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Boykin Spaniel Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Boykin Spaniel Club & Breeders Association of America

Native Country
United States Of America

Other Names

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-14 Years

Litter Size
Average 5-7 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

The Boykin Spaniel has a Spaniel type head. The tail is docked. The waterproof coat is rather wavy or curly, but a smooth coat is acceptable (hunters care more about the dogs hunting abilities than its coat type). Color- Liver or Brown. The Boykin is larger than the Cocker Spaniel, with a smaller higher set ears that are covered with long wavy hair. He has considerably less hair and a straighter muzzle.

Breed Standard

Head: The head must be in proportion with the size of the dog. The Boykin’s Expression is alert, self-confident, attractive and intelligent. The Lips are close fitting and clean, without excess skin or flews. The Bite should be scissors or level but scissors is preferred.
Ears: The Bokyin Spaniels’ Ears are set slightly above or even with the line of the eye. The leather of the ear is thin and when pulled forward should almost reach the tip of the nose. The ears hang close to the cheeks and are flat.
Nose: His Nose is to be fully pigmented, dark liver in color with well opened nostrils.
Body: Forequarters - The Boykin Spaniels’ shoulders are sloping, clean and muscular. His legs medium in length, straight and well boned but not too short as to handicap for field work or so heavy as too appear clumsy. The pasterns strong with no suggestions of weakness. The toes closely grouped, webbed and well padded. The feet are round, compact, well-arched, of medium size with thick pads.
Hindquarters - The Boykin Spaniel has well developed hips and thighs with the whole rear assembly showing strength and drive. The hock joint slightly rounded, should not be small or sharp in contour, moderately angulated. Legs from hock joint to foot pad moderate in length, strong and straight with good bone structure. His hocks are parallel.
Tail: Tail is docked to a length of 3-5 inches when fully mature. The tails carriage should be carried horizontally or slightly elevated and displays a characteristic lively, merry action, particularly when the dog is on game.
Hair: Close-lying, dense, glossy, and soft.
Coat: The Boykin Spaniel has both an undercoat and an outer coat. The coat can range from flat to slightly wavy, with medium length, on the outer coat. The undercoat is short, and dense. The ears, chest, legs and belly are equipped with light fringe or feathering. The Boykin Spaniel color is solid - rich liver, brown or dark chocolate. A small amount of white on chest or toes is permitted.


A brown spaniel-type dog was found outside a church in Spartanburg after service by Mr. Alexander Lawrence White (1860-1942) sometime between 1905-1910. The dog was named "Dumpy", but showed some aptitude for hunting. Mr. White took the dog to his friend, Mr. Lemuel Whitaker "Whit" Boykin (1861-1932) for training.

Whit Boykin lived in the the Wateree River basin located in the midlands of South Carolina. The post-Civil War economy lead well-to-do Northerners to make the Camden area their winter home. Whit Boykin provided dogs to the vacationers to hunt the Wateree swamp areas using "section boats". Dumpy filled a roll sought after; he was an excellent hunting dog in a size smaller than the current retrievers that were available at that time. Thus the Boykin Spaniel became known as the breed that wouldn't "rock the boat". Whit Boykin bred Dumpy with a female dog described as a small curly, reddish-brown spaniel-type found in an unclaimed crate at the Camden railroad station. Whit named the female "Singo" and thus the Boykin Spaniel breed was created. Speculation on this female's breed has continued to this day; it is reasonable to believe she was a hunting breed since shipping dogs to this area of the country would be limited.

Later other hunters would breed their 'Boykins' to different gun dogs, including Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Brittany, several Spaniel breeds, Pointers, and Setters as well as reports of dogs further removed from the hunting gene pool such as Miniature Poodles.

About 6 decades after Dumpy was first found in Spartanburg a breed registry was formed. Their mission was to document the breed in a registry to encourage breeding of purebred Boykins, and ultimately obtain national recognition in a recognized organization such as UKC and AKC.

The Boykin registry applied to the AKC for recognition in the early years of formation but were unsuccessful and on further attempts to become recognized they decided to abandon the project. In the late 1990's, a group of people who still desired AKC recognition formed the Boykin Spaniel Club & Breeders Assoc. of America.

In July 2005, the club was named the Official AKC Parent Club of the Boykin Spaniel. Although they remained an AKC FSS breed at that time, the AKC felt the club had made progress to the point of allowing them to begin participating in AKC events. In January 2006, the breed was allowed to participate and earn titled in AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests. In July 2006, they became eligible to compete in AKC agility, obedience, rally and tracking.


The typical Boykin is friendly, a willing worker, intelligent and easy to train. They have a high drive, very willing, intensely energetic dog that needs adequate exercise and a job to do daily to burn off energy and exercise their very nimble mind. They will find ways to entertain themselves if not provided by their owner and can be very destructive when bored. The Boykin Spaniel thrives on human companionship and gets along well with other dogs and children. He shows great eagerness and energy for the hunt yet controllable in the field.

He requires brushing every few days to avoid coat matting.


The Boykin Spaniel is a versatile hunter, working as a retriever and upland hunter, flushing birds into flight. Pointing is not in character with the Boykin's hunting style, but many confuse the inherent characteristic of a "hesitant flush" with pointing. Of the six or eight different breeds used to create the current breed, three are pointing breeds for this reason. The field Boykin spaniel wants to be 100% precise when she flushes her bird, and as a dutiful partner she knows to wait until her hunter is positioned for the shot. Their stamina in hot weather and eagerness make them good for dove hunts, but also for pheasant and other upland game. They can be used in driving deer or in tracking wounded game. Their small size makes them easy to carry in a canoe or other small boat, and they are described as "the dog that doesn't rock the boat." However, an unacceptably high percentage of Boykin spaniels are not able to internally produce the proteins necessary to keep their muscles working during sustained work in warm temperatures, and can be fatal. As of 2017, Exercise Induced Collapse syndrome appears in about 10% of all Boykin spaniels due to inattentive breeding practices. Screening for the presence of the gene which causes EIC is done by simple DNA sample collection and analysis. Prospective buyers of Boykin spaniel puppies are advised to obtain verified proof of DNA testing from all breeders before buying.


According to statistics developed and maintained by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) since 1985, adult Boykin Spaniels have an alarmingly high incidence rate (30%) of hip dysplasia, although the rate is declining in the past 7 years due to the emphasis placed by the Boykin Spaniel Foundation. Canine hip dysplasia is considered by scientists to be both hereditary and acquired (due to diet, too strenuous exercise, and spay/neuter status.)

The breed also has a susceptibility toward inherited heart disease, eye disease and patellar luxation. Skin and coat problems do exist and may be linked to allergic, thyroid or endocrine disorders. Elbow dysplasia, Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism are known in the breed.

In early 2010, exercise-induced collapse was positively identified in the breed by the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory. In 2013, the Boykin Spaniel Foundation in conjunction with Cornell University's Optigen laboratory did a random sampling of 180+ adult Boykin spaniels for Collie Eye Anomaly, an inherited disease of the eye which causes malformation of eye components and impaired vision, including partial-to-full blindness. A year later, the Boykin Spaniel Foundation did another 180-dog random sample for degenerative myelopathy, another inheritable disease which causes adult dogs to develop gradual, fatal deterioration of the spinal cord and results in death when the afflicted dogs are middle aged. DNA testing of these three autosomal recessive diseases can absolutely identify genetic carriers (one copy of the gene) and at-risk (two copies of the gene) individuals.

Before being used for breeding, dogs should be tested for hip dysplasia, hereditary eye disease, heart/cardiac abnormalities (specifically pulmonary stenosis), hereditary patellar luxation, hereditary exercise-induced collapse, degenerative myelopathy, and Collie Eye Anomaly. Eye examinations should be done annually.

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