12 Fun Facts About Papillons

These adorable little dogs have been popular for hundreds of years, there’s plenty of reasons why.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Papillons!

1. How did Papillons get their name?

Papillons are some of the cutest dogs in the world and their main characteristic is their remarkable ears. Papillon is the French word for butterfly so the reference to their ears which appear as butterfly wings is how they got their name.

Papillon amazing facts

2. There’s a variation of the Papillon with a similar name

One of the most interesting facts about Papillons is that there is one variation of this dog breed, which is also defined by their amazing ears. The ears of Papillons are standing upright, while that of their counterparts are lying down.

The variation of this dog with dropped ears is called “Phalène,” which is the French word for “moth,” a clear reference to their butterfly counterpart.

Papillon with dropped ears called phalène

3. How long do Papillons live?

Papillons are a relatively healthy breed of dog and don’t have major health concerns. They are really active and adventurous and this type of behavior is usually enough for the daily dose of exercise.

A study conducted in the early 2000s determined that the average lifespan of Papillons was 11.45 years, with some dogs living up to 17 years!

Papillon running on the beach

4. They are considered to be toy dogs

Papillons have a couple of different names as well, including the Epagneul Nain Continental, butterfly dog, squirrel dog (in reference to their curly tail), and Continental Toy Spaniel.

The latter name is a reference to the fact that they are in fact toy dogs of the spaniel type, a gun dog that has been used extensively during hunting. Spaniel seems to be derived from the medieval French word to refer to something from Spain, “Espaigneul.”

Because of this, they are referred to as simply “toy spaniels.”

Papillon and other dogs

5. How big are Papillons?

Since Papillons are considered to be toy dogs, one of the oldest toy spaniel breeds in the world, they don’t grow that big. They only stand between 8 and 11 inches (20.32 and 27.94 centimeters) tall (both males and females).

Male Papillons can eight anywhere between 8 and 10 pounds (3.6 and 4.5 kilos), while females are slightly lighter with a weight between 7 and 9 pounds (3.2 and 4.1 kilos).

Papillon lying on the ground

6. Papillons are in the top 10 smartest dogs in the world

According to Doctor Stanley Coren, a psychology professor, neuropsychological researcher, and expert on animal intelligence, Papillons are among the smartest dogs in the world!

They ranked number 8 out of 138 dog breeds that were tested back in the 1990s. This test referred to obeying the first order 95% of the time or better, which is pretty remarkable!

Papillon fun facts

7. It’s unclear where Papillons originated from

While it’s unclear where the origin of this particular dog breed lies exactly, the “Fédération Cynologique Internationale,” a dog organization located in Belgium, lists the origin of the dog as being France and Belgium.

This refers to both Papillons and Phalènes which are considered to be the same breed of dog.

Papillon in the snow

8. They first appeared in Renaissance paintings in the 16th century

It’s clear that by the 16th century, Papillons were already widespread all across Europe. They first started to appear as pets in Renaissance paintings in Italy in the early 16th century.

Italian Renaissance artist Titian included a Papillon in his famous painting “Venus of Urbino,” which dates back to the year 1534. This was followed by numerous Renaissance and Baroque masters, including but not limited to Watteau, Gonzales Coques, Fragonard, Paolo Veronese, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Mignard.

After this, they started to appear in family portraits of the rich and famous all across Europe, including in the highest circles such as a family portrait of Louis XIV in which a playful Papillon can be seen in the foreground.

Papillon in a family portrait of Louis XIV

9. There’s a peculiar anecdote about a Papillon during the French Revolution

One of the most peculiar facts about Papillons is related to a story about Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI and Queen of France during the French Revolution, an event that started in the year 1789.

The story tells that Marie Antoinette loved her Papillon so much that she was holding it under her arm when she was walking towards the guillotine, a device that was about to chop off her head.

Obviously, this likely never happened as her hands were tight behind her back, but it just shows that this apocryphal story proves how popular Papillons have been in history, which is exactly why they make such amazing pets!

Papillon with big ears

10. They have been officially recognized since 1915

Even though Papillons have been around for centuries and the American Kennel Club was founded in the year 1884, they have only been officially recognized since 1915.

The first-ever Papillon club in America was formed two decades later in the year 1935. They are the AKC Parent Club for the Papillon and describe themselves as the custodians of the Breed and its Standard.

Papillon cool facts

11. Papillons can come in a variety of different colors

This dog breed is overall white and has patches that can come in just about any color imaginable.

In order for the dogs to be recognized as Papillons by the AKC, both the back and front of the ears, as well as both eyes, must be covered with any color other than white.

Papillon interesting facts

12. Papillons easily learn new tricks and can win major contests

Because these dogs are some of the smartest dogs on the planet and quickly obey orders, they are some of the best dogs in the world to be taught new tricks. This allows owners to bring them to various contests and actually have a great chance of winning!

This is proven by the fact that a dog named “Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being” (1990-2007) that was nicknamed “Kirby,” is still the only dog in the world that has won the three major international dog shows in the same year in 1999.

Papillon in contest
Papillon in contest / Ron Armstrong / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en