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The History of the Springer

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General Appearance:
The English Springer Spaniel is a medium-sized sporting dog, well proportioned, free from exaggeration, nicely balanced in every part. He is the highest on leg and raciest in build of all British land Spaniels. His pendulous ears, soft gentle expression, sturdy build and friendly wagging tail proclaim him unmistakably a member of the ancient family of spaniels. His carriage is proud, his body deep, and his legs strong and muscular with enough length to carry him with ease. He looks the part of a dog that can go and keep going under difficult hunting conditions. At his best he is endowed with style, symmetry, balance and enthusiasm and is every inch a sporting dog of distinct spaniel character, combining beauty and utility.

The typical Springer is friendly, eager to please, quick to learn and biddable. In the show ring he should exhibit poise, attentiveness, tractability, and should permit examination without resentment or cringing. A Springer showing aggression toward people, other dogs or excessive timidity (with due allowance for puppies) is not in keeping with a sporting dog character and purpose and should be faulted.

The Springer is built to cover rough ground with ability and reasonable speed. He should be kept to medium size: neither too small and light nor too large and heavy to do the work for which he is intended. The ideal shoulder height for dogs is 51 cm (20 in.); for bitches, 48 cm (19 in.). Weight is dependent upon the dog’s other dimensions: a 51 cm (20 in.) dog, well proportioned, in good condition should weigh about 22-25 kg (49-55 lb.). A 48 cm (19 in.) bitch will weigh about 18-22 kg (40-44 lb.).  The resulting appearance is a well-knit, sturdy dog with good but not too heavy bone, in no way coarse or ponderous. A dog or bitch within one inch of the breed standard either way at the withers is not to be faulted.

Coat and Colour:
The Springer has a thick double coat that is water, weather and thorn proof. His body coat of medium length may be flat or wavy. The coat on his head, front of forelegs and front of hind legs is short and fine. His ears, chest, back of legs, belly and britches are nicely furnished with moderate, but not heavy, fringing. Correct quality and condition of coat should take precedence over quantity. Trimming may be done to the head, neck, ears, hocks, feet and furnishings and dead undercoat may be removed to make a neat appearance. Excessive trimming that removes the protective quality of the coat should be faulted. All the following combinations of colours and markings are equally acceptable: Black or liver with white markings or white with black or liver markings; Blue or liver roan; Tricolour: black and white or liver and white with tan markings. Any white portion of the coat may be flecked with ticking.

The head is impressive without being heavy. Its beauty lies in a combination of strength and refinement. It is important that the size and proportion be in balance with the rest of the dog. Viewed in profile, the head should appear approximately the same length as the neck. The skull is to be of medium length, fairly broad, flat on top, slightly rounded at the sides and back. The occipital bone is inconspicuous, rounded rather than peaked or angular. The muzzle is approximately the same length as the skull, and in harmony as to width and general character. Looking down on the head the muzzle is to appear to be about one-half the width of the skull. The skull rises from the muzzle and makes a brow or “stop”, divided by a groove or fluting between the eyes. This groove continues upward and gradually disappears as it reaches the middle of the forehead. The “stop” is moderate with a subtle rise where the muzzle blends into the upper head, further emphasized by the groove and shape of the well developed eyebrows.  The chiselling of the bony structure around the eye, the stop, eyebrows and flat cheeks contribute to the Springer’s beautiful and characteristic expression. When viewed in profile, the skull and the muzzle lie in two approximately parallel planes. The nasal bone should be straight (neither concave, “dish-faced”; nor convex, Roman nosed). The nostrils, should be well opened, broad, and liver or black coloured depending upon the colour of the coat. Flesh-coloured noses (Dudley) or spotted noses (butterfly) are undesirable.  The square, strong jaws are to be of sufficient length to allow the dog to carry game easily. Flews come down to fully cover the lower jaw, but are not pendulous. The teeth should be strong, clean and not too small. The incisors should meet in a close scissors or even bite. More than any other feature the eyes contribute to the Springer’s appeal. Colour, placement, and size of the eyes influence expression and attractiveness. The eyes are to be of medium size, almond or oval in shape. The eyes are set rather well apart and fairly deep in their sockets. The iris colour is to harmonize with the coat colour, preferably a dark hazel in the liver dogs and black or dark brown in the black dogs. The expression should signify an alert, kind and trusting nature. The lids are tight with little or no haw showing. The ears are lobular in shape, nicely feathered with thin, fairly wide ear leathers that are long enough to reach to the tip of the nose. The ear-set is in line with the corner of the eye, not too far back and the ears hang close to the cheeks with no tendency to stand up or out.

The moderately long, strong, muscular neck is well set on, tapers towards the head, is arched slightly at the crest and is approximately the same length as the head.

​Efficient front movement calls for proper forequarter assembly that allows the dog to swing his forelegs forward in an effortless manner. The shoulders lie flat and fairly close together at the tips, flowing smoothly into the contour of the body. The shoulder blade, measured from top of withers to point of shoulder, and upper arm, measured from point of shoulder to elbow, should ideally be of equal length forming an almost 90 degree angle. This puts the front legs well under the body and the elbows, close to the body, in line with the tips of shoulder blades. The strong forelegs are straight with moderate bone; neither too heavy, nor too light. The bone is slightly flattened and does not taper or change size from the elbow to the foot. The slightly sloping pasterns are short and strong. The forefeet are tight, well arched and round or slightly oval with thick pads. Dewclaws may or may not be present.

The length of body, when measured from the point of shoulder to the point of buttocks, is slightly greater than the height at the withers. The backline slopes very gently from withers to tail and the back is firm and level. The body is short coupled and strong. The chest is should be deep and reach to the level of the elbows. The well developed forechest should not be too wide or round as to interfere with the action of the front legs. The ribs are well-sprung, fairly long and taper as they approach the flank. The loin is short, muscular and has a slight arch. The hips are nicely rounded and blend into the hind legs. The underline rises gently towards the rear.

The Springer should be shown in hard muscular condition with well developed hips and thighs and the rear assembly should suggest strength and driving power. For functional efficiency the angulation of the hindquarters should be neither more than, nor less than, that of the forequarters. Thighs are broad and muscular. Stifle joints are strong and moderately bent. The hock joints are somewhat rounded. The rear pasterns are short and strong (measuring about one-third the distance from hip joint to foot) with good bone. When viewed from behind, the rear pasterns to be parallel. The hind feet are tight, compact, slightly smaller than the forefeet and well rounded with strong thick pads. Dewclaws may or may not be present.

​The Springer’s tail is an index both to his temperament and his conformation. Merry tail action is characteristic of the breed. The proper tail set is slightly low as a natural continuation of the gently rounded croup. The tail is carried horizontally or slightly elevated. A clamped tail that may indicate timidity or an unreliable temperament or a tail carried at a right angle to the backline should be faulted. The tail may be docked or undocked. The docked tail is strong at the root, tapered to the end and in balance with the rest of the dog. The undocked tail is strong at the root, tapered to a fine tip and in balance with the rest of the dog. Feathering, if present, will be in balance to the rest of the coat.

The English Springer’s movement is strictly his own. When evaluating the Springer, the final test of a dog’s conformation and soundness should emphasize proper movement. Prerequisite to good movement is balance of the front and rear assemblies. The two must match in angulation and muscular development if the gait is to be smooth and effortless. Well laid back shoulders laid that permits a long stride and excellent rear quarters that provide the driving power are both essential to correct movement. When viewed from the front, the forelegs should swing forward from the shoulder in a free and easy manner, with no tendency for the feet to interfere with each other. From the rear, the parallel hocks should drive well under the body in line with the forelegs. Viewed from the side, the Springer should exhibit a good long forward stride. As speed increases legs naturally converge toward a centre line of travel.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault. The seriousness of the fault should be in regard to the proportion of its degree and its effect on the health and ability of the dog to perform the job for which the breed was established.

1. Lack of true English Springer type in conformation, expression, or behaviour.

2. A Springer showing aggression toward people or other dogs is not in keeping with a sporting dog character or purpose.

3. Rough curly coat; excessive over-trimming that removes the protective quality of the coat; off-colours such as lemon, red, orange (major fault).

4. Oval, pointed, or heavy skull; too short, thin, narrow or heavy muzzle, too much or too little stop; faulty jaw formation (major fault); round, thick or protruding (lips). Eyes: small, round, prominent, droopy, yellow, or significantly lighter than coat colour; eyes that have a harsh expression; droopy eyelids; prominent haw. Ears: short or round ears; incorrect ear set.

5. Short or concave (ewe) neck, excessive throatiness.

6. Steep or loaded shoulders; loose elbows; crooked legs; weak or straight pasterns.

7. Sharp slope to backline; body too shallow; ribs too flat or too round; sway back or roach back; too much or too little tuck up. 

8. Too much or too little angulation; narrow or underdeveloped thighs; too short or too long hocks; splayed or hare feet.

9. Too low or too high tail set; too steep or too high croup. Tail carried at a right angle to the backline, a clamped tail.

​10. Short, choppy, mincing, or hopping steps;. moving with forefeet wide; cow or sickle hocks.

The origins of the spaniel are buried beneath the dust of 2000 years with evidence, as far back as 17 A.D., when the name first appears in writing. In that same year, the Irish laws mention ‘water spaniels' as having been given as tribute to the king. This connection is significant in so much as the ‘spaniel' was already sufficiently advanced to have several branches. There is even another reference to the spaniel in Welsh laws about the year 300 A.D.

Most agree that the term "Spaniel" comes from the Roman name for Spain (Hispania). The change probably came about in this progression - spagnell, spainell, spanyell and spaniel. However, it may have come from an anglicised spelling of the French term for spaniels = Chiens Du Espagnol, or dogs from Spain.

We cannot know with any absolute certainty, the real origin of the Breed, as, had the dog not spread into Europe from Spain, it is difficult to believe that he would be called a ‘dog of Spain' by the people of Ireland, Wales and France. He could have been (and likely was) spread by Roman traders and conquerors, even though there is no specific written evidence of a Roman name for him. The conclusion reached by many is that the spaniel was a native of Spain and that he was spread through Europe by the Romans.

It is not until the late 14th century that Gaston De Foix, a rich and powerful lord of Southern France who was a warrior famous for his hunting feats, wrote his immortal hunting classic "Livre de Chasse" (Book of the Chase) in 1387, in which he describes hunting dogs in their work as quartering in front of the master, flushing game and retrieving from land and water - all very like the behaviour and work of the English Springer Spaniel we know and admire today.

By the late 1500’s the spaniels were divided into two groups - these two groups being land and water spaniels. The land spaniel group was further subdivided into two groups - those that flushed game (forefathers of the present day spaniels) and those that set or pointed its game (forefathers of the present day setters).  Pups in a litter of land spaniels were often divided by size; the small ones became the cockers or woodcock dogs and the medium-sized ones became the springers, which hunted by flushing or "springing" birds for the hunters. 

In the 1800’s small spaniels were bred to small spaniels and large spaniels were bred to large spaniels. The size of the puppies from early litters varied widely. If a dog weighed under 25 pounds it was labeled a cocker and if it weighed over 25 pounds it was named a Springer. In 1892 the two breeds were officially identified - the English Springer Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. Still, at this time, size alone was the determining factor as both breeds were actually born in the same litter.

Before the development of the flintlock rifle, the springer flushed birds for hunting hawks and hounds to pursue. When the gun extended the hunter’s reach, the dogs learned to work in gun range, quartering back and forth in the field and flushing birds. From the earliest Springer other spaniels have developed until now there are at least ten varieties of Sporting Spaniels. As the different types of spaniels began to develop the Springer seemed to dominate. A medium sized dog, well balanced, strong and sturdy, free from exaggeration, it was a fast and good worker.   The earliest Springer kennel in England was Aqualate dating as far back as 1812. The earliest stud book for the Springer Spaniel was in 1812; the first breed club in England was founded in the 1880s.  Other prominent breeders developed through the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. First exhibited in the 1850’s as the Norfolk Spaniel, the breed was given its present name after the formation of the Sporting Spaniel Club which was founded in 1885. The first field trial for spaniels, sponsored by this club, was held in 1899, and by 1902 there was sufficient interest in the English Springer to warrant its official recognition as a separate breed by The Kennel Club (England). The following year the breed was shown for the first time at an English championship event. For over a century the Boughey strain was kept in successive generations of the family and in 1903 (the year after the Kennel Club first recognised the Breed), Sir Thomas Boughey bred F.T. Ch Velox Powder, later owned by Mr Eversfield, and the winner of twenty F.T. stakes, whose pedigree goes right back through the Aqaulate Stud Book from the time Mop 1 was whelped in 1812. The Boughey family continued its interest in the Breed right into the 1930s.

Because of the First World War the ‘show scene' did not start again until late 1920's.  1921 saw the founding of The English Springer Spaniel Club, now referred to as The Parent Club in its position as the eldest and most senior of the present day 8 UK Breed Clubs.

This was perhaps the most active period for the Breed, during which time many famous kennel names such as Tissington, Avendale, Beechgrove, Horsford, Velox, Denne, Laverstoke and Rivington became much admired and respected as predominantly dual purpose dogs.

Richard Surflet, a sportsman of the 17th century was quoted as saying:

 "The spaniel is gentle, loving and courteous to man more than any other dog, of free untiring laborsome ranging, beating a full course over and over, which he does with a wanton playing taile and a busie labouring noise, neither desisting nor showing less delight in his labours at night than he did in the morning".

We think this description still holds true today about this charming, appealing and fun loving Breed, whether his role is as a working, show or pet dog. It has often been said that if you could only have one dog that you would expect to keep in the home even when he is not in work, then inevitably your choice has to be the English Springer Spaniel - perhaps the greatest all purpose dog.

Once the breed club began judging the dogs by their appearance as well as their field skills, the Springer began to diverge in type. Dogs bred for the show ring (bench-type) became heavier, stockier, and developed longer, more profuse coats, while the field-type remained smaller, with silkier coats more suited to shedding thorns and burs while hunting. This was the beginning of the division of the Springer type. Over the past decades the two types of springers have developed and separated greatly in type, appearance and size. Today, the two types are rarely interbred but is occasionally done so for genetic diversity which is very important in any breed.

In fact, the differences between Bench and Field Springers is so great that a Field Springer would never win a show, and a Bench Springer would never win a hunting trial.  Plain and simple.  There are two very distinct lines and one isn't better than the other, but instead bred for two very different reasons.  Why did the Kennel Clubs allow for this to happen?  It's actually not uncommon and it is the main faults of Dog Shows in general for approving of changes to any breed that align more with "cute fashion trends" that make a "pretty" dog running around the show ring popular, instead of a working dog which is all dogs original purpose.  The show or "Bench" Springer would be unsuitable for hunting due to their more cumbersome size and extensive feathering, but the Field Springer is suited for both worlds and can easily interchange from the field to the household.  It is sometimes said that the Field Springer has more energy, but this has more to do with the fact that they are lighter and more agile, and the Bench Springer can be more relaxed as they are heavier and more on the couch potato side of the scale.  This has begun to close the gene pool and separate the two types of Springers that are "technically" one breed.  Our Springers at Pleasant Meadows are a combination of show and field lines because we believe in genetic diversity, and by mixing the show and field lines it creates a more even balance between temperament, size, and temperament to be more in line to what the English Springer Spaniel once was in it's creation.  Dog breeds are not meant to be separated, it only happens when fashion dictates their appearance for the vanity of man.  This has happened in many breeds, and it's something that destroyed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (the breed we started with in 2011), and our goal and reason for including this in the history of the English Springer Spaniel is because every day we have a chance to make history -- "Yesterday is history, today is only ours, tomorrow is still unknown and is full of uncertainty.  Live now and use yesterday to construct a beautiful tomorrow." ~ Unknown -- and if we can improve the English Springer Spaniel by breeding them with integrity and diversity, then that is a small piece of history that could become a part of your tomorrow.

Complete list of Springer health problems


-- One.  Coming soon.


-- Two.  Coming soon.


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-- Five.  Coming soon.


-- Six.  Coming soon.


-- Seven.  Coming soon.

-- Eight.  Coming soon.

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