Did you know the Spaniel dog breed come in a variety of shapes and sizes?
With their big eyes and silky coats, spaniels are some of the most beautiful dog breeds out there. But these aren’t just pretty pups – learn about how Brittany Spaniels, Boykin Spaniels, and other members of the spaniel pack got their start as hunters!
What Are Spaniels?
Almost every dog breed in history was bred for a specific job or purpose. Shepherds were raised for livestock herding and terriers would guard their homes and hunt vermin.
Spaniels were bred to assist with hunting. They were essential in chasing and catching birds, often called “fowling”.
Historical documentation of spaniels dates back to the 14th century and there’s some evidence that they could have existed before that! It’s been assumed that the name “spaniels” means they came from Spain, but research shows that the breed may have originated in Asia or other parts of Europe.
Dr. Johannes Caius coined the term “spaniel” for hunting dogs back in 1570. He even specified that there were two different categories – land spaniels found game on land and water spaniels found game in water.
Most spaniels tend to be small or medium-sized with beautiful silky coats. They often have droopy eyes and long ears. No matter what spaniel breed, these pups are lovable and the perfect cuddle buddies!
Cocker Spaniel Breed Facts
In the 1800s, the breed standards for spaniels were being set and they split into the breeds we know today. Cocker Spaniels got their name from the woodcock birds they were especially skilled at hunting.
There are two different Cocker Spaniel breeds: American Cocker Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel. The main difference between these two breeds is that the English Cocker Spaniel tends to be taller with a longer head.
Cocker Spaniels were very popular in the mid-20th century. Brucie, a black Cocker Spaniel, won the Westminster Dog Show’s Best in Show two years in a row in the 1940s. In the popular Disney movie Lady and the Tramp, Lady was an American Cocker Spaniel, as well.
Physical Traits of Cocker Spaniels
The most iconic physical feature of a Cocker Spaniel is their long, silky double coat. Their fur almost resembles human hair when it’s clean enough! To keep their coat shining, it’s important to brush Cocker Spaniels regularly so it doesn’t get matted.
American Cocker Spaniels can weigh anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds and stand around 13.5 to 15.5 inches tall. English Cocker Spaniels stand a bit taller at 15 to 17 inches and can weigh 26 to 34 pounds.
Both types of Cocker Spaniels come in over 20 different color combinations! It’s common for them to have white or merle markings or even spots.
Cocker Spaniel Personality Type
American and English Cocker Spaniels are both ideal family dogs because they are highly affectionate and good with children. Both breeds are known to mesh will with other dogs, too.
These dogs are easier to train than most other breeds so teaching commands shouldn’t take too long. Cocker Spaniels are a “people-pleasing breed” so they are more responsive to training.
Most Cocker Spanies really enjoy their playtime and particularly love games of fetch or long walks. They are more friendly to strangers, too, but are ready to alert you with a bark if they sense danger!
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
These spaniels were named after their biggest fans who just happened to be British monarchs, King Charles I and his son, King Charles II. Their love for the spaniels even drew criticism from famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, who wrote that Charles II was more interested in breeding the dogs rather than in leading.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were truly all the rage amongst the elite and noble during the Renaissance period. In the 19th century, Asian toy breed dogs mixed with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to become what is now the English Toy Spaniel.
With the development of the English Toy Spaniel, the original Cavalier King Charles Spaniel because less and less common. An American named Roswell Eldridge paid British breeders to bring back the original Cavalier King Charles Spaniels we know today.
Physical Characteristics of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Compared to other spaniel dog breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a bit smaller. They only weigh around 13 to 18 pounds and stand 12 to 13 inches tall, putting them in the toy size category.
Their coats are wavier than the Cocker Spaniel, but are still medium-length and silky. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels shed slightly less than other spaniels and can be groomed less often, as well.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known to have issues with eye and ear health. They are a bit more prone to ear infections than other dog breeds, so it’s good to check their ears for redness weekly.
Although these dogs are named after royalty, they are not snobby! Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very loving towards their humans, fellow dogs, and young children.
Cavaliers don’t need as much exercise as other spaniel breeds and are perfectly content being a couch potato. They also enjoy lights walks and outdoor activities where they can practice their historical hunting skills.
Just like their spaniel cousins, Cavailier King Charles Spaniels love to please their humans and are highly trainable. Their affectionate nature makes them fantastic therapy dogs, as well.
Boykin Spaniel Breed Information
The scruffy and lovable Boykin Spaniel actually originates from the United States. The breed is named after the South Carolina town of Boykin where the first spaniel of it’s kind was found.
A brown spaniel was found outside of a South Carolina church by Alexander White. He named the dog Dumpy and found that he was an exceptional water hunter that held his own with White’s retrievers.
Dumpy was sent to be trained by Whit Boykin who was so impressed by the spaniels’ skill with hunting and retrieving turkeys. This inspired Whit to make a breeding program for Dumpy and cross him with other spaniel breeds and retrievers to make what we know as Boykin Spaniels.
Boykin Spaniel Physical Traits
The Boykin Spaniel is a bit larger than it’s spaniel cousins, standing around 14 to 18 inches tall and weighing 25 to 40 pounds.
With wavy double coats, Boykin Spaniels have a scruffier look than other spaniels. They also only really come in different shades of brown.
Similar to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, it’s important to keep their ears clean and brushed since Boykins are prone to ear infections.
Personality of a Boykin Spaniel
Boykins aren’t quite as affectionate as other spaniel dog breeds but they are still very well-tempered. They are rated as highly compatible with other dogs and young children.
Since Boykin Spaniels were bred to hunt and retrieve, they need to burn their high energy with lots of exercise. This makes Boykin Spaniels excellent companions for runners, hikers, and swimmers.
English Springer Spaniels Dog Breed Facts
As you might have guessed, English Springer Spaniels originated in Britain. The breed first helped hunters chase down prey with nets or bow-and-arrows before hunting rifles came into society in the 17th century.
English Springer Spaniels were particularly skilled at finding birds in tall grass. They would flush them out of hiding and would literally point with their nose where the hunters should aim.
Today, you can still find English Springer Spaniels as hunting companions and even K-9 detection work.
Physical Traits of English Springer Spaniels
Almost all purebred English Springer Spaniels come in a combination of white with another color. Their nose and chest often sport the white color with the rest of their body being draped in black, tan, brown, or red.
Their double coats are medium-length and need the occassional grooming. Similar to other spaniels, their long ears should be checked often for infection.
Male English Springer Spaniels can weigh up to 50 pounds and stand 20 inches tall. The females are slightly shorter at 19 inches tall and around 40 pounds heavy.
English Springer Spaniel Personality
These spaniels are very affectionate and loving, but don’t mesh as well with young children as the other breeds. English Springer Spaniels can still generally get along with other dogs.
Long walks, hikes, and fetch are the best exercise options for English Springer Spaniels. These dogs have high energy levels so ensuring your Springer gets enough exercise is the best way to keep them happy and healthy.
English Springer Spaniels are very easy to train and historically do well with obedience, rally, and agility training, too. Training is also a great way to ensure your spaniel gets enough exercise and mental stimluation.