The Dead Leaf Pattern

Mention “dog breed” and “butterfly” in the same sentence, and guaranteed, most people will think “Papillon” or “Phalene.”
We’re going to mention another breed that may have a butterfly connection, but first we want you to learn about the “Dead Leaf,” or “Oak Leaf Butterfly.”  This marvelous member of the Lepidoptera order is a master of camouflage. Between a dark brown “undercarriage” and irregular patterns and veins on its wings, it blends in almost seamlessly with dead leaves. To a predator that eats butterflies,  (birds, ants, spiders and wasps, and even monkeys), this insect would be easy to miss:
 Pont-Audemer Spaniel,Epagneul Pont-Audemer,Épagneul de Pont-Audemer,Epagneul de Pont-Audemer, Epagneul du Pont-Audemère, coat, pattern, dead leaf glint


These butterflies don’t fly very much, and when they do, they don’t fly very fast. They like to rest in one place for a while when they find food, and what they prefer to eat – dropped fruit – makes their resemblance to a dried leaf all the more effective in concealing themselves.

At this point, we segue over to one of France’s rare gun dogs, the Epagneul Pont-Audemer. Descended from the Picardy spaniel and, some say, the Barbet and the Poodle, the “Ponto,” as it’s called, has a distinctive look that we discussed in another post. “…Long silky very curly hair, joining the top knot to show a beautiful curly wig really framing the head.”

We didn’t really get into the breed’s overall coat in that post, however.

The Ponto’s coat is very curly or wavy, the hair on his face short. So short, in fact, that it can take up to five years for a dog to develop its topknot. The coat is preferably brown and grey mottled, or solid brown, and both may have a small amount of ticking. Both might also have what is referred to in both the UKC and FCI standards as “dead leaf glints.”

Somewhere in our research travels, we read that the description, dead leaf glints, was borrowed from the butterfly by the same name, though we are hard pressed now to find the source (and yes, we’re kicking ourselves as we keep searching). In fact, efforts to find any reason for why the coat pattern was so described have come up short. As near as we can guess, the dog’s coat is so tousled that at times, there are faint or fleeting suggestions of dead leaves in it. Gun dogs are routinely fitted out in camouflage vests to conceal their presence from the birds they hunt, and breeds like the Chesapeake Bay Retriever wear nature’s version of camouflage. It stands to reason that the Ponto would be selectively bred for a coat that allows him the same concealment as a close working water specialist in wetlands and marshes.

As for the butterfly, we may have to come back and amend this post if we don’t find proof of the connection!

Image: Pont-Audemer Spaniel/Deposit stock photo
Image of Dead Leaf Butterfly by © Pietro Ebner/

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