The English springer spaniel is possibly the perfect dog for today’s hunter. The field-bred Springer spaniel is synonymous with the word versatile. Today’s hunter maybe in a pheasant field one week, sitting by his favorite duck hole or maybe on an early morning dove hunt the next. The versatility of a field bred English springer spaniel is hard to beat. At Southaven we have spent almost 30 years training and breeding the finest English Springer spaniels from the top English and American bloodlines. Our emphasis has been on breeding for performance, consistency and great pet quality.
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 and a friendly wagging tail. 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. In fact, the gene pools are almost completely segregated and have been for at least 70 years. 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.
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 is docked by a few inches in comparison to the show dog. Field-bred dogs are selected for nose, hunting ability, and response to training rather than appearance.
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.
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. In addition Springers also tend to have a longer muzzle, their eyes are not as prominent and the coat is less abundant. The major differences between the Welsh Springer and the English Springer is that the Welsh have more limited colours and tend to be slightly smaller.
Coat & Colours
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. 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.
Males in the show dog line average approximately 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 cm) at the withers and weigh on average 50 to 55 lb (23 to 25 kg). According to the UK (FCI) Breed Standard, the English Springer Spaniel should be 20 inches (51 cm) at the withers. The females should be 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) and usually 35 to 45 lb (16 to 20 kg). Working types can be lighter in weight and finer in bone.
The typical Springer is friendly, eager to please, quick to learn and willing to obey. An affectionate and easy-going family dog, its alertness and attentiveness make it the ideal hunting companion. The English Springer Spaniel ranks 13th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, considered an excellent working dog. It has exceptional stamina and needs moderate amounts of activity, to focus its mind and to provide exercise, although this is different for each dog. . Its long-legged build makes it among the fastest of the spaniels.
It is a sociable breed that enjoys the company of children and handles the company of other pets well. If left alone for too long, they can become destructive and mischievous through boredom. They love the water, and tend to get wet whenever they have the chance.
An English Springer Spaniel is foremost an upland flushing dog. There are a number of skills that breeders train the dog to perform for their occupation.
- Retrieve to Hand Most hunters and all hunt test or field trial judges require that a dog deliver a bird to hand, meaning that a dog will hold the bird until told to give it to the hunter directly.
- Soft Mouth Springers are taught to deliver game with a soft mouth, meaning he does not puncture it with his teeth. The game should always be fit for the table. If a springer damages the bird, it may be hard mouthed. This is a serious fault, but it can be difficult to determine whether it may have been genetic or caused by poor training methods. Breeders generally avoid using any springer that is hard mouthed.
- Quarter A flushing spaniel's primary role is often as an upland flushing dog. Dogs must work in a zig-zag pattern in front of the hunter seeking upland game birds. The dog is taught to stay within gun range to avoid flushing a bird outside shooting distance. This pattern is one of the primary criteria used to judge a dog in a field trial.
- Scenting Having the ability to scent game is of vital importance to the hunter. A springer should have a good nose in both wet and dry conditions. A dog with a good nose will learn to use the wind as it quests for game, ever adjusting its pattern according to the nuances of the wind.
- Flushing The springer should have a positive flush. It should not hesitate or point when encountering game. Some field trial dogs will often get airborne during a flush. This is exciting to watch, but is not necessary to win. Most hunters prefer that their dog not flush in that style, as it can present a risk to the dog.
- Hup This is the traditional command to sit and stay. When hupped the dog can be given direction called to the handler. The ability to hup a dog actively working a running bird allow the handler and any gunners to keep up without having to run.
- Follow Hand Signals Upland hunting involves pursuing wild game in its native habitat. Gun dogs must investigate likely covers for upland game birds. The dog must be responsive to hand signals in order for the hunter to be able to direct the dog into areas of particular interest.
- Steady When hunting upland birds, a flushing dog should be steady to wing and shot, meaning that he sits when a bird rises or a gun is fired. He does this in order to mark the fall and to avoid flushing other birds when pursuing a missed bird.
- Blind Retrieve An adequately trained and experienced working springer can be expected to use all of the aforementioned attributes to be conducted by hand, whistle and command to a position whereby an unmarked lost game bird can be picked and retrieved to hand.
English physician Dr. 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. 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.
At this point in time, 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.
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.
In January 1899, the Spaniel Club of England and the Sporting Spaniel Society held their trials together for the first time. Two 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 recognised by the English Kennel Club. The American Kennel Club followed in 1910. 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.
** Information listed on this page in reference from Wikipedia