Cocker Spaniel refers to two modern breeds of dogs of
the spaniel dog type: the American Cocker Spaniel and the English
Cocker Spaniel, both of which are commonly called simply Cocker Spaniel
in their countries of origin. It was also used as a generic term prior
to the 20th century for a small hunting Spaniel.
Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs in
the United Kingdom, with the term "cocker" deriving from their use to
hunt the Eurasian Woodcock. When the breed was brought to the United
States it was bred to a different standard which enabled it to
specialize in hunting the American Woodcock. Further physical changes
were bred into the cocker in the United States during the early part of
the 20th century due to the preferences of breeders.
Spaniels were first mentioned in the 14th century by Gaston III of Foix-Béarn in his work the Livre de Chasse. The "cocking" or "cocker spaniel" was first used to refer to a type of field or land spaniel in the 19th century. Prior to 1901, Cocker Spaniels were only separated from Field Spaniels and Springer Spaniels by weight. Two dogs are considered to be the foundation sires of both modern breeds, the English variety are descended from Ch. Obo, while the American breed descends from Obo's son, Ch. Obo II.
In the United States, the English Cocker was recognized as separate from the native breed in 1946; in the UK, the American type was recognized as a separate breed in 1970. In addition, there is a second strain of English Cocker Spaniel, a working strain which is not bred to a standard but to working ability. Both breeds share similar coat colors and health issues with a few exceptions.
There are two modern breeds of cocker spaniel, the
English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. They were bred
as gun dogs; to use their sense of smell to cover low areas near the
handler in order to flush birds into the air to be shot, and to use
their eyes and nose to locate the bird once downed, and then to
retrieve the bird with a soft mouth. The major differences between the
English and American varieties is that the American is smaller with a
shorter back, a domed head and a shorter muzzle, while the English
variety is taller with a narrower head and chest.
Cocker spaniels coats come in a variety of colors including black, liver, red and golden in solids. There are also black and tan, and sometimes liver and tan, as well as a variety of color mixtures of those solid colors including roans, roan and tans, tricolors and those solid colors with additional white markings.
There are physical differences between the show strains and working strains in the UK. While the show strain is bred to the conformation standard, the working strain is bred for working ability and as such several physical differences have appeared. Working type dogs tend to be larger with flatter heads and shorter ears. The coat also tends to be finer than the show variety and have less feathering
The American Cocker Spaniel was bred smaller as American
Woodcocks are smaller than their European cousins, and the breeds
appearance changed slightly during the first part of the 20th century
as the preference by American breeders was for a more stylized