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The Papillon and French Culture

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The charmingly dignified, noble, even regal appearance of the breed known as the Papillon has made them quite popular in their home country of France and especially amongst royalty and celebrities.

The Papillon might be most famous for being featured in portraits of Royal and merchant class families in France starting in the fifteen hundreds. Before these French paintings by such artists as Watteau, Gonzalez Cowues, Mignard and Gragonard, toy spaniels closely resembling the Papillon were first seen in Italian paintings by Tiziano Vicelli (more commonly known as Titian); the most well known of these probably being the Venus of Urbino. King Louis XIV can also be seen in a famous portrait alongside a Papillon.

One of the most famous examples of Royalty keeping a Papillon would probably be Marie Antoinette and her dog Thisbe. The story behind Thisbe puts forth that he was brought from Spain on the back of a pack mule. It serves as a testament to the comfort the breed can provide as a companion animal that Marie Antoinette is said to have walked to the guillotine holding Thisbe under one arm. Luckily, the dog was spared and cared for in a building called The Papillon House, which still stands today under that name.

Another Royal Papillon lover was King Henry the Second, who is said to have spent more than one hundred thousand crowns on his Papillons.

An interesting note is that, while Papillon is French for butterfly, they are not actually referred to by that name in their native land of France. In France and other countries that do not employ English as the primary language, the breed is referred to as the Epagneul Nain Continental, sometimes shortened to ENC.

Given their high percentage of French nationals and citizens with French ancestry, it comes as perhaps no surprise that the Papillon has found some popularity in Canada.

The prominence of the Papillon in France and its relevance to French culture's influence on the rest of the world began in the sixteenth century when the breed were first imported from Spain and given the Epagnuel Nain Continental classification. Although, the Papillon has been an ever-changing breed since then as different qualities become popular in breeding. For a time, they were even called the 'squirrel Spaniel', referencing the way that their tails would, at that point in their evolution, stand up and curl out, like a squirrel's. In fact, it wasn't until the nineteenth century that the Papillon developed the appearance we currently associate with the breed.

The dog's unique charm has helped it become popular all over the world since its first appearance in France four hundred years ago, but even today, it is that country in particular where they remain most popular.

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