The Papillon are  sometimes referred to as the squirrel spaniel. It is not, however, any more of a spaniel than is the Pekingese, and one of the countless stories in regard to its descent is that its ancestors were tiny, silky-haired lap dogs which the Spaniards brought over from Mexico in the sixteenth century. It is undoubtedly a very old breed, as dogs of similar type are seen in portraits in Spanish galleries as well as in paintings by Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher. The name is evidently derived from its ears, which stand erect like the wings of the butterfly. There is another variety with drop ears. The fact that the tail is long and bushy and carried over the back like a squirrel is the reason that the name Squirrel Spaniel is sometimes applied to them.

The Papillon is a lively little dog, with an abundant coat of long, silky hair. The head is small, the skull slightly domed, the muzzle rather snippy. About the face and on the front of the legs the coat is short; the eyes are dark, round, set somewhat low; the expression is alert and intelligent; the back is straight and rather short, but not so cobby as that of the Blenheim or the toy Pomeranian. The legs are short, straight, and rather fine. The average height is about nine inches, and in weight from five to eight pounds. In color they are ruby, red mahogany, reddish chestnut, dark yellow, or white with these patches.