Kennel clubs across the globe recognize hundreds of different dog breeds. The spaniel breeds are extremely popular in many countries including the United States. There are a handful of different spaniel breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) but many more are available throughout the world.
The Alpine Spaniel is an extinct breed of the spaniel family. Sometimes called the Bernardine Dog, the Alpine Spaniel has been said to be the foundation breed of the Saint Bernard and Clumber Spaniel. This breed is believed to have originated in the Swiss Alps where it was trained to search out lost travelers in the treacherous, cold mountains, much like what we hear in stories of the Saint Bernard.
The American Cocker Spaniel can be traced back as far as the 1880s to an English-bred female named Obo Obo that was imported from Britain. The English Cocker Spaniel Club of America aided in establishing the American version. This breed ranks top in the most popular breeds owned in the US.
American Water Spaniel
Considered a modern breed, the American Water Spaniel was recognized by the AKC in 1940. It is believed to have lineage from the Irish Water Spaniel which derives from crossing Poodles and Curly-coated Retrievers. The American Water Spaniel has excellent swimming capabilities and is smaller than the Irish version.
Blue Picardy Spaniel
The Blue Picardy Spaniel or Bleu Picard is a fairly large French breed. Its ancestry is believed to be from a combination of other breeds including black and grey Picardy Spaniels, English Setters, and/or Gordon Setters. An affectionate and hardy breed, the Blue Picardy Spaniel is fairly unknown except in its native country.
The Boykin Spaniel is named for Whitaker Boykin, an avid hunter from South Carolina. This US breed was discovered wandering around church and taken home by Alexander White. This stray was ultimately given to Mr. Boykin and later named "Dumpy". All Boykin Spaniels are derived from Dumpy and has evolved by crossbreeding with American Water Spaniels, Springer Spaniels, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Pointers.
Formerly known as the Brittany Spaniel, this breed is now known as simply the "Brittany". The Brittany is said to have originated in the Argoat forests of Brittany with lineage from the English Red and White Setter and Breton. The Brittany was recognized as an official breed in France in 1905 and in the US by the AKC in 1934.
Originating in Japan, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has physical characteristics that resemble the Japanese Chin. The Cavalier is very similar to the King Charles Spaniel (English Toy Spaniel) except the Cavalier is slightly larger and the head is almost flat between ears. Both the Cavalier and the King Charles breeds were named for King Charles II who ruled during the 1600s. This breed is popular in both the UK and US however, the AKC did not recognize the Cavalier as a separate breed until 1995.
The heaviest of the spaniel breeds, the Clumber Spaniel is believed to have lineage from the Basset Hound and the extinct Alpine Spaniel. This breed has been a favorite with past British royalty. Duc de Noailles (French Duke) entrusted his spaniels with the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park at the beginning of the French Revolution, thus contributing to this breed's name.
The Cocker Spaniel originated in Spain, thus giving this dog its name "spaniel". Dating back to the 14th century, the original Cocker Spaniels were utilized in the art of falconry. The 19th century brought a new task for this breed which included flushing out woodcock and other small game. This combination led this breed to be known as the Cocker Spaniel. The English Cocker Spaniel was recognized by the British Kennel Club in 1892 and is the smallest spaniel breed in the gundog group. This breed has won the coveted "Best in Show Award" at Crufts in London on multiple occasions.
English Springer Spaniel
One of the oldest of the British spaniels, the English Springer Spaniel was originally utilized for flushing or springing game from cover. Once known as the Norfolk Spaniel, this spaniel breed was established with the aid of Sir Thomas Boughey who had Springer Spaniels with lineage that dated back to the early 1800s. Many of the field trials' champions can be traced back to Sir Thomas' dogs.
English Toy Spaniel (see King Charles Spaniel)
The Field Spaniel has the same origination as the Cocker Spaniel. Breeding programs changed the Field Spaniel to display an elongated body and short legs which caused a decline in its popularity. The Field Spaniel Society undertook an overhaul of the breed in 1948 but it still has yet to become as desired as its counterparts. The Field Spaniel is recognized in black, liver, or roan with tan markings.
The Epagneul Francais or French Spaniel is a descendant of imported dogs coming from England into France during the 1300s. Its physical characteristics resemble that of both the English Springer and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This breed is not relatively known outside of its native country. The French Spaniel's long coat is white with chestnut markings and has slight feathering.
Also known as the Quail Dog and Deutscher Wachtelhund, the German Spaniel was developed during the 1890s in Germany. The physical appearance resembles the English Springer Spaniel and the German Long-haired Pointer. This breed has a long, roan or brown coat that serves as protection from the underbrush as it flushes out game during the hunt. The German Spaniel is quite popular in its native country but is rarely seen outside of Germany.
Irish Water Spaniel
There is no clear evidence on the history of the Irish Water Spaniel. Due to its appearance, it has been suggested that this breed has ancestry from the Poodle and Curly-coated Retriever. Canine historian Hugh Dalziel has stated that the Irish Water Spaniel could be the forebear of all the modern spaniels. The Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of the spaniel breeds. Its distinct coat is a rich, dark liver color and is dense and curled, displaying tight ringlets on the neck area.
King Charles Spaniel and English Toy Spaniel
Within Canada and the US, this breed is known as the English Toy Spaniel. "King Charles" is referred to the Black and Tan variety of this breed. Although this breed is believed by many to have originated in the UK, the King Charles Spaniel can be dated back to as early as 2000 B.C. to Japan. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel became popular during the 16th century until short-nosed dogs became the latest craze resulting in the origination of the King Charles Spaniel.
The Sussex Spaniel is considered one of the rarest of the spaniel breeds. The physical hound-like appearance can be traced back to its origination in the county of Sussex in southern England. Created in 1795 by Mr. Fuller of Rosehill, Sussex, the Sussex Spaniel was once one of the most popular dog breeds with local farmers. Following its first showing in 1862, a larger strain was produced which added both Bloodhound and Clumber Spaniel to its lineage. The Sussex Spaniel is considered an excellent bird dog with a keen nose.
Despite its "spaniel" name, the Tibetan Spaniel does not have any ancestry to the spaniels. The history of this small breed is not fully known but it is thought to have been in existence before the 7th century. Lineage is believed to have been contributed by Shih Tzu, Pekingese, or Pugs or a combination of these breeds. This breed was known to be kept in monasteries and to be a favorite companion of the monks. The first Tibetan Spaniel documented to enter the UK was in 1905 but it would take another 35 years before the breed made any impact in popularity.
Welsh Springer Spaniel
There are those that attribute this red and white spaniel's beginnings to crossbreeding of the English Spaniel and the Clumber. The Welsh Springer Spaniel has many similar characteristics of the Brittany Spaniel. Prior to 1902, this breed was exhibited as a Welsh Cocker and has steadily become more popular in North America in recent years. This breed is an excellent swimmer, has a keen nose, and is known for its compatibility as a family companion.
THE ILLUSTRATED ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DOG BREEDS, by Joan Palmer, copyright 1994.