What You Might Not Know About the “Butterfly Dog”

It’s generally known that the Papillon’s nickname is the “Butterfly Dog” because its epic ears resemble an outstretched butterfly; Not as well known is that the name references a specific butterfly.


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

This marvelous breed was named after an Old World insect, the swallowtail butterfly, or Papilio machaon, a member of the Papilionidae family. Happily, the connection ends there since adult swallowtails are edible and tasty treats to birds.

Conversely, the drop eared version, the Phalène, is named after a night moth (papillon de nuit, in French) with pectinate antennae, and straight and delicate wings. The name, Phalène, may very well come from the ancient Greek φάλαινα, or phálaina.

Throughout most of the breed’s history, Papillons had drop ears. Indeed, the Phalène is the older of the two varieties, and the appearance of the erect-eared variety wasn’t even documented until the 16th century.  In some European countries, the Papillon is regarded as a separate breed from the Phalène, but in the U.S. and U.K., the two are considered varieties of the same breed and are not only shown together, but can be born in the same litter.

Image: Papillon created from 10 to 20 individually hand cut pieces of paper in a variety of colors and patterns, then combined in layers and mounted on color stock, by Patricia Peters 



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