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Dog Files Fact: English Springer Spaniel


The Origins of the Spaniel:

Although most dog books insist that spaniel is a corruption “espagnol”, meaning Spanish or Spain, there are other authorities that believe the word may be a corruption of “espanir”, French for flatten out. The Italian name of the Piedmontese Spaniel is the Spinone, a continental hunter that points and retrieves.

Colonel David Hancock, in The Heritage of the Dog, feels that the Roman empire played a major role in bringing the Spaniels to England, by way of the trade routes to the far east. His belief is that the “sporting spaniel originated in China, from the short-faced ancestors of modern day Pekingese, pugs, and Shih Tsus, as well as Japanese Chins, Tibetan Spaniels, and Llasa Apsos.” These dogs were introduced into South Europe and were then bred into the small sporting spaniels and water dogs of the 1300 -1600 AD period. Theys were the ancestors of Blenheim Spaniels, Canne Chiens, and Espagneul Nains, and then cocking and setting spaniels. If there is any question as to how a short nosed breed could be bred into dogs having the current muzzles of our present dogs, look into the recent history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a breed that was lost, but selected for out of breedings of the English Toy Spaniel.

The English Springer Spaniel is an older breed, appearing in paintings as early as the 1600s. It is possibly the ancestor of most modern spaniels; Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels were not recognized as separate breeds until the 1800s.


The purpose of the breed was to serve as a hunting dog. Before guns were used to shoot game, the land spaniel would “spring”—or flush—the gamebird into the air where a trained falcon or hawk would bring it to the handler.

As the shotgun replaced the bird of prey for the hunter, the English Springer Spaniel continued to serve as a hunting companion. Although most are hunted on traditional upland game, the springer spaniel is adept at hunting waterfowl and small game, as well. They are excellent rabbit hunting dogs. The spaniel is trained to “hup”—or sit—until the hunter casts the dog off to start hunting. A good spaniel is bold to cover, has an excellent “wet” or “dry” nose, works within gun range in an efficient, merry fashion and has a strong flush. The dog should mark the fall of the bird – or accept minimal handling to the area of the fall, where its nose can locate the downed bird’s scent. After finding dead or wounded game, the spaniel should have a quick pick up, return to the hunter and deliver the prize with a soft mouth.

The springer is an affectionate and easy-going family dog, and it’s alertness and attentiveness make it the ideal hunting companion. An intelligent dog, and eager to please, a Springer is easily incorporated into a family setting. It’s long-legged build puts it in the front of the spaniels for speed.


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