The breed standard (ideal) modern Papillon is required to have an abundant, flowing coat, which is considered proper only if it is a single coat (i.e., has no fluffy or cottony undercoat), short on the head but profuse around the neck, chest, and pantaloons or culottes. The tail should be a plume of long hair. A proper single coat ensures relatively low maintenance in grooming. The large, erect, and fringed ears are the most notable physical attribute of the erect-eared breed today. The Phalène is the same as the erect-eared Papillon except for its dropped spaniel-like ears. The AKC considers the two types to be equal and judges them together as the same breed. Papillons should always be white with another color. Most common are the black and white, sable and white, red and white, and tri-color papillons. The color should always cover both eyes and the front and back of the ear to give the proper butterfly look. A white blaze and noseband are preferred as they also contribute to the correct butterfly look of the dog. Size should range from 8 inches to 12 inches at the shoulder with the average papillon being between 9 and 10.5 inches in height and weight in proportion.
The Papillon probably originated in continental Europe and was a favorite at the French court. The most famous owner was Henry III; documentation of his devotion to the breed lies in his declaration of the Papillon as the official dog of the Royal Court during his tenure. Other famous owners are said to have been Marie Antoinette, and Madame de Pompadour.
There is evidence that these small dogs were favorites of European aristocrats, particularly French royalty, during the time of the Old Masters, as Continental Toy Spaniels (Phalènes and Papillons) were included in many Old Master royal portraits from as early as the sixteenth century.
Even though the breed has the connotation of a dainty toy breed, many owners will tell you they act like big dogs in small dogs' bodies. There are several possible reasons for this. First, the Papillion is hardy; some people believe the Papillon is very capable of handling a good five-mile walk. Some owners believe the reality is that they will resist such an outing if the grass is dampish or if there are two clouds in the sky that might lead to rain, but others have experienced them as very versatile in almost all conditions, although not necessarily with prolonged exposure. Perhaps they seem to be larger dogs because to many people Papillons appear not to be prone to small dog quaking when confronted with a new situation. In fact, some Papillon owners believe that their dogs interpret any new event as having been put on for their benefit, and believe that the dogs do their best to be an attentive host or hostess. Another aspect of the Papillon that has led many to believe the 'big dog' assertion is that this breed is suprisingly athletic. Perhaps people are surprised that in contrast to its staid and stately representation in the Old Master portraits, the Papillon is highly energetic and intelligent (Stanley Coren, in The Intelligence of Dogs, rates the Papillon eighth among all breeds). Provided their genetic structure is sound and they are healthy, Papillons are built for movement, and most do not need any encouragement to apply their energy to athletic activities.