English Springer Spaniel
Other namesSpringer Spaniel
Kennel club standards
The Kennel Club standard
Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard
Dog (domestic dog)

The English Springer is a breed of gun dog in the Spaniel group traditionally used for flushing and retrieving game. They are descended from the Norfolk or Shropshire Spaniels of the mid-19th century; the breed has diverged into separate show and working lines. It is closely related to the Welsh Springer Spaniel and very closely to the English Cocker Spaniel; less than a century ago, springers and cockers would come from the same litter. The smaller "cockers" were used in woodcock hunting while their larger littermates were used to flush, or "spring", other game birds. In 1902, The Kennel Club recognized the English Springer Spaniel as a distinct breed.[1] They are used as sniffer dogs on a widespread basis. The term Springer comes from the historic hunting role, where the dog would flush (spring) birds into the air.


The English Springer Spaniel is a medium-sized compact dog. Its coat is moderately long with feathering on the legs and tail. It is a well proportioned, balanced dog with a gentle expression. This breed represents perhaps the greatest divergence between working and show lines of any breed of dog. A field-bred dog and a show-bred dog appear to be different breeds but are registered together. The gene pools are almost completely segregated and have been for at least 70 years.[2] A field-bred dog would not be competitive in a modern dog show, while a show dog would not have the speed or stamina to succeed in a field trial.[3]

The English Springer Spaniel field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than show-bred dogs. The ears are less pendulous. Field-bred dogs are wiry and have more of a feral look than those bred for showing. The tail of the field-bred dog may be docked a few inches in comparison to the show dog. Field-bred dogs are selected for their sense of smell, hunting ability, and response to training rather than appearance.[3]

Show dogs have longer fur and more pendant ears, dewlaps and dangling flews. The tail is docked to a short stub in those countries that permit docking. They are generally more thickly boned and heavier than field-bred springers.[3]

The English Springer Spaniel is similar to the English Cocker Spaniel and at first glance, the only major difference is the latter's smaller size. However English Springers also tend to have shorter, and higher-set ears than English Cockers. Springers also tend to have a longer muzzle; their eyes are not as prominent, and the coat is less abundant.[4] The major differences between the Welsh Springer and the English Springer are that the Welsh have more limited colors and tend to be slightly smaller.

Coat and colors

Field-bred dogs tend to have shorter, coarser coats than the longer furred show-bred dogs. They normally only shed in summer and spring months but shed occasionally in the autumn.[2] The coat comes in black or liver (dark brown) with white markings or predominantly white with black or liver markings; Tricolour: black and white or liver and white with tan markings, usually found on eyebrows, cheeks, inside of ears and under the tail. Any white portion of the coat may be flecked with ticking.[citation needed]


Males in the show dog line are typically approximately 19 to 21 inches (48 to 53 cm) at the withers and weigh 40 to 60 lb (18 to 27 kg). According to the UK Breed Standard, the English Springer Spaniel should be 20 inches (51 cm) at the withers. The females should be 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 cm) and usually 35 to 55 lb (16 to 25 kg). Working types can be lighter in weight and finer in bone.[5]


The English Springer Spaniel ranks 13th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs[citation needed]


The English Springer Spaniel was found to have a life expectancy of 13.3 years in an English study of patient records, higher than the 12 year average overall.[6] A similar study found a life expectancy of 11.92 years, above the average of 11.23 years.[7]

Skin conditions the breed is predisposed to include: acral mutilation syndrome, intertrigo, lichenoid psoriasis–form dermatitis, Malassezia dermatitis, otitis externa, and primary seborrhoea.[8]

An American study reviewing over a million cases presented to 27 veterinary teaching hospitals in North America found the English Springer Spaniel to be prediposed to canine hip dysplasia, with 4.39% of dogs having the condition compared to 3.52% overall.[9] A survey of UK breed club members found cancer to be the most common cause of death at 26.7% of deaths.[10]


The English physician John Caius described the spaniel in his book the Treatise of Englishe Dogs published in 1576. His book was the first work to describe the various British breeds by function.[11] By 1801, Sydenham Edwards explained in the Cynographia Britannica that the land spaniel should be split into two kinds, the Springing, Hawking Spaniel, or Starter; and the Cocking or Cocker Spaniel.[11]

At this point, both cocker spaniels and springer spaniels were born in the same litters. The purpose of the breed was to serve as a hunting dog. The smaller cockers were used to hunt woodcock, while their larger littermates, the springer spaniels, would "spring"—or flush—the gamebird into the air where a trained falcon or hawk would bring it to the handler.[12]

Many spaniel breeds were developed during the 19th century, and often named after the counties in which they were developed, or after their owners, who were usually nobility. Two strains of larger land spaniel were predominant and were said to have been of "true springer type." These were the Norfolk and the Shropshire spaniels, and by the 1850s, these were shown under the breed name of Norfolk spaniel.[13]

In January 1899, the Spaniel Club of England and the Sporting Spaniel Society held their trials together for the first time. Three years later, in 1902, a combination of the physical standard from the Spaniel Club of England and the ability standard from the Sporting Spaniel Society led to the English Springer Spaniel breed being officially recognized by the English Kennel Club. The American Kennel Club followed in 1910.[13] In 1914, the first English Field Champion was crowned, FTC Rivington Sam, whose dam was a registered cocker spaniel, Rivington Riband. Sam is considered one of the foundation sires for modern field lines.[13]


An English Springer Spaniel is foremost a game bird flushing dog. There are several skills that breeders train the dog to perform for their occupation.[14]

Detection dog

Further information: Detection dog

The Springer Spaniel is used as a sniffer dog. Notable search dogs have included Buster, a Dickin Medal recipient, Royal Army Veterinary Corps arms and explosives search dog serving with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment in Iraq, for finding an extremist group's hidden arsenal of weapons and explosives.[15] Another example is Jake, aka Hubble Keck People's Dispensary for Sick Animals Gold Medal and Blue Cross Animal Hospital Medal recipient, a London Metropolitan Police explosives search dog. He was deployed at Tavistock Square, Russell Square and King's Cross following the 7 July 2005 London bombings.[16]

The Springer is not limited to detecting explosives. Other varied uses for the Springer can include sniffing out bumblebee nests,[17] illegal immigrants,[18] blood[19] and the superbug C. difficile.[20] Springers are used for drug detection in the United States,[21] United Kingdom, Sweden,[22] Finland,[23][24] Isle of Man,[25] Ireland,[26] Canada CBSA[27] and Qatar.[28]

The Springer Spaniel is also used as a search and rescue dog by mountain rescue and Lowland Rescue teams, where their willingness to work and cover rough terrain makes them an excellent choice.


Notable English Springer Spaniels

Awarded the Dickin Medal for conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving in military conflict:

Awarded the PDSA Gold Medal for animal bravery:

Awarded the PDSA Order of Merit

See also


  1. ^ "English Springer Spaniel Dog Breed Information". Akc.org. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Know The Difference Between A Show Bred & Field Bred English Springer Spaniel". English Springer Spaniel Information and Field Trial Page. Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  3. ^ a b c "English Springer Spaniel". SpringerSpaniel.org.uk. Archived from the original on 9 May 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  4. ^ Gormish, Denise. "A comparison of English Cocker Spaniels, American Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels". English Cocker Spaniel Club of America. Archived from the original on 21 November 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
  5. ^ "English Springer Spaniel Standard". The Kennel Club. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  6. ^ O’Neill, D. G.; Church, D. B.; McGreevy, P. D.; Thomson, P. C.; Brodbelt, D. C. (2013). "Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England" (PDF). The Veterinary Journal. 198 (3): 638–43. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2013.09.020. PMID 24206631.
  7. ^ Teng, Kendy Tzu-yun; Brodbelt, Dave C.; Pegram, Camilla; Church, David B.; O’Neill, Dan G. (28 April 2022). "Life tables of annual life expectancy and mortality for companion dogs in the United Kingdom". Scientific Reports. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. 12 (1). doi:10.1038/s41598-022-10341-6. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 9050668.
  8. ^ Hnilica, Keith A.; Patterson, Adam P. (19 September 2016). Small Animal Dermatology. St. Louis (Miss.): Saunders. ISBN 978-0-323-37651-8.
  9. ^ Witsberger, Tige H.; Villamil, J. Armando; Schultz, Loren G.; Hahn, Allen W.; Cook, James L. (15 June 2008). "Prevalence of and risk factors for hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament deficiency in dogs". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). 232 (12): 1818–1824. doi:10.2460/javma.232.12.1818. ISSN 0003-1488.
  10. ^ Adams, V. J.; Evans, K. M.; Sampson, J.; Wood, J. L. N. (1 October 2010). "Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK". Journal of Small Animal Practice. 51 (10): 512–524. doi:10.1111/j.1748-5827.2010.00974.x.
  11. ^ a b Mymudes, Mindy (3 March 2002). "An English Springer History". Archived from the original on 20 January 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  12. ^ "AKC MEET THE BREEDS: English Springer Spaniel". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
  13. ^ a b c "The History of the Springer Spaniel". Archived from the original on 13 September 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  14. ^ "English Springer Spaniel – Key Field Skills". Petwave.com. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  15. ^ "PDSA Dickin Medal: 'the animals' VC'". PDSA.org.uk. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  16. ^ "Police dog Jake is awarded". Met.Police.UK. 10 January 2007. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  17. ^ "Toby the bumblebee sniffer dog". Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  18. ^ "Agency sniffer dog finds illegal immigrants attempting to smuggle themselves into the UK". UK Borders Agency. 2 February 2009. Archived from the original on 10 January 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  19. ^ McVeigh, Karen (30 December 2005). "On scent of success: sniffer dog Keela earns more than her Chief Constable". The Times. UK. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  20. ^ "Meet The English Springer Spaniel Who's Sniffing Out A Superbug".
  21. ^ "The streets of Fresno are a little safer when Buster is on the job". The Fresno Bee.
  22. ^ "Drug detector dogs". Swedish Customs Service. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  23. ^ "Drug detector dogs of Finnish Customs" (PDF). Tulli Customs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  24. ^ "About our dogs". North Yorkshire Police. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  25. ^ "Dogs and Handlers". Isle of Man: Department of Home Affairs. Archived from the original on 8 January 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  26. ^ "Sniffer dogs: hot on the trail with the pet detectives". Irishtimes.com. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  27. ^ Christine (13 August 2014). "Minister Toews Welcomes Graduation of CBSA's First Tobacco Detector Dog Teams".
  28. ^ Senger, Dustin (13 April 2009). "Qatar Military Dog Show Enhances Bilateral Relations". dvidshub.net. Retrieved 9 November 2009.