There are many spaniel breeds, but some dog breeds have the word ‘spaniel’ in their name even though they are not technically spaniel dogs. So what constitutes a spaniel, have we been getting it wrong for many years, and are Cavalier King Charles dogs actually spaniels?
There are 24 different spaniel types worldwide, and the Cavalier King Charles is most definitely one of them. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are one of the smallest breeds of spaniel and originated from England. These toy dogs are considered to be the most popular breed in the United States and the United Kingdom.
So how do we know if a spaniel is in fact that, and not just had the word spaniel inserted into their name? Since researching this, I’ve discovered that there are certain characteristics of a dog breed that makes them a spaniel.
Most spaniels are medium-sized, and they have curly fur on their drooping ears. Spaniels are well known for their affection, obedience, intelligence, and loyalty.
Spaniels were traditionally bred to assist humans with hunting, as they are excellent at flushing out game birds from their hiding places in the long grass, and water birds out of reeds in ponds. Cavaliers and all spaniels love to play in the water, and this is where their love of the water comes from.
Spaniels are still used for hunting nowadays, however, the majority of people have them as family pets, due to their lovable nature.
24 Types of Spaniel
As stated earlier, there are 24 different types of spaniel:
- American Cocker Spaniel
- American Water Spaniel
- Blue Picardy Spaniel
- Boykin Spaniel
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Clumber Spaniel
- Dutch Partridge Spaniel
- Dutch Spaniel
- Dutch Tulip Hound
- English Cocker Spaniel
- English Springer Spaniel
- Field Spaniel
- French Spaniel
- German Spaniel
- Irish Water Spaniel
- King Charles Spaniel
- Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)
- Picardy Spaniel
- Pont-Audemer Spaniel
- Russian Spaniel
- Sussex Spaniel
- Welsh Springer Spaniel
American Cocker Spaniel
Happy and outgoing, the American Cocker Spaniel loves to be around humans. They are very clever dogs when it comes to hunting activities, but lack intelligence with anything other than hunting.
American Water Spaniel
A rare curly-haired Spaniel bred in Wisconsin specifically to assist with hunting on both land and water. Their curly fur keeps them warm in extremely low temperatures.
Blue Picardy Spaniel
A high-energy hunting dog that is mainly found in Canada and France, like most spaniels they love family life, but needs lots of exercise. Called the Blue Picardy due to the bluish ting to their coat.
Boykins are the state dog of South Carolina and therefore love warmer climates. They have webbed toes, and so are excellent hunters and retrievers on both land and water.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Our beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is also a hunting dog, but mainly a companion dog these days. They love human interaction and being around children and other animals. Often known as comfort dogs, and with such a kind and gentle temperament, they are used as therapy dogs.
You can read more about this in my other post about the temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The gentle giant Clumber Spaniel is the largest of all spaniels but has a kind and loving nature. Their coat is almost all white, apart from a few flecks of orangy/yellow markings here and there.
Dutch Partridge Spaniel
Their correct name is Drentse Patrijshond, and are all-rounder dogs. They are retrievers, hunters, and pointers, and will fiercely guard their families due to the unbreakable bond they create with humans.
Their correct name is the Kooikerhondje, and was originally bred to catch mice, rats, and other farmland pests. Excellent working dogs, and so are often used in rescue missions by the emergency services.
Dutch Tulip Hound
Their correct name is the Markiesje, and is only currently recognized as a spaniel in the Dutch Kennel Club. They are very small dogs, and so are wrongly interpreted as lap dogs, but they love to run around, so they need plenty of space to run.
English Cocker Spaniel
Like the American Cocker Spaniel they love to be around humans and human families, but they are larger in size and have slightly a larger muzzle.
English Springer Spaniel
Springer Spaniels are born hunters and retrievers and got their name due to the way they spring upon their prey. They need lots of daily exercise and are very intelligent dogs.
Originally bred as a show dog the Field Spaniel has a long coat and a short body so didn’t cope in the long grass whilst hunting. So breeders developed them to have longer legs.
This breed only has one coat, so doesn’t possess an undercoat, unlike the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. You can read more about the two coats that Cavaliers and other breeds have in another of my posts, A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Haircut: Before and After
The French Spaniel is known as the Epagneul Franais in French. Intelligence, enthusiasm, and the willingness to work hard are all top attributes of the French Spaniel.
Known in Germany as the Deutscher Wachtelhund, they have a thick wavy coat that protects them from the thick foliage when hunting for quail, rabbits, foxes, and even wild boar.
Irish Water Spaniel
Due to their smooth tail, the Irish Water Spaniel is also known as the Whiptail or the Rat Tail Spaniel. They have a thick curly coat that repels water, and so are excellent for hunting water birds.
King Charles Spaniel
Often confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the King Charles Spaniel became popular with Royalty in the late 17th Century due to cross-breeding the Cavalier and the Pug when it was introduced into Britain.
As a result, the King Charles Cavalier has a more dome-shaped head, and a shorter muzzle. You can read more about the history of both breeds in my article entitled Where Do Cavaliers Originally Come From?
Papillon is the French word for butterfly and was called this due to their upright butterfly-shaped ears. Most people are shocked to discover that they are actually a spaniel due to their ear shape, but due to selective breeding, the classic drooping spaniel ears were gradually replaced with the Papillon-shaped ears.
The Phalène is very closely related to the Papillon, with the main difference being the ears. Phalènes have ears that hang to the side instead of upright ears like the Papillon.
The Picardy Spaniel is very similar to the Blue Picardy Spaniel, with the main difference being the color of their coat. They generally have a brown coat with white or grey markings. The Picardy Spaniel is the oldest of the two breeds.
The Pont-Audemer Spaniel originates from France and has been bred from the Picardy and Irish Water Spaniel. They have a long wavy coat all over their body, but their face is smooth. Excellent hunting dogs on both land and water, and love their human companions.
The Russian Spaniel is similar to the Cocker Spaniel but is not currently recognized by the American Kennel Club. Another hunting dog, but this spaniel is particularly good at tracking prey with its fantastic sense of smell.
The Russian Spaniel suffers greatly from food allergies, and so has to stick to a strict diet.
Also known as the Frisian Pointer, the Stabyhoun has smaller ears with less fur than a traditional spaniel. These very rare dogs are highly intelligent and are also very sensitive, so you need to be calm and gentle, with lots of positive reinforcement when training them.
Similar to the Clumber Spaniel, the Sussex Spaniel has short legs and a compact body. Although not particularly fast, they have a continuous steady work pace and are excellent for working on hilly land.
Welsh Springer Spaniel
Also known as Welshies, the Welsh Springer Spaniel is very similar to the Springer Spaniel, as they too spring upon their prey.
With webbed feet and a water-resistant coat, they are excellent for hunting birds on both land and water.
There are a few dogs that have been labeled as spaniels due to their looks being very similar to that of a spaniel. However, they do not possess the specific traits of a spaniel.
Also known as the Japanese Spaniel these dogs look very similar to the King Charles Spaniel, with its domed head and flat muzzle.
Also known as the Chinese Spaniel these too have a domed head and a short muzzle, but their coat is long and straight that touches the floor, which gives the illusion of them hovering when they walk.
The Tibetan Spaniel is very affectionate and sensitive and craves human companionship. Without constant attention, they have the tendency to bark until they get the attention they crave.
Unfortunately, not all breeds of spaniel survive the test of time due to war, famine, or even severe health reasons from incorrect breeding habits. Here is a list of extinct spaniels:
- Alpine Spaniel – originally from Switzerland, became extinct in the 1830s
- English Water Spaniel – originally from England, became extinct in the 1930s
- Norfolk Spaniel – originally from England, became extinct in 1902
- Toy Trawler Spaniel – originally from the UK, became extinct in the 1920s
- Tweed Water Spaniel – originally from England, became extinct in the 19th Century
My Final Thought
The majority of spaniels have specific traits, such as pendulum ears with curly fur on them, and almost all spaniels were originally bred to assist with hunting. The one thing that all spaniels do happen to have in common though is the fact that they love their human companions, as we love them.