of the breed of English Cocker Spaniels
of English Cocker Spaniels as pets
Almost every time Murphy
and I go out I am asked "What kind of dog is that?".
Most people guess that he is an American Cocker Spaniel or a
Springer Spaniel but others have thought he was a Basset Hound,
an English Setter (puppy, obviously), a mixed breed (Cocker/Bloodhound)
and more. Murphy is an English Cocker Spaniel. What we in North
America are used to as "Cocker Spaniels" are technically
called "American Cocker Spaniels". Confused yet?
Cocker Spaniel American
Cocker Spaniel English
the explanation, courtesy of the Canadian Kennel Club.
The subgroup of dogs
known as the spaniels takes its name from hispania, the old name
for Spain, said to be these dogs' country of origin. Such dogs
have been known throughout Europe and in Britain since the 14th
century and were used in the sport of falconry. Their job was
to flush birds for the hawk. Later they performed the same function
flushing birds for the sportsman's net. While their name has
been spelled in a variety of ways, among them "spaynel,"
"spanner," and "spanyett," a description
of them written in 1677 has not changed. It was written that
the spaniels were dogs "with active feet, wanton tail, and
By 1800 the spaniels had been divided
into those that worked on land-the land spaniels-and those that
worked over water- the water spaniels. In 1870 the land spaniels
were subdivided into "springing" and "field"
spaniels. And it is from the field that the cocker evolved, so
named because the small spaniel was an expert at working in thick
hedgerows and gorse and flushing the woodcock. (Field spaniel
When first exhibited
the field spaniels were classified "under and over twenty-five
pounds," and it is said that a dog might be exhibited in
the morning as an "under" but after a good meal the
same dog would compete as an "over." This state of
confusion prevailed until after the founding of The Kennel Club
(England) in 1873. Varieties were separated and in 1892 the Cocker
Spaniel was granted separate breed classification.
Cocker spaniels were
first registered in Canada in 1889, but it was not until 1940
that the English Cocker was granted separate breed status. Between
these dates two distinct varieties of cocker developed-the American
and the English-and although the two differed greatly in appearance
they were judged by the same breed standard and frequently inter-bred.
(My aside: the two different Cockers developed when Americans
brought over Cockers and started breeding them for rounder heads
and eyes, a fluffier coat and smaller size). After extensive
researching of pedigrees the pure English lines were separated
from the American and the confusion was resolved with the granting
of separate breed classifications.
Did that help explain
things? Basically American Cockers and English Cockers were the
same thing until about 100 years ago when the Americans started
fiddling with them. Now there's a significant difference, in
both appearance and temperament. Plus, when American Cockers
got so popular here in the middle of the 20th century English
Cockers weren't affected by all the over breeding. That's why
there can be so many more health and temperament problems with
the American Cocker (and part of the reason why I didn't consider
getting an American).
a review of what English Cockers are like as pets, courtesy of
English Cocker Spaniel Club:
English Cocker Spaniel is, by breed standard, a "merry" dog.
They are energetic, boisterous, and absolutely joyful companions
when in the right environment. They are big enough to not be
fragile, but small enough to be manageable. While energetic and
playful at times, they also enjoy a good cuddle on the couch.
However, English Cockers
are not a dog for everyone. They need human companionship and
would not be the right dog for someone who spends little time
with a pet. If you are a heavy-handed strict disciplinarian,
maybe you should choose another breed - the English Cocker has
a soft personality that responds poorly to harsh treatment and
severe correction. They are long coated dogs that require grooming
at least every few days.
Puppies and younger dogs
need plenty of exercise and stimulation to stay physically healthy
and keep out of mischief. Adults also need walks, playtime and
special attention to be happy.
Cockers are a little stubborn and think for themselves, but with
gentleness they can be trained in any area and generally are
eager to please. A doggie treat goes a long way with English
Cockers! They compete in breed, obedience, pet therapy, agility,
flyball, tracking, working trials, and other field work.
Most are good with other
pets and children. They can sometimes be a bit possessive and
"growly", but get over it quickly and are generally
very loving. English Cockers live 12-15 years with proper health
A final note: English
Cocker Spaniels are only rare in North America. In Europe, Australia
and Japan it's the American Cocker who is rarely seen. And English
Cockers are one of the most common breeds in the UK. I've had
more than one person tell me that when they were in England they
saw lost of dogs like Murphy.