Monday, March 12, 2018

The "Other" Cocker Spaniel - The ENGLISH COCKER

Lady The Golden Cocker Spaniel
Photo  by Russell Lee Photography 
Spaniels, a member of the hunting group, date back to the 1300s, and quite possibly existed undocumented even before that. Spaniels vary greatly in size, temperament, and official use. Bred for hunting, different spaniels were initially divided into two groups based on their hunting proficiency: land and water. The water spaniels remained one group, while the land spaniels were eventually divided into two additional groups: setting spaniels and springer spaniels. The Cocker Spaniel falls into the Springer Spaniel group and is the smaller than any other spaniel in its category.

The Springer Spaniel category did not always have clarification for the difference between Cocker Spaniels and their groupmates, the English Springer Spaniel and the Sussex Spaniel. There was no documented differentiation until the late 1800s when England finally acknowledged that the Cocker Spaniel was a separate breed altogether.

While there was deliberation in England about the breaking up of the Springer Spaniel group into smaller, more specific breeds, the Cocker had already been imported to the United States and was becoming a much sought-after breed of its own. This explains why the American and English Cocker Spaniels began to differ in various characteristics of the breed.

Even though the Cocker Spaniel's primary use in England was as a hunting dog, Americans appreciated the dog for entirely different reasons. Their glamorous coats made the American Cocker Spaniel very appealing, and thus breeders worked hard to accentuate their aesthetic traits as opposed to their working ability. The traits between English and American Cocker Spaniels continued to differ until there were distinct and obvious lines between each breed. In the 1940s, English Cocker enthusiasts took action. They forced the AKC to recognize the English Cockers as a different breed, unassociated with the American Cocker.

The primary differentiation between the English and American Cockers is their coats. Having been bred for beauty, the American Cocker's coat is much longer, shinier, and thicker than their English counterparts. The American Cocker has also been bred somewhat smaller, also resulting in different facial features, such as a shorter snout and more forward-facing eyes. Despite the differences, both breeds are absolutely lovely.

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