Field Spaniel

Field Spaniel (Liver)Field Spaniel (Liver)A few centuries after Spaniels were first described as in the History of Spaniels, there was so much confusion about separating the various Spaniel breeds, the saga is elaborated upon in this section. This confusion arose before the advent of formal Field Trialling and dog showing in the second half of the 1800's, when many indiscriminate spaniel-type dogs which worked in the field to flush game were often called 'Field Spaniels'. This section gives an overview of the separation of the seven Land Spaniel breeds, as well as the historically black spaniel we know today as 'The Field Spaniel'.

The Spaniel Separation Saga

Field Spaniels c 1880Field Spaniels c 1880

In the late 1700's and early 1800's as guns were becoming more refined, the Spaniels used to flush out game also had to become more specialized. Add to this mix the advent of dog showing, by the middle of the 1800's Spaniels were becoming differentiated into different breeds. But this was a period of confusion for the emerging Spaniel breeds. In the Birmingham Show in 1859, a class was given for Cockers, but in the next year that class re-named as being for Spaniels other than Clumbers! The First English Stud Book in 1859 gives a listing for Spaniels (Field, Cocker and Sussex) with a separate class for Clumbers. By 1861, Field Spaniels appeared in classes for 'Spaniels of other breeds' but each was not given a separate listing until 1874 when there was a separate class for 'Field Spaniels'.

Field Spaniels c 1870Field Spaniels c 1870

Meanwhile the Clubs were playing around with arbitrary weight limits of 'under 22 pounds'. 'over 22 pounds' and even extending that limit to over and under 25 pounds. By 1875 Crystal Palace Show gave four classes for 'Field Spaniels' which included Sussex, Clumber, 'other large breeds of Spaniels' and 'other small breeds of Spaniels'. By 1883 the name 'Cocker' had been dropped with the English Stud Book classifying all breeds of Spaniels as 'Field Spaniels'. With long, low black Spaniels becoming fashionable, Mr Farrow's famous 'Obo' and his descendants were first classified as a Field Spaniels did some significant winning. Yet it was these same 'Obo' dogs and their descendants which founded the Cocker Spaniel breed!

Field Spaniel WorkingField Spaniel Working

As confusion continued the Kennel Club intervened and the Cocker was again included but with a weight differentiation[1]. So it was written that:

'in the early days a Cocker might be a Cocker before its breakfast, but a Field Spaniel after breakfast'.

It would be decades before this mess was finally sorted and the seven recognized Sporting Spaniel breeds we know one hundred years later, finally emerged. Today the 'Field Spaniel' is versatile pure breed which can still work in the field like the rough shooters dog pictured.

Field Spaniel (blue roan) c 1890Field Spaniel (blue roan) c 1890

History of the Field Spaniel

When the Field Spaniel was first named as a breed and started competing in Shows, its colour was confined to black. From the beginning, this working breed suffered exaggerations. The following quote, written more than one hundred years ago demonstrates this ignorance:

"If Black Spaniels are not quite as popular at present (1907) as  they were some years ago, the fault lies with those breeders. exhibitors and judges (the latter being most to blame) who encouraged the absurd craze for excessive length of body and shortness of leg which not very long ago threatened to transform the whole breed into a race of cripples, and to bring it into contempt and derision among all practical men. No breed or variety has suffered more from the injudicious fads and crazes of those showmen who are not sportsmen also. At one time among a certain class of judges, I am glad to say principally at minor shows, length and lowness was everything, and soundness, activity and symmetry simply did not count. As happens to all absurd crazes of this kind when carried to exaggeration, public opinion has proved too much for it, but not before a great deal of harm has been done to the breed which is certainly ornamental, and can be in my experience, most useful as well. Most of the prize-winners of the present day are sound, useful dogs capable of work, and it is to be hoped that judges will combine to keep them so"[2].

Towards the end of the 1800's, breeding Field Spaniels other than black began. Then some more astute breeders became involved and crosses with Sussex and the fore-runners of today's Springer Spaniels were used to produce the variety of colours recognized in this breed today.

History of the Field Spaniel in Australia

Grand Champion Field Spaniel (Australia) born 1905Grand Champion Field Spaniel (Australia) born 1905

Although there were 23 'Spaniels - Springers and Cockers' listed in the catalogue of the First dog show held in Melbourne in 1864[3] , it must be remembered that at this time in England Spaniels were not yet sorted into separate breeds. My research therefore suggests that these Spaniels were brought to Australia purely for the field work of flushing game from the undergrowth and were of no particular breed of Spaniel.

However, by the time Tyzack's Annual was produced in 1912[4] , the designated breed of Spaniel is likely to be more accurate. This Annual lists 15 imported Field Spaniels from England from 1877 to 1909 with another 19 registered in the Stud Book, one being Grand Champion Bonnie Union Jack (pictured) advertised as 'the Best Specimen of the breed in the Commonwealth'. This makes it clear that 'the absurd craze for excessive length of body and shortness of leg' as presented above, had reached our shores! I cannot find any other evidence of any other Field Spaniels in Australia until the 1990's.

Field Spaniel (Liver)Field Spaniel (Liver)

The Field Spaniel Today

Field Spaniel (black)Field Spaniel (black)

The Field Spaniel is an upstanding active dog built for working all day in thick undergrowth, or as a docile but independent companion. He stands around 46 cms (18 ins) at the shoulder and weighs 18-25 kg (40-55 lbs). He comes in black, black and tan, blue roan, blue roan and tan, liver, liver and tan, liver roan, liver roan and tan.

He has a lean head with slightly raised eyebrows, a prominent occiput and a moderate stop. His lean, long muzzle is well chiseled beneath the eyes and in profile is neither snipey nor squarely cut. Instead it should curve gradually from nose to throat and enclose teeth closing in a normal scissors bite. The dark hazel eyes should be almond shaped with tight lids showing no haw. The ears are moderately long and wide, set low on the head and well feathered.

Field Spaniel's unhurried gaitField Spaniel's unhurried gait

The neck is long, strong and muscular, the shoulders long and sloping and well laid back, and the legs of moderate length with straight, flat bone ending in feet that are round and tight, but not too small. The chest is deep and well developed, the ribs moderately well sprung, the length of the ribcage being two-thirds of the body length. The back is strong and level and the hindquarters strong and muscular with a moderate turn of stifle.This enables him to have a long, unhurried stride with great drive from the hindquarters. His tail is set low and well feathered, and when undocked, reaches approximately to the hocks.

Field Spaniels at SunriseField Spaniels at Sunrise

However, the unhurried stride evident when the dog is trotting around a show ring looks very different when the dog is running free or working! The Field Spaniel's athleticism is shown here.

His coat is long, flat, dense, weatherproof and silky with abundant feathering on the chest, underbody and behind the legs. His coat should never be curly or wiry, nor come in clear black and white, liver and white, orange, red or golden. However, in self coloured dogs, a small amount of white or roan on chest is permissible.

Comparison Between Cocker, Cocker (American) and Field Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel Cocker Spaniel (American) Field Spaniel
General Appearance Merry sporting dog with equal body measurements from withers to ground as from withers to root its ever-wagging tail. The smallest Gundog with body measurement measurement from the breast bone to back of thigh slightly longer than withers to ground. Noble, upstanding active dog built for working all day in thick undergrowth, or as a docile but independent companion.
Size Dogs around 39-41 cms (15.5-16 ins), Bitches around 38-39 cms (15-15.5 ins), Weight around 13-14.5 kgs (28-32 lbs) Ideal height dogs 38.1 cms (15 ins); Bitches 35.6 cms (14 ins) with an allowable variance of 1.25 cms (&1/2; inch) above or below. Height around 46 cms (18 ins) Weight around 18-25 kg (40-55 lbs).
Cocker Spaniel (Red)Cocker Spaniel (Red) Cocker Spaniel (American)Cocker Spaniel (American) Field Spaniel (Liver)Field Spaniel (Liver)
Colour Solid black, red, golden, liver (chocolate), black and tan or, liver and tan without white except a small spot on chest. Parti-colours black and white, orange and white, liver and white or lemon and white but without ticking. Tri-colours may be black, white and tan or liver, white and tan. Roans may be blue roan, orange roan, or lemon roan or liver roan with tan or blue roan and tan. Solid black or any solid colour other than black with or without with tan points. When parti-coloured or roan one colour must be white with or without tan points with the primary colour not exceeding 90%. If tan points are present, they must be in all the usual tan patterning as enunciated upon in other black and tan coloured breeds. The nose is black, liver or brown according to the coat colour. Black, black and tan, blue roan, blue roan and tan, liver, liver and tan, liver roan, liver roan and tan. Not parti-coloured, that is black and white or liver and white, nor should be ever be orange, red or golden.
Coat Flat, silky in texture but never curly, wiry or wavy, and not profuse. But the forelegs, body and hind legs above hocks should be well feathered. Flat, silky in texture but never curly or cottony, of medium length on the body with undercoat. The ears, chest, abdomen and legs are well feathered not so excessive that this sporting dog's natural outline are impeded. Long, flat, dense, weatherproof and silky but never curly or wavy. There is abundant feathering on the chest, under body and behind the legs.
Skull Skull well developed and cleanly chiselled but cheek bones should not be prominent. The skull is rounded with the eyebrows clearly defined. The distance from the stop to the tip of the nose is one half the distance from the stop up over the crown to the base of the skull. He has a lean head with slightly raised eyebrows and a prominent occiput.
Stop Distinct Pronounced Moderate
Muzzle Square Broad and deep with a full upper lip deep enough to cover the lower jaw Long, lean well chiselled beneath the eyes and in profile is neither snipey nor squarely cut. Instead it should curve gradually from nose to throat.
Cocker Spaniel (Orange Roan)Cocker Spaniel (Orange Roan) Cocker Spaniel (American) Black and TanCocker Spaniel (American) Black and Tan Field Spaniel (Liver)Field Spaniel (Liver)
Eyes Full, but not prominent. Dark brown or brown harmonising with the coat colour, bright and merry with tight rims. Eyes round and full, looking directly forward but the eye rims are  slightly almond shaped. The eyes are dark brown, the darker the better. The dark hazel eyes should be almond shaped with tight lids showing no haw.
Ears Lobular shape and set low level with eyes. The fine leathers should extend to nose tip and be well clothed with long straight silky hair. Lobular, long, fine, and well feathered. They should be set on no higher than a line to the lower part of the eye. Moderately long and wide, set low on the head and well feathered.
Mouth a normal scissors bite a normal scissors bite a normal scissors bite
Neck Moderately long and set neatly into fine sloping shoulders. The throat should be clean, without excessive dewlap. Moderately long with a crest as it tapers to join the head. The throat should be clean without excessive dewlap. Long, strong and muscular
Forequarters The shoulders should be sloping and fine. Although the legs should be straight and well boned they should have sufficient length for the exertions expected from this grand, sporting dog. The shoulders should be at a right angle with the upper arm, be sloping without protrusion at the withers with the elbow directly below. The forelegs are straight, strongly boned and set close to the body with short, strong pasterns. The shoulders long, sloping and well laid back, and the forelegs are of moderate length with straight, flat bone.
Feet Firm, thickly padded and cat-like. Feet large and round with firm, horny pads Round and tight, but not too small
Body Body strong and compact with a well developed chest, deep brisket, well sprung ribs and a short but wide and deep loin. The topline should be level until it reaches the end of the loin. Then it slopes gently to the tail set. The chest is deep and the ribs well sprung for adequate heart room, but not too wide. From the withers, the strong back slopes evenly but slightly downward to the set-on of the tail. The chest is deep and well developed. The ribs are moderately well sprung, the length of the rib cage being two thirds of the total body length. The back and loin level, strong and muscular.
Hindquarters The hind legs should be well boned with a good turn of stifle and short hocks, The hindquarters should look well rounded, wide and very muscular, enabling the dog to move with plenty of drive. The hind legs should have strong bone, moderate turn of stifle and short, strong hocks which must be parallel. The wide hindquarters are well rounded with clearly defined thigh muscles. The joints must be perfectly sound. The hindquarters must be strong and  muscular with moderately bent stifles and short hocks.
Cocker Spaniel (Blue Roan)Cocker Spaniel (Blue Roan) Cocker (American) Black & TanCocker (American) Black & Tan Field SpanielField Spaniel
Tail The tail should be strong at the root, tapering to a fine tip and be well feathered. It is set on and carried slightly lower than line of back and never cocked up. When undocked it should not reach below the hock. But above all, the tail must be merry and in action. The tail should be thicker at the root and taper towards the tip. It is set on in line with the topline but carried slightly higher. It should always have a merry action and be of moderate length when undocked and have feathering consistent with the coat. The tail should be set low and never carried above level of back. It should be nicely feathered and always have a with lively, merry action.
Gait The movement should be straight and true so the dog covers the ground well. A typical sporting dog movement with drive from the powerful hindquarters and forelegs that reach forward in a co-ordinated, smooth and effortless ground covering gait. Long, unhurried stride with great drive from the rear.

References and Further Reading

Also published as Jane Harvey "The Spaniel Separation Saga" in Dog News Australia (Top Dog Media Pty Ltd Austral NSW) Issue 1, 2016 Page 10

[1] Edward C Ash, 'The Cocker Spaniel' published by Cassell and Company, Ltd, London, 1935 Chapter 1 pages 14 - 24.

[2] Colonel R. Claude Cane, 'Cassell's New Book of the Dog' by Robert Leighton assisted by eminent authorities on the various breeds. Published 1907 by The Waverley Book Co Ltd Vol 11, Chapter XXV1 Part 1V Page 288

[3] Catalogue of the First Exhibition of Sporting & Other Dogs, Thursday & Friday April 7 & 8, 1864 promoted by the Council of the Acclimatisation Society, printed in Melbourne by Mason & Firth, Printers, Flinders Lane West Page 6.

[4] Tyzack's Annual' Compiled by T. W.Tyzack and C.S.Turner  Published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club 1912 by Bellamine Bros. Printers, 66-70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Page 91 (Importations) and 46-47 (Stud Book).


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