King Cavrin

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult King Cavrin
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The King Cavrin is a lesser known hybrid dog, being a blend of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Cairn Terrier. These medium-sized dogs get off to a good start with both parents being of good character and eager to please. Indeed, a King Cavrin pup that is well-socialised, makes for an excellent family pet.

The downside of the King Cavrin is their health, due to Cavalier heritage and their high risk of heart disease. However, if you are a half-full person, there’s an argument that the introduction of Cairn blood makes heart disease less likely; however, this is a gamble.

About & History

Hybrid dogs, such as the King Cavrin, don’t yet have an extensive history. Instead, their story is largely that of the parent breeds.

The Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier originates from the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Back in the 16th century, these small wiry terriers were bred to hunt the foxes and rodents that had dens in the craggy rocks (or cairns) local to the area.

Most of the Scottish terrier breeds are closely related, indeed, the Cairn was one of the off-shoot breeds that include the West Highland White Terrier and the Scottish Terrier – all derived from common ancestors.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a long history extending back to the 16th century. This appealing spaniel was a favourite with royalty and nobility, and it is their most famous patron, King Charles II, after which the breed was named.

In the 18th century, the breed’s popularity as pets waned in favour of flatter-faced breeds, such as the Pug, but it was inevitable they would make a resurgence at some point. This happened in the mid-19th century under the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough, who was responsible for breeding Cavaliers with the coat colour widely known as Blenheim.


Hybrid dogs often show a spectrum of appearance, with some pups strongly resembling one or other side of the family tree, whilst a percentage are a true blend of both parents.

The midi-King Cavrin is a well-proportioned dog of medium size. Their head has a rounded forehead with a muzzle of a sensible length, being neither too flat nor too long. They have drop ears.

Both coat colour and texture are variable, ranging for the coarse Cairn coat to the soft Cavalier hair. Again, colour varies from the soft wheaten colours of the Cairn through to the ruby and white or tricolour of the Cavalier. These guys are also equipped with straight (but waggy) tail, with varying degrees of feathering depending on which parent they most take after.

Character & Temperament

The King Cavrin is a good family all-rounder with the Cavalier bringing love and loyalty, the Cairn energy and enterprise. Thus the perfect blend of dog becomes one that is affectionate, gentle, and yet playful and inquisitive. As a moderately robust medium-sized dog, they are also able to withstand some good-natured rough-and-tumble from younger (human) members of the household.

However, any dog entering a family home must be well-socialised as a puppy. This means sourcing a breeder who takes the trouble from a young age to introduce the pups in their care to a variety of sights, sounds and smells. This builds the youngster’s confidence and reduces the chances of anxiety and fear aggression in the adult dog.


The King Cavrin has the potential to be a rewarding dog to train. That combination of the eager-to-please Cavalier with the intelligence of the Cairn Terrier makes for a quick learner. The knowledgeable owner only uses reward-based training methods, and takes care to keeping training sessions short and fun.


Over the years, large amounts of data have been amassed about the diseases to which various purebred dogs are predisposed. However, with hybrid dogs, no such data has been accumulated. It is, however, reasonable to look at problems prevalent in the parent breeds and extrapolate to the litter were some pups may be at risk of developing these conditions.


Cryptorchidism relates to the retained testicles in the male dog. Normal male anatomy is to have two testicles descended into the scrotum, a sac positioned away from the body. In the foetal puppy, the testicles develops internally up near the kidneys. As the pup matures, the testicles track through the abdomen and exit via the inguinal canal down into the scrotum. If one or both of the testicles doesn’t complete this ‘journey’, this is described as an undescended testicle.

Cryptorchidism is significant as it is linked with two health conditions. The first is an increased risk of developing testicular cancer, because the retained testicle is maintained at too high a temperature. The second condition is testicular torsion, whereby the retained testicle spins around on its ligaments to cut off the blood supply. This causes pain and shock, can make the dog very ill, very quickly.

Cryptorchid dogs should not be bred from as they may pass the problem onto the next generation. Also, it is advisable to neuter cryptorchid dogs to reduce the risk of cancer and eliminate testicular torsion.

Portosystemic Shunt (PSS)

This is another developmental condition. In this case, a large blood vessel that is present in the foetus, but not needed in the young pup, fails to shut down. The vessels shunts blood past the foetal liver, but once the pup is born is should shut down so that blood passes through the liver for detoxing.

Dogs with a PSS shows signs of toxicity, as they cannot properly breakdown the waste products of digestion. Symptoms of a PSS include stunted growth, heavy drooling, confusion, wobbliness, and sometimes seizures or unconsciousness. The signs tend to be worse shortly after eating. Both medical and surgical treatments are available with both having pros and cons.

Heart Disease

Sadly, the delight that is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel carries an unusually high risk of developing heart disease. With the problem said to affect up to 75% of Cavaliers over the age of seven years, this means there is a high risk of the Cavie parent passing on genes coding for heart problems.

A King Cavrin with a heart murmur should be monitored regularly by a vet. If the murmur gets to a certain grade of loudness then an ultrasound heart scan is advisable. Starting medication at the sweet spot when the heart has started to enlarge but is still functioning well, can extend life by months to years.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA affects the retina, or light sensitive layer, at the back of the eye. The retina becomes thin and poorly populated with the cells that register light, and so the dog progressively loses their vision.

Sadly, this condition can affect relatively young dogs and there is no treatment. This is very much a case of prevention being the only option, and only breeding from dogs that have been screened for PRA and found to be negative.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The King Cavrin is neither a coach potato nor an exercise junkie, but stands somewhere in-between. They need an owner committed to twice-daily walks, but don’t require these walks to be excessively long or tiring. A minimum of half-an-hour twice a day, with the opportunity to sniff and stretch their legs with a game of ball, is usually sufficient.


The King Cavrin is the doggy equivalent of a lucky dip with regards to grooming. Should the pup inherit the soft silky coat of the Cavalier parent, then they need daily brushing to stop knots and tangles from forming. However, a King Cavrin with the coarse, wiry Carin Terrier coat may not need the same amount of home attention but will need stripping at regular intervals.

As with all dogs, dental care should not be overlooked. This means incorporating tooth brushing into the dog’s daily routine, so that plaque is removed before it hardens into tartar.

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