Working Wednesday: The English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel (ESS) is the most popular of the Spaniel category for working in the field. There was 9837 ESS's registered last year according to the Kennel Club, however their figures are misleading as they fail to distinguish the difference between working strain and show strain of the breed which tend to be very different in personality and looks.

From personal experience, we can see that when on a shoot day Springers are currently the most popular in the field - aside from the working Labrador- outnumbering any other breed of spaniel, however the number of Cockers is rapidly on the rise and seems it wont be long until they are the dominant spaniel in the field.

English Springer Spaniel Fun Facts:

  • They have 4 registration colours with the KC! Including the most popular liver and white, black and white, black white and tan & liver white and tan.

  • They are named after their hunting style of 'springing' to flush game.

  • They used to be the same breed as a Cocker and were only seperated in the 20th century.

  • Show and working strains are very different types of Springers.

  • They consistently rank in the top 3 most popular registered dog breeds in the UK.

  • Most spaniels have a great retrieving urge and love to carry things in their mouth, from game to sticks.

Breed History:

The Spaniel is thought to date back to the year 17 A.D where there was a reference to a Spaniel in the Irish Laws that had been given to the King as a tribute. There is no 100% certainty the real origin of the breed as a conclusion is that they came from Spain and were brought to the UK by Roman traders.

In the late 14th Century, Gaston De Foix wrote an immortal hunting classic 'Livre De Chasse' - which in this he describes hunting dogs quartering in front of their master, flushing and retrieving from land and water...much like the behaviour we see in the English Springer Spaniel we see today.

By the late 16th century, there was a strong distinction between Land Spaniels and Water Spaniels. By the 17th century, the Land Spaniel is thought to have been divided into the 'crouching spaniel' (now known as the Brittany), and the Springing Spaniel which later sub-divided into two sizes, the smaller of the two being called the Cocking Spaniel (now known as the Cocker).

By 1812, a pure strain of ESS's was started, 'Mop1' bred by the Boughey family in Shropshire was the first true Springer type. For over a century the Boughey strain was continued and was kept successive, in 1903 (1 year after the Kennel Club first recognised the breed), Sir Thomas Boughey bred FTCH Velox Powder, winner of 20 FT stakes and who's pedigree goes back to the aqualate stud book from 'Mop1'.

What type of work do they do?

English Springer Spaniels do all types of work. They compete in Field Trials, Scurry's, working tests or just make great shooting companions picking up, sitting on the peg or beating. They can retrieve to hand with a soft mouth so they do not damage their quarry they are carrying, quarter (a certain style of hunting in a 'zig zag' like pattern), scenting, flushing, sitting, follow hand signals, and be steady around gunshot and game.

The working strain can also make great detection dogs used by the Forces. In the army they can be used for bomb detection, in the Police they can be used for drug/money detection in locations such as vehicles, luggage, mail packages, on people, and in residences and businesses.

One notable ESS is PD Brewster for Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Dog Unit who is the longest serving drug, cash and weapons dog. He was just a sniff away to serving 11 years on the line with his owner and companion PC Dave Pert and retired at 13 years of age.

Head of the BCH Dog Unit, Inspector Mark Farrant, said: "Brewster has truly been an outstanding asset not only to our team but to numerous officers across the three counties. "His super nose has undoubtedly contributed to the arrest and prosecution of a large number of people. His acute sense of smell has led to the seizure of drugs and cash during warrants and operations, saving a lot of time and resources in the process.

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