This medium sized British breed was first developed in the middle of the nineteenth century by selecting spotted rabbits of non pedigree stock that bore a resemblance to the Great Lorrainese (now known as the Giant Papillon). Right from the outset the breeders' objective was to create an attractive and striking rabbit which was rare for those times when the main objective was usually to produce a good commercial rabbit with excellent meat or pelt qualities.
The English was extremely popular in Britain between 1850 and 1860, but then almost disappeared. It made a reappearance twenty years later when it gained a dedicated following of breeders who ensured the breed's continued survival in the fancy.
The first examples were mostly blacks, but blue, chocolate, grey and tortoiseshell were soon bred and accepted for exhibition in Britain. English are now recognised in many more colours in Continental Europe, than in Britain, where they are known as Papillons. In the United States this breed is usually called the English Spot or sometimes the English Butterfly and again is accepted in many more colours.