Faithful Companions

The English Cocker Spaniel, A Brief History of the Breed
The English Cocker Spaniel is generally very similiar in appearance to the other breeds making up the group known as the flushing spaniels. Like the 'pointing' breeds, flushing spaniels are used to seek out gamebirds for a hunter. Their natural tendency is to hunt closely in front of the hunter and upon finding game, flush the bird into the air. They follow the birds progress through the air and retrieve the downed bird to hand. This cluster of breeds consists of the English Springer, Welsh Springer, Field, Clumber, Sussex, American Cocker, and the English Cocker Spaniel. Certainly the American Cocker Spaniel is the most closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel, as these were considered merely varieties of the same breed until shortly after World War II.
English Show CH OboAll Cocker Spaniels, of both American and English heritage, can be traced back in pedigrees through the 1880's to a small (He was reportedly only 10 inches at the withers), solid black, male Cocker Spaniel in the United Kingdom English Show CH. OBO. Chloe II, a bitch in whelp to Obo, was imported to the United States. That subsequent litter contained American CH. Obo II. He and his descendants were subsequently interbred with representatives of the flushing spaniels already in America. This was the start of the American Cocker Spaniel.
Red Brucie, American Cocker SpanielA picture of Red Brucie is shown to the right. Brucie is considered to have been instrumental in developing the modern type American Cocker Spaniel, but is seldom mentioned as having provided any influence on the U. K. branch of the family. Occasionally there has been transfers of Cocker Spaniels from the U.S. to England during the early part of the twentieth century. One of the more notable emigrants to the U.K. being the red female, Merrythought Flare. Through her, most English Cocker Spaniels of today, both solid as well as parti-colored can trace their ancestry to Red Brucie.

Among the more notable American kennel lines of ECS which can be traced directly back to Red Brucie are; Surrey, On Time, and Soho. The most notable U.K. kennel line which can be traced back through Merrythought Flare to the American parti-colored ECS kennels is Lochranza, through Sh. Ch Lochranza Merryleaf Eigar.
CH My Own Brucie, American Cocker Spaniel, BIS Westminster K.C. 1940 & 1941The tastes of the breeders in the two countries, America and the United Kingdom, gradually diverged as to how a proper Cocker Spaniel should appear. Thus the two varieties, English and American, came into being. This difference continued to grow, was acknowledged by the sponsoring breed clubs, and application for separate breed status was put forward. Once both the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of Great Britain granted recognition (ca. 1946) of separate breed status to the two varieties of Cocker Spaniel, interbreeding and registration of the resulting offspring was no longer accepted.
CH Rexpointe Flying Dutchman, American Cocker Spaniel, ca. 1975In the United States and Canada, the breeds became known as the Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel. In almost all other countries of the world, the opposite designation was recognized. The breed as developed in the United Kingdom (the recognized country of origin) retained the name Cocker Spaniel and the breed, as it was developed in North America, became known as the American Cocker Spaniel.

The most apparent physical differences in prime examples of the two breeds today are; the more profuse length and fullness of coat found in the American Cocker Spaniel, and the shorter muzzle length of the ACS (1/3 the length of the skull) compared to the ECS (1/2 the length of the skull).
CH Maidavale Firefly, English Cocker Spaniel, ca. 1980Today, the appearance of the two Cocker Spaniel breeds is quite distinct and show quality individuals from either breed would not be mistakenly identified by any but the most casual observer. Arguably though, the English Cocker Spaniel breed-type has been held closer to the original form and function of a sporting / hunting dog.

According to recent statistics published by the AKC, about 1200 English Cocker Spaniels are registered annually in the United States. The greatest percentage of these are of the parti-colored variety with the solids comprising only about 8 to 12 per cent of the total. Typically about 200 or so English Cocker Spaniels attain championship status in the United States each year.