A Brief Look at Spaniels

  It has been a little while since we were here. The season ended and time to relax a little and develop a training plan and just catch up on things that are not bird dog related. I know it’s not very fun sounding is it?

  So this time out it has been decided that it was time to talk about something a little different. Thus far in the life of Wing Shot and Fall we have been talking about hunting, testing, trialing and training. This has all been with pointing breeds.

  As we all know there are other breeds besides our beloved pointing dogs. This time I thought we would talk about another group of dogs that do not get enough exposure.

  These dogs are smaller in stature but not in heart. They hunt hard and will go all day if they have to.

  They in my opinion are truly versatile dogs. Even if NAVHDA doesn’t give them that respect. These dogs will roust a pheasant out of the cat tails and track it down when you have a bad shot.

  They can be found in the duck blind throughout the areas of the country that don’t get the worst of winters requiring a dog that can break ice.

   These dogs will hunt fur bearing animals for the hunter to take and they will gladly retrieve to the hunter to bring out of the field.

   In case it is still a mystery, but I am sure it isn’t, I am talking about spaniels. This is not going to be a deep dive into any particular breed. I really just want to put them on the radar and get people thinking that if a pointing dog is not what you are looking for then there are options besides your typical versatile breeds or your typical big running dog.

English Cocker Spaniels. Photo from the internet.

   According to the AKC there are 23 different breeds of spaniel. They range from the companion dog Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this is not a hunting breed, to the more popular English Cocker to the not as well known Clumber Spaniel.

Clumber Spaniel. Another stock photo from the internet.

   These dogs are all different sizes and were bred originally to fulfill different purposes for the type of hunting that their owners were doing in the particular area of the European continent they were living in.

  The one exception to the continental beginning is the Boykin Spaniel. This dog originated in South Carolina in the early part of the twentieth century by a hunter looking for a dog that would excel at retrieving in water and on land. They also wanted a smaller dog than the typical retriever. Remember this the days of wooden boats and horse drawn carriages so a smaller dog was more suited to traveling in this time in history.

Gage owned by Newton Smith.

   Another example of a purpose built dog is the Cocker Spaniel. This breed was originally developed to hunt Woodcock hence the name Cocker. 

  There are two separate breeds of Cocker. One is the extremely popular English Cocker. These little dogs are always energetic and ready to go. The way that I have seen them hunted is as part of the team with pointing dogs. The pointing dog will be steady after locating the birds in the thick nasty stuff where we know they love. You release the spaniel and he goes in there and flushes the bit so that you are able to get the shot. Now not only do they make excellent flushers they are fantastic retrievers. The few I have seen have been very enthusiastic about their job and seem to be an unending source of energy. I really like these little dogs.

English Cocker with a retrieve. Photo from the internet.              

   The other breed is the American Cocker Spaniel. These dogs were bred to hunt woodcock also. The AKC recognizes three types of the same breed. Those are the Black, Party Color and Any Solid Color Other than Black (ASCOB). This breed is a little stockier than its English cousin. The one issue with this breed is that they have fallen victim to their good looks and the Disney curse. They have been bred primarily for the show ring and the pet industry. This does not mean that there are no lines that still hunt. There are and if this is the way you wish to go then it will require some serious research and time but it can be done. 

American Cocker with a retrieve. Stock photo from the internet.

    So with this little overview of spaniels I want to say that the market on hunting birds is not completely cornered by pointing dogs. There are other breeds out there that, if you are looking for something other than a pointing dog to hunt multiple types of game then give the spaniels a serious look.

   I will be doing some deeper dives into the different breeds of bird dogs that are out there. Hopefully it will reveal some of the lesser known breeds in the bird dog world.

 Remember to follow on Instagram and if you have a comment or question feel free to leave it below.

Photos of Gage the Boykin Spaniel were provided by Newton Smith. Look him up on Instagram at nssportingart.

  Thanks for following and I hope to see you in the field.

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