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Original Issue

The papillons of Peapacton

Little dogs with butterfly ears and Old World histories are winning new fanciers in New Jersey

The sprightly dogs shown opposite with Mrs. John Keyes, new mistress of Peapacton Kennels in Long Valley, N.J., and the Kennels' founder Mrs. R. Stuyvesant Pierrepont (right), are papillons, members of an ancient toy family called by the French butterfly dogs because of their wide-flaring ears. Although there are less than 1,200 papillons in the U.S., the breed boasts a long and aristocratic history in Europe. Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour seldom appeared in court circles without a papillon at heel. Such old masters as Titian, Velàzquez, Tintoretto and Fragonard put the little dogs on canvas, and today in Ethiopia Emperor Haile Selassie is a dedicated papillon fancier.

On this side of the ocean, Mrs. Pierrepont deserves much of the credit for awakening American interest in the breed. As a child, the sister of her French governess first introduced her to the papillon. "The governess and her sister have long since vanished into the limbo of forgotten things," Mrs. Pierrepont reminisces, "but memory of the little butterfly dog lingers on." In 1953 Mrs. Pierrepont encountered once again the companion of her childhood and papillons soon replaced setters at her 350-acre estate, Peapacton.

Sturdy and energetic matches for their sportswoman mistress, the Peapacton papillons became regular companions on Mrs. Pierrepont's morning hikes through the rolling hills of New Jersey, in winter bounding through snowdrifts and in summer through flower-filled meadows. Eleven of Peapacton's 18 papillons have earned championships, several have been cover dogs and one played the animal lead in an off-Broadway production of The Pink Poltergeist. As if this were not enough to recommend the breed, its silky coat requires no trimming, clipping or special grooming. One quick brushing and a papillon is ready for the show ring, looking as handsome as a high-fashion model. "But they're not half as temperamental," says Peapacton Kennels' new owner, who until last spring was Mrs. Pierrepont's professional handler. "My husband and I were captivated by their sweet dispositions," says Mrs. Keyes. "So many toy dogs are snappy and quarrelsome. Like all little things, they're egotistical. But not the papillon. He's just a regular fellow—a gentleman—only pint-sized."

Big-eared baby, 3-month-old Peapacton's Cassandra (left) displays natural curiosity typical of the playful little butterfly dogs.

Bright-eyed bevy of Peapacton papillons entertains Mrs. R. Stuyvesant Pierrepont (right) and new mistress Mrs. John Keyes.