The American Cocker Spaniel is a breed of sporting dog. It is a spaniel type dog that is closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel; the two breeds diverged during the 20th century due to differing breed standards in America and the UK. In the United States, the breed is usually called the Cocker Spaniel, while elsewhere in the world, it is called the American Cocker Spaniel in order to differentiate between it and its English cousin. The word cocker is commonly held to stem from their use to hunt woodcock in England, while spaniel is thought to be derived from the type’s origins in Spain.
According to historical records, the first spaniel was brought to North America aboard the Mayflower which sailed from Plymouth, England and landed in New England in 1620. The first Cocker Spaniel recorded in America was a liver and white dog named Captain, who was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1878. In 1881, the American Cocker Spaniel Club was formed; it would later become the American Spaniel Club (ASC) and is now known as the oldest breed club for dogs in the United States. The task of the club was initially to create a standard to separate the Cocker Spaniel in America from other types of land spaniels, a task which would take over 20 years, only being completed in 1905.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the breed had become popular in America and Canada due to their dual use as a family pet and a working dog. In the early 20th century the breeders on either side of the Atlantic had created different breed standards for the Cocker Spaniel and the breed gradually diverged from one another, with the two becoming noticeably different by the 1920s.
The Cocker Spaniel is a medium sized, sturdy dog. The head is rounded with a pronounced stop. The muzzle is broad and deep with square, even jaws. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. The eyeballs are dark, very round with slight almond shaped eye rims. The long, low-set ears are well feathered. The topline slopes slightly from the front of the dog to the back and the legs are straight. The silky coat is flat or slightly wavy. The hairs are medium length on the body but short and fine on the head. There is feathering on the ears, chest, abdomen and legs. The coat comes in any solid color, black with tan points, merle, solid color with tan points and parti-color. Examples of parti color combinations are white with buff or red, white with black, or white with black and tan points.
The typical Cocker Spaniel is gentle, a loving and trustworthy family companion who is good with children, other pets, and the elderly. Unfortunately, his extreme popularity leaves him open to the bane of all favorite breeds: unscrupulous people who breed with no regard for temperament, health, or conformation.
As a result, some Cocker Spaniels have serious health and temperament problems. If you are considering a Cocker Spaniel, you must be extremely careful from whom you buy or adopt a puppy. Buy only from a reputable breeder. Never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Reputable breeders breed with temperament in mind and perform various health tests to ensure that their breeding dogs don’t pass on a predisposition to genetic diseases.