Breed History


by Elaine E. Mathis

DogDoom 1917
Donated to ASC Archives by Carol Rutherford
Spaniels in America can be traced back to 1620 and the landing of the Mayflower. This vessel carried two dogs on her voyage to New England, a Mastiff and a Spaniel. However, it is impossible to trace the ancestry of the blooded dogs of today to these two dogs since pedigrees and stud books were not available prior to the early nineteenth century.

In those early days, the Spaniels were divided into two varieties, land and the water spaniels, and from those early specimens have sprung the many varieties of spaniels we have today, including the toys. After that, the terms Springer, Springing Spaniel, Cocker, Cocking Spaniel, Field, English Type, etc. seem to have applied to Spaniels of all sizes and the division we have today in the Spaniel family developed from that period. Another bit of history was that since the spaniels all derived from the same bloodlines and litters, the top weight limit of 28 lbs. was the dividing line between the cocker spaniel and the field spaniel, for the ones over 28 lbs. were adjudged a field spaniel. The term "Cocker" was given to the smallest, more compact of this family and it came about because they were being used for woodcock shooting.

Cocker registrations can be traced to 1879. The first Cocker strain to become well known and to make definite strides toward the Cocker's recognition as a separate and distinct breed in England, was the "Obo" kennel of Mr. James Farrow. The National American Kennel Club (now the present American Kennel Club) published their first stud book in St. Louis Missouri. The very first Cocker registered was a liver and white named Captain and assigned No. 1354. The first black and tan registered was Jockey, No. 1365. Not until Volume 2 was published in 1885 did a black cocker make his appearance. This was registered as Brush II, No. 3124 and was imported by Commings Cocker Spaniel Kennel of Asworth, New Hampshire.

It was about this time that the founders of the American Spaniel Club were becoming actively interested in the dog that characterized as a Cocker, but not yet recognized as an entirely separate breed of Sporting Spaniel.

The American Spaniel Club is the parent club of the Cocker Spaniel and was established in 1881. When the American Spaniel Club joined the American Kennel Club, which the American Spaniel Club antedated by several years, it was accepted and thereafter recognized as the parent club of sporting spaniels, a role and responsibility it assumed.

The American Kennel Club recognized the separation of the "cocker" breed in September 1946, but it was not until January 1947 that breed registration appeared in the stud book under their own heading.

With time the popularity of the Cocker Spaniel increased by leaps and bounds, and sporting spaniels of other breeds becoming better known, spaniels rapidly grew in favor. With the increase in the number of breeders of Cocker Spaniels and of other breeds of sporting spaniels, the American Spaniel Club recognized its inability to do full and equal justice to all of them. The English Springer Spaniel was the first to crowd the parent club's nest, and this emphasized the propriety of the American Spaniel Club surrendering and transferring its jurisdiction over English Springer Spaniels to a new club organization qualified to assume the responsibility of parenthood for the English Springer Spaniel. Through the good offices of the American Kennel Club, this happy result was brought about, and by mutual consent the English Springer Spaniel passed to the jurisdiction of the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association, Incorporated. The popularity of the Cocker Spaniel ever increasing, coupled with the introduction and winning favor of the English Type of Cocker Spaniel, again invited a change in the rules governing Sporting Spaniels. Once more, through the sympathetic understanding and appreciation of conditions by the American Kennel Club, the English Cocker Spaniel was recognized as a distinct type of Cocker Spaniel, separate classes were set up for it, and in due time it was deservedly admitted to the Sporting Group. Negotiations were opened with the American Kennel Club to affect a transfer of jurisdiction over all breeds of sporting spaniels other than Cocker Spaniels to clubs to be organized as parent clubs dedicated to the furtherance of these several breeds of sporting spaniels. The American Kennel Club approving and consenting this was brought about, the American Spaniel Club retaining its right without consultation or permission of any Specialty Club to offer classes for all breeds of sporting spaniels at its American Spaniel Club Specialty Show.

The American Spaniel Club stands out today, of all the specialty clubs in this country, and perhaps including the Old World as well, the first and original club devoted to one breed of dogs, with steady devotion to the sporting spaniel.

The popularity of the Sporting Spaniel is established for all time, and the smallest, the Cocker Spaniel, inherent desire to hunt renders him a capable gun dog when judiciously trained. The usual method of hunting is to let him quarter the ground ahead of the gun, covering all territory within gun range. This he should do at a fast, snappy pace. Upon flushing the game he should stop or preferable drop to a sitting position so as not to interfere with the shot, after which he should retrieve on command only. He should of course, be so trained that he will be under control at all times. He is likewise valuable for occasional water retrieving and as a rule takes to water readily.

The breed is excellent in Breed, Obedience and Field work, with many having dual and triple titles. As a pet and companion his popularity has been exceptional. He is a great lover of home and family, trustworthy and adaptable.

Complete Dog Book - American Kennel Club
American Spaniel Club Annual Reports
Cocker Spaniel - Ruth Kraeuchi

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The job of the president of a volunteer organization has often been described as that of a CEO – that is, Chief Engagement Officer.  That description resonates with me because it speaks to one of the main aspirations I have for me and the other members of the ASC Board for the short two-year time I hold the office of President.  The goals I have revolve around three words:  Engage, Inform and Inspire. 

I recently attended a retreat for another volunteer organization that I am involved with and the board of directors was asked to describe, in one word, what being engaged in an organization meant.  There were as many descriptive words as there were people answering the question: committed, focus, involvement, time, money, passionate, exchange, reward, courage, relationships, fun, enrichment, purpose, team and comradery.  But the discussion that came from the listing of these words revealed that the success of an organization and the benefit of having people engaged are the synergies that come from people working together, i.e, meaning that a group working together can do much more than one or two people working on their own. This working together is what has made ASC successful for more than one hundred years and the prestigious parent club that it is.

It is no secret that the purebred dog world has dramatically changed in the last ten to twenty years and that it is under constant attack from outside forces.  In a recent article in the New York Times, the CEO of AT&T noted that one must adapt, or else.  ASC is no different.   Last fall on the ASC Yahoo list, former ASC President Charlie Born stated that ASC needed to embark on a three to five year strategic plan to address the many challenges it was facing and, in response, one of the first action items the new ASC Board undertook was to appoint a 13-member strategic planning committee to commence that task.  The committee is made up of members from every facet of ASC.  Last month, the strategic planning committee met in Dallas for a productive and thought provoking two days with a making of a proposed plan for ASC.  The strategic planning document from the planning session is in the process of being prepared and will be rolled out at the Town Hall Meeting in July at the National Specialty.  

As a result of spending two days with this dedicated and engaged committee of ASC members I witnessed what we can create and accomplish together.  There is no quick fix.  The strategic plan cannot and will not be accomplished by the work of only the strategic planning committee or the ASC Board -- it will take all of us coming together to achieve success.  We must work together in order for ASC to adapt to the “new normal” and for ASC to continue its relevance.  I hope and think you will be as excited and encouraged as I am about the strategic plan, and I look forward to all of us being engaged and working together for the betterment of ASC.

I am always open to hearing your thoughts, so email me anytime at

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