A Spaniel is a type of gun dog. Spaniels may have arrived in the British Isles during Caesar’s invasion (54-55 BC). It is assumed spaniels originated from Spain as the word spaniel may be derived from Hispania (Spain) or possibly from the French phrase Chiens de l’ Espagnol (Dog of Spain).
Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of dense brush. By the late 1600’s spaniels had become specialized into water and land breeds. The English water spaniel (extinct) 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, and rabbits for hunting with greyhounds.
During the 17th century, the role of the spaniel dramatically changed as Englishmen began hunting with flintlocks for wing shooting. Goodall & Gasow (1984), write the spaniels were "transformed from untrained, wild beaters, to smooth, polished gun dogs."
Spaniels are generally small dogs with long coats and drop ears. Spaniels assist in bird hunting.
It is desirable that Spaniels work within gun range, are steady to shot, 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 rabbit and waterfowl. Whether hunting in open fields, woodlands, farm lands - in briars, along fencerows or marshlands, a spaniel can get the job done.
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.
English Cocker Spaniels are small-to-medium dogs with drop ears and a longer coat.The name comes from the word for Spanish (Español).
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