Wikipedia | Gvdmoort CC BY-SA 3.0

Papillons Are Tiny Athletic Spaniels With Incredible ‘Butterfly’ Ears

My sister has two dogs who are breeds not commonly seen in our area, which means they both get tons of attention when we're out and about with them.

One is a corgi, which isn't common here, but is pretty universally recognized. The other is a small little dog with giant, wing-like ears that people struggle to put a name to.

Often they assume he's an unusual mix, but he's actually a papillon.

Instagram | @kroshka_darcy

Also called a continental toy spaniel, or sometimes just a "dwarf spaniel," these guys' claim to fame are those very distinctive ears.

"Papillon" is French for butterfly, which is the perfect name for them.

The ears are large relative to their heads and they stick up and out from the sides.

Facebook | Danielle Pilkington

Their long, silky hair flows down to make the effect even more prominent.

There is a variation of the papillon breed whose ears droop down with the long hair flowing down over the shoulders. In Europe, they're colloquially referred to as a "phalene," or "moth." As of right now, though, they are still considered part of the standard breed and not an offshoot of their own.

Papillons were bred specifically to be companion animals for aristocracy.

Instagram | @edward_the_papillon

Current toy breeds were crossbred with standard spaniels and then over the generations, careful breeding continued to promote the genes responsible for those incredible ears.

They are most often associated with France, both due to the naming and because possibly the most famous papillon in history is one named Thisbe, who belonged to Marie Antoinette and waited outside her prison for her after the Revolution.

However, most of the early breeding was done in Spain and Italy.

They are truly a toy breed, standing shorter than a foot at the shoulder. Unlike some toy breeds, though, they are very athletic and often top the rankings in agility or trick competitions.

As a personal anecdote, it's not uncommon for Bertrand, my sister's dog, to leap from the floor into a standing person's waiting arms.

h/t: American Kennel Club

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