It happens in various breeds and is called by different names; a spot of different-color fur right on top of a dog’s head.
In Boston terriers, the breed I am fond of, it is called a Haggerty spot. The mark allegedly can be traced back to the founding of the breed in the early 1900s by the Haggerty family of, you guessed it, Boston.
The marking is not rare, but uncommon enough that folks will spin a tale of traceability and command a higher price.
The American Kennel Club says, ideally, a Boston terrier should have white that covers its chest and muzzle, a band completely around its neck, halfway up the forelegs, up to the hocks on the rear legs. It should also have a white blaze between (but not touching) the eyes.
For me, I’m not so picky and I have no intention of ever showing or breeding any dog. There are just breeds I’m fond of and others not so much, just like most folks. I’ve never owned any animal considered to have perfect conformation or markings. But if others value that, “It’s OK with me,” as the character of Phillip Marlowe, played by Elliot Gould, says repeatedly in the 1973 Robert Altman film version of Raymond Chandler’s, “The Long Goodbye.”
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel can also have a different colored dot of fur right on top of its head. Named by the breeds namesake, King Charles II, the pups were very popular from the 16th to the 18th centuries. They are miniature spaniels produced by inbreeding, like most breeds.
The little dogs were so appealing and attentive to facial expressions, it is said King Charles was accused of neglecting his kingdom for his dogs. He never traveled without at least three in the carriage.
The Cavalier part of the name came after outcrossings to pugs to shorten the snouts and dome the heads. Today, they are considered by some to be two different breeds, King Charles spaniels and Cavalier King Charles spaniels.
President Ronald Reagan had one named Rex. Actually, the president gave Rex as a gift to Nancy on Christmas 1985. Rex would eventually inhabit a miniature replica of the White House, complete with carpet taken from Camp David when the floor coverings there were replaced.
Cavies, as they are called, collectively come in four color combinations and again, people are VERY fussy about their colors. The Prince Charles is a tri-color white, brown and black. The Ruby is the same color as an Irish setter. The King Charles is just a black and tan. And perhaps the most unusual name is given to the Blenheim, a chestnut and white spaniel.
The latter is the stuff of legend. The First Duke of Marlborough apparently was gaga over King Charles spaniels. He is said to have kept several of them with him even when he went on campaign. All had chestnut and white markings.
It came to be that on Aug. 13, 1704, a Wednesday, not a Friday, the good Duke fought the Battle of Blenheim in the War of the Spanish Succession, hence the name. When he left for the battle, his wife, Duchess Sarajh Jenyns, is said to have stayed home and cared for one of the bitches that was whelping. A small pelvis and big round heads made the mamma-to-be whimper a lot. To comfort her, the Duchess pressed her thumb against the dog’s forehead.
When the battle was won, trumpets blared, and the puppies came. Each was born with a red furry “Blenheim” spot on its head.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email firstname.lastname@example.org.