English Cocker Spaniels are small spaniels
A Welsh Springer Spaniel on the beach

A spaniel is a type of gun dog. Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of denser brush. By the late 17th century, spaniels had been specialized into water and land breeds. The extinct English Water Spaniel was used to retrieve water fowl shot down with arrows. Land spaniels were setting spaniels—those that crept forward and pointed their game, allowing hunters to ensnare them with nets, and springing spaniels—those that sprang pheasants and partridges for hunting with falcons, rabbits and smaller mammals such as rats and mice for hunting with greyhounds. During the 17th century, the role of the spaniel dramatically changed as Englishmen began hunting with flintlocks for wing shooting. Charles Goodall and Julia Gasow (1984)[1] write that spaniels were "transformed from untrained, wild beaters, to smooth, polished gun dogs."

The word "spaniel" would seem to be derived from the medieval French espaigneul—"Spanish"—to modern French, espagnol.

Definition and description

A drawing of a typical skull of a spaniel

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Spaniel as "a breed of dog with a long silky coat and drooping ears".[2]

Not much has changed about spaniels in general over the years, as can be seen in this 1921 entry in Collier's New Encyclopedia:

Their distinguishing characteristics are a rather broad muzzle, remarkably long and full ears, hair plentiful and beautifully waved, particularly that of the ears, tail, and hinder parts of the thighs and legs. The prevailing color is liver and white, sometimes red and white or black and white, and sometimes deep brown, or black on the face and breast, with a tan spot over each eye. The English spaniel is a superior and very pure breed. The King Charles is a small variety of the spaniel used as a lapdog. The water spaniels, large and small, differ from the common spaniel only in the roughness of their coats, and in uniting the aquatic propensities of the Newfoundland dog with the fine hunting qualities of their own race. Spaniels possess a great share of intelligence, affection, and obedience, which qualities, combined with much beauty, make them highly prized as companions.


King Charles Spaniels, photographed in 1915, one of the smaller breeds, are primarily lap dogs

The origin of the word spaniel is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as coming from the Old French word espaigneul which meant "Spanish (dog)"; this in turn originated from the Latin Hispaniolus which simply means "Spanish".[2]

In Edward, 2nd Duke of York's work The Master of Game, which was mostly a 15th-century translation of an earlier work by Gaston III of Foix-Béarn entitled Livre de chasse, spaniels are described as being from Spain as much as all Greyhounds are from England or Scotland.[3] Sixteenth-century English physician John Caius wrote that the spaniels of the time were mostly white, marked with spots that are commonly red. He described a new variety to have come out of France, which were speckled all over with white and black, "which mingled colours incline to a marble blewe".[4]

Celtic origin theory

In the appendices added to the 1909 re-print of Caius' work, the editors suggested that the type of dogs may have been brought into the British Isles as early as 900 BC by a branch of the Celts moving from Spain into Cornwall and on into Wales, England and Ireland.[3] Theories on the origin of the Welsh Springer Spaniel support this theory, as it is believed that the breed specifically is a direct descendant of the "Agassian hunting dog" described in the hunting poem Cynegetica attributed to Oppian of Apamea, which belonged to the Celtic tribes of Roman Britain:[5]

There is a strong breed of hunting dog, small in size but no less worthy of great praise. These the wild tribes of Britons with their tattooed backs rear and call by the name of Agassian. Their size is like that of worthless and greedy domestic table dogs; squat, emaciated, shaggy, dull of eye, but endowed with feet armed with powerful claws and a mouth sharp with close-set venomous tearing teeth. It is by virtue of its nose, however, that the Agassian is most exalted, and for tracking it is the best there is; for it is very adept at discovering the tracks of things that walk upon the ground, and skilled too at marking the airborne scent.[6]

Roman origin theory

Another theory of the origin of the spaniel is that the ancient Romans imported spaniels into Britannia by way of the trade routes to the Far East. Colonel David Hancock[7][page needed] adds a belief that the sporting type of spaniel originated in China from the short-faced ancestors of dogs such as the Pekingese, Pug and Shih Tzu. The theory goes that these ancestors were introduced into Southern Europe and evolved into the small sporting spaniels of the period around AD 1300–1600. The issue of how a short-muzzled dog could evolve into a longer-muzzled dog is addressed by pointing to the evolution of the King Charles Spaniel into the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in less than a century.[8][self-published source?]


A 16th-century drawing of a hawking party with spaniels

In assisting hunters, it is desirable that spaniels work within gun range, are steady to shot, and are able to mark the fall and retrieve shot game to hand with a soft mouth. A good nose is highly valued, as it is in most gun dog breeds. They are versatile hunters traditionally being used for upland game birds, but are equally adept at hunting rabbits, waterfowl, rats, and mice. Whether hunting in open fields, woodlands, farm lands—in briars, along fencerows or marshlands, a spaniel can get the job done.[9]

On the basis of function and hunting style, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) draws a distinction between Continental and Anglo-American spaniels. The FCI places Continental dogs of the spaniel type in the pointing group (Group 7, sect. 1.2) because they function more like setters which "freeze" and point to game. Breeds in this group include the Blue Picardy Spaniel, the French Spaniel, the Brittany, the Pont-Audemer Spaniel, and the Small Münsterländer. The FCI classifies most other dogs of the spaniel type as flushing or water dogs (Group 8, sections 2 and 3).[10]



Type of spaniel Also known as Country/region of origin Min. height Max. height Min. weight Max. weight Image
American Cocker Spaniel Cocker Spaniel
(in the United States)
United States 13 in (33 cm) 15 in (38 cm) 24 lb (11 kg) 29 lb (13 kg)[11]
American Water Spaniel United States 15 in (38 cm) 18 in (46 cm) 25 lb (11 kg) 45 lb (20 kg)[12]
Blue Picardy Spaniel Epagneul Bleu de Picardie France 22 in (56 cm) 24 in (61 cm)[13] 43 lb (20 kg) 45 lb (20 kg)[14]
Boykin Spaniel United States 15 in (38 cm) 18 in (46 cm) 25 lb (11 kg) 45 lb (20 kg)[15]
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Cavalier Spaniel United Kingdom 12 in (30 cm) 13 in (33 cm) 13 lb (5.9 kg) 18 lb (8.2 kg)[16]
Clumber Spaniel England 17 in (43 cm) 20 in (51 cm) 55 lb (25 kg) 85 lb (39 kg)}[17]
Drentse Patrijshond Dutch Partridge Dog Netherlands 21.5 in (55 cm) 25.5 in (65 cm) 55 lb (25 kg) 77 lb (35 kg)[18]
English Cocker Spaniel Cocker Spaniel
(In the United Kingdom)
England 15 in (38 cm) 17 in (43 cm) 26 lb (12 kg) 34 lb (15 kg)[19]
English Springer Spaniel England 19 in (48 cm) 20 in (51 cm) 40 lb (18 kg) 50 lb (23 kg)[20]
Field Spaniel England 17 in (43 cm) 18 in (46 cm) 35 lb (16 kg) 50 lb (23 kg)[21]
French Spaniel Épagneul français
(in France)
German Spaniel Deutscher Wachtelhund Germany 16 in (41 cm) 20 in (51 cm) 44 lb (20 kg) 66 lb (30 kg)[22]
Irish Water Spaniel Whiptail, Shannon Spaniel, Rat Tail Spaniel, and Bog Dog Ireland 21 in (53 cm) 24 in (61 cm) 45 lb (20 kg) 65 lb (29 kg)[23]
King Charles Spaniel English Toy Spaniel
(in the United States)
England 9 in (23 cm) 10 in (25 cm) 6 lb (2.7 kg) 12 lb (5.4 kg)[24]
Kooikerhondje Dutch Spaniel Netherlands 14 in (36 cm) 16 in (41 cm) 20 lb (9.1 kg) 24 lb (11 kg)[25]
Markiesje Dutch Tulip Hound Netherlands 12.5 in (32 cm) 15.5 in (39 cm) 13 lb (5.9 kg) 18 lb (8.2 kg)
Papillon Continental Toy Spaniel,
Épagneul Nain Continental
France 8 in (20 cm) 11 in (28 cm)[26] 5 lb (2.3 kg) 10 lb (4.5 kg)[27]
Phalène Continental Toy Spaniel,
Épagneul Nain Continental
Belgium 8 in (20 cm) 11 in (28 cm) 5 lb (2.3 kg) 10 lb (4.5 kg)[28]
Picardy Spaniel Épagneul Picard France 22 in (56 cm) 23.5 in (60 cm) 44 lb (20 kg) 55 lb (25 kg)[29]
Pont-Audemer Spaniel Épagneul Pont-Audemer France 20 in (51 cm) 23 in (58 cm)[30] 40 lb (18 kg) 53 lb (24 kg)[31]
Russian Spaniel Russian hunting spaniel

(Русский охотничий спаниель)

Russia 15 in (38 cm) 17 in (43 cm) 28 lb (13 kg) 40 lb (18 kg)[32]
Stabyhoun Frisian Pointer Netherlands 19.6 in (50 cm) 21 in (53 cm) 30 lb (14 kg) 50 lb (23 kg)[33]
Sussex Spaniel England 13 in (33 cm) 15 in (38 cm) 35 lb (16 kg) 44 lb (20 kg)[34]
Welsh Springer Spaniel Wales 17 in (43 cm) 19 in (48 cm) 35 lb (16 kg) 55 lb (25 kg)[35]


Type of spaniel Country/region of origin Period of extinction Image
Alpine Spaniel Switzerland 1830s
English Water Spaniel England 1930s
Norfolk Spaniel England 1902
Toy Trawler Spaniel United Kingdom 1920s
Tweed Water Spaniel England 19th century


The following breeds are not true spaniels, but are named as such due to their resemblance to the spaniels.

Type of spaniel Also known as Country/region of origin Min. height Max. height Min. weight Max. weight Image
Japanese Chin Japanese Spaniel Japan 09 in (23 cm) 10 in (25 cm) 04 lb (1.8 kg) 11 lb (5.0 kg)[36]
Pekingese Chinese Spaniel[37] China 08 in (20 cm) 09 in (23 cm) 08 lb (3.6 kg) 14 lb (6.4 kg)[38]
Tibetan Spaniel Tibet[39] 09 in (23 cm) 11 in (28 cm) 09 lb (4.1 kg) 15 lb (6.8 kg)[40]
Brittany Brittany Spaniel Brittany, France
Brittany Spaniel
Brittany Spaniel

See also


  1. ^ Goodall and Gasow, The New Complete English Springer Spaniel, 1984.
  2. ^ a b "spaniel". Compact Oxford English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 2016-09-25. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  3. ^ a b Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York (1909). The Master of Game. Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. p. 195.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Caius, John; Fleming, Abraham (1880). Of Englishe dogges, the diversities, the names, the natures and the properties. A short treatise written in Latine and newly drawne into Englishe. Bradley. p. 15. Archived from the original on 2016-12-10. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  5. ^ "Welsh Springer Spaniel Did You Know?". American Kennel Club. Archived from the original on 4 August 2010. Retrieved 11 February 2010.
  6. ^ Cited in: Ireland, Stanley (2008). "Chapter 15: Government, Commerce and Society". Roman Britain: A Sourcebook. Routledge Sourcebooks for the Ancient World (3rd ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 216, §507. ISBN 9780415471770. OCLC 223811588.
  7. ^ Hancock, The Heritage of the Dog, 1990.
  8. ^ Judah, J.C. (2007). An Ancient History of Dogs: Spaniels Through the Ages. Lulu.com. p. 42.[self-published source]
  9. ^ "Spaniel Journal". spanieljournal.com. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2013-12-21.
  10. ^ FCI – Breeds nomenclature Archived 2008-03-14 at the Wayback Machine; FCI – Breeds nomenclature Archived 2008-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Fogle (2006): p. 152
  12. ^ Palika (2007): p. 131
  13. ^ "Blue Picardy Spaniel - Breed Description and Information". Canada's Guide to Dogs. Archived from the original on 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  14. ^ Fogle (2006): p. 230
  15. ^ Palika (2007): p. 172
  16. ^ Coile, D. Caroline (2008). Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (2nd ed.). Barron's Educational Series. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7641-3771-6.
  17. ^ Smith (2002): p. 128
  18. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (1999). The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Parragon. p. 323. ISBN 0-7525-8018-3.
  19. ^ Lambert, Cathy. Getting to Know English Cockers. Animalinfo Publications. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-921537-15-8.
  20. ^ Smith (2002): p. 134
  21. ^ Palika (2007): p. 237
  22. ^ Fogle (2006): p. 344
  23. ^ Palika (2007): p. 269
  24. ^ Palika (2007): p. 232
  25. ^ Larkin, Peter (2003). The Essential Dog Book. Anness Publishing. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-681-86485-6.
  26. ^ Hungerland, Jacklyn E. (2003). Papillons. Barron's Educational Series. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-7641-2419-8.
  27. ^ Palika (2007): p. 311
  28. ^ "Breed Information: Phalene". Purina Care: Pet Health Library. Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2009-11-21.
  29. ^ "Picardy Spaniel Information". Sarah's Dogs. Archived from the original on 2018-10-21. Retrieved 2018-11-03.
  30. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (2005). The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds (2nd ed.). Whitecap Books. p. 310. ISBN 978-0-7641-5700-4.
  31. ^ Wilcox, Bonnie; Walkowicz, Chris (1995). Atlas of Dog Breeds of the World (5th ed.). TFH Publications. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-7938-1284-4.
  32. ^ Cunliffe, Juliette (1999). The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. Parragon. p. 347. ISBN 0-7525-8018-3.
  33. ^ "Ameri-Can Stabyhoun Association". stabyhouns.org. Archived from the original on 2013-04-19. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
  34. ^ Spiotta-DiMare, Loren (1999). The Sporting Spaniel Handbook. Barron's Educational Series. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7641-0884-6.
  35. ^ Smith (2002): p. 122
  36. ^ Fogle (2006): p. 67
  37. ^ Drury, W.D. (1903). "Chapter LVIII. Chinese Spaniels, Chinese Pugs or Pekinese Spaniels, Pekinese Pugs". British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation. Charles Scribner's Sons. Archived from the original on 2010-02-19. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  38. ^ Palika (2007): p. 315
  39. ^ "FCI-Standard N° 231 / 11. 05. 1998 / GB Tibetan Spaniel". Fédération Cynologique Internationale. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  40. ^ Palika (2007): p. 375

General and cited references