By definition, Spaniels are gun dogs developed to flush game from thick undergrowth or vegetation. But, this includes several different types of spaniels–land or setting spaniels, water spaniels, and springing spaniels. In this edition of Animal Facts, we’re “setting” the record straight on these spectacular, floppy-eared hunting heroes. Let’s check out these spectacular Spaniel Dog Breeds.
10. Clumber Spaniel
Some may say the Clumber Spaniel has the perfect name. It seems as though “Clumber” is a mash-up of “clumsy” and “lumbering.” Two words often erroneously used to describe the breed.
However, Clumbers acquired their name in the 18th century after the Duke of Newcastle’s Nottingham estate, Clumber Park.
The duke owned several white and cream-colored dogs that resemble today’s Clumber. However, the breed is said to have been developed by his gamekeeper, William Mansell.
The largest of the spaniel breeds, Clumbers tend to move at their own pace, plodding along slowly until their battery gets charged by the scent of birds—their prey of choice. Once on the trail, they won’t stop until they’ve either retrieved the fowl or inspected the entire area.
Yes, they might move slowly. However, tenacity and endurance make up for their lack of speed, proving that slow and steady does indeed win the race.
Fun fact: According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word “Spaniel’ originates from the Old French word “espaigneul” which meant “Spanish (dog).”
9. German Spaniel
The German Spaniel is a very rare gun dog with a nose that knows. In the late 19th century, the breed came into existence by crossing the scent-driven Stoeberer with sporting spaniels and water dogs.
The result was a waterfowl-hunting aficionado with a Bloodhound’s sense of smell and the sturdy physicality to flush out or retrieve game such as hare, wild boar, and (believe it or not) black bear.
German Spaniels are highly adaptable, making them an excellent choice for hunters who need a versatile gun dog. When not tracking, the German Spaniel makes a loyal, affectionate companion for you and an energetic, friendly sibling for both kids and pets alike.
Fun Fact: The German Spaniel has several aliases including Deutscher Wachtelhund, Deutscher Wachtel, and German Quail Dog.
8. Picardy Spaniel
The Picardy Spaniel can be traced back to France before the French Revolution when only royalty and aristocrats were allowed to hunt. After the revolution, the breed’s popularity surged as all people gained the right to hunt, both for sport and food.
Armed with a water-resistant coat, the Picardy was the perfect hunting dog. It navigated the swampy, tree-laden terrain of Northwest France in pursuit of pheasants, ducks, rabbits, and hares.
Though their hunting days are behind them for the most part, today’s Picardy Spaniels still have gentle, easygoing temperaments. This makes them great dogs for non-hunters and families.
Fun Fact: The Picardy Spaniel was the first hunting dog admitted into France’s salons.
7. Sussex Spaniel
Long before Harry and Meghan were the duke and duchess, the Sussex Spaniel was bred in the county to flush out birds.
Like the Clumber, they have short legs, a long body type, and low to moderate energy level. However, they’re unusual amongst spaniels because of their ace in the hole—a howl that lets their hunting companions know when they’ve caught a whiff of game in the field. These spirited vocalizations make them excellent watchdogs at home. That is as long as you school them on how to turn off false alarms.
Speaking of “schooling,” training your easygoing Sussex can present a challenge. Avoid harsh reprimands. If they feel they are being “dissed,” they may shut down and stop trying to follow commands. Instead, rely on praise, patience, and positive reinforcement to shape their behavior and kickstart their desire to learn.
6. Tibetan Spaniel
The Tibetan Spaniel is perhaps the most unusual dog on our list. Hailing from the mountains of Tibet, Tibetan Monks bred and used them to watch their lamaseries. Unlike the previous dogs on our list, the Tibbie was a companion dog, not a hunting dog. Some believe that people began to refer to them as spaniels because of their resemblance to “lapdog spaniels” like the King Charles Spaniel.
Besides being celebrated as excellent watchdogs, the Tibbie was also fawned over for looking like a miniature version of a lion, one of the most preeminent symbols in Buddhism—and its cat-like similarities don’t end there. You’ll often find your Tibbie perched atop tables, dressers, mantles, and high spots. They want a bird’s eye view of everyone and everything.
5. Welsh Springer
Like most spaniel dog breeds, Welsh Springer Spaniels are lively, determined, and loyal, but what sets them apart is their beauty. Welshies boasts a velvety, vivid, red, and white piebald-patterned coat, densely feathered on their ears, legs, belly, and chest. To sweeten the deal, their long, pendulous, spaniel ears bounce playfully with every step they make.
Unsurprisingly, the Welshie’s forte is flushing game (birds in particular) because that’s what spaniels do. However, this breed handles business a bit differently. They force their prey out into the open by pouncing or “springing” at it; hence, they received the name “springer spaniels.”
Fun Fact: Springer Spaniels’ coats are luxurious but strong. Their silky hair is waterproof, weatherproof, and thornproof.
Only the most extraordinary individuals can go by one name, and the Brittany Spaniel—formerly known as the Brittany Springer Spaniel—has earned the right to go by a single moniker with characteristics that make them either noteworthy or notorious, depending on what you’re looking for in a dog.
The Brittany dog stands out because they’re more like pointers or setters than spaniels. This results from crossing the English Setter with the French Spaniel. Although they have all the physical attributes of a spaniel, their hunting style incorporates freezing or pointing out game rather than flushing it out into the open. Brittanys also tend to be more eager to please and less headstrong than other types of spaniels. They instinctively know when to switch their hunting mechanism on and off.
That said, like many Spaniel Dog Breeds, Brittanys are notoriously hyperactive, so they require a “job” to do, as well as adequate exercise, at least an hour of strenuous activity. Anything less, and you’ll end up with a neurotic furball that’s bouncing off the walls—literally.
English Springer Spaniels are true to spaniel form in terms of appearance and hunting abilities, but they pull away from the pack when it comes to their versatility.
Springers are exceptionally intelligent, easy to train, and have high endurance–all qualities that help them excel in several working capacities, including sniffing out people, blood, and bumblebee nests.
They also work in the U.K. and several European countries to detect drugs, and their aptitude for navigating rough terrain makes them well-suited for search and rescue work, too.
Not only do Springers excel at working and sporting, but they also have an affectionate nature—one that never lets them meet a stranger. A Springer will not only be your Velcro dog; he or she will be everyone’s Velcro dog. It’s only natural for English Springers to shine as therapy dogs. They bring comfort and cheer to people in places like hospitals and nursing homes and soothe those who have experienced traumatic events.
2. Cavalier King Charles
Originally bred to accompany royals and aristocrats both at court and in their leisure time, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel bridges the gap between the toy and sporting breeds. Sweet and affectionate, yet curious and active, on any given day, they love lounging blissfully in a lap or chasing birds and squirrels in the sunshine.
Cavaliers are the expert shadows among the spaniel dog breeds. If you want a beautiful dog that is always happy and in sync with you, then the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is your pup. Bred as companion dogs, These Velcro pups love everyone and believe that the feeling is mutual.
At number one is one of the most popular spaniel dog breeds in the U.S. and the smallest of the sporting dogs—the Cocker Spaniel. Named after their fondness for hunting woodcock, Cockers have come a long way since those early days when their primary purpose was to flush out critters of the avian variety.
These loveable little darlings have carved out a place for themselves as the quintessential family pet. Their physical beauty is undeniable. With lush locks, soulful eyes, and a longing expression that can melt the coldest of hearts, the Cocker is canine eye-candy at its best.
…And speaking of candy, few dogs have a sweeter disposition than the Cocker Spaniel. Their cheerful attitude, adaptability, and desire to please make home life with them a piece of cake—pun intended.
Fun Fact: The Cocker Spaniel and the English Springer Spaniel were once considered the same breed. Breeders would separate a litter by size, designating the smaller ones as Cockers and the larger as Springers. The two didn’t receive recognition as separate breeds until the beginning of the 20th century.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).