. Because of this, many papillons are found in ancient paintings made by many famous Italian artists.

Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga Della Rovere by Titian 1538

Portrait of Eleonora Gonzaga Della Rovere by Titian 1538

Muses for Many Italian Artists 

 In particular, paintings by the Italian artist Tiziano Vicelli beginning around 1500 featured these small dogs. 

The "Venus of Urbino," for instance, shows a nude woman laying in bed with a papillon-like dog sleeping nearby curled up in a ball.

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 Other famous painters known for featuring dogs resembling papillons include Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

These ancient portraits made it clear that papillons were cherished lap warmers much favored by the royal courts of Europe. Admirers of this dog breed worthy of noting included Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette.

Despite this breed's history as a lap dog for the aristocrats, its ancient spaniel blood has contributed to this breed's athleticism and adventurous spirit. 

Papillons are happy, friendly dogs, but don't underestimate their needs just because they are small. Papillons require training and mental stimulation to prevent behavioral issues arising from boredom.


The Dog Breed With Ears Like Butterfly Wings

This dog breed's name, "papillon," is inspired by the pretty, swallowtail butterfly-like ears it sports. The word papillon, indeed, is the French word for butterfly. 

Those large, impressive butterfly-like ears with fringed hair are the first thing that people notice upon seeing this pretty dog for the very first time.

According to the American Kennel Club standard, the papillon's ears should be carried obliquely and move like the "spread wings of a butterfly." And those ears draped in long fringes sure move quite a lot, as to reflect this dainty dog's thoughts and emotions.

While the early toy spaniels from which this dog descended featured drop ears, there is speculation that in the 17th century, in the court of Louis XIV, a pup with upright ears was born and therefore, the up-right ear version soon developed. 

Others speculate though that the erect ears appeared after crossing with some specimens of spitz-dogs. How exactly the erect ear version developed seems to remain shrouded in mystery.

Regardless of their origin, those butterfly ears are surely an attraction! According to the Papillon Club of America, in the show ring, papillons are predisposed to “showing themselves” by dancing happily on the lead with the ears kept erect at attention and their tail plume waving. Whether raised as show dogs or companions, these dogs are sure full of personality and it greatly shows!

Did you know? The papillon dog breed has also a drop-eared variety, which is called phalène (meaning "night moth"). Both varieties can be born in the same litter.

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