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Welsh Cocker Spaniel Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Welsh Spaniel Spaniel Club of America

Native Country
Great Britain

Other Names
Welsh Springer Spaniel, Welsh Spaniel, Welsh Springer, Welsh Starter

Life Expectancy
Approximately 12-14 Years

Litter Size
Average 6-8 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

He is a compact, medium-sized, working dog. The slightly rounded head is in proportion to the body with a slightly domed skull. The fairly square muzzle is about as long as the skull. The nose is either black or any shade of brown with well-open nostrils. The teeth meet in a scissors or level bite. The oval-shaped eyes are dark to medium brown in color. The long ears are set at eye level, hanging close to the cheeks and fringed with hair. The tail is usually docked and is set at the topline and carried horizontally. Note: docking tails is illegal in most parts of Europe. The soft, flat, straight or wavy coat is medium in length with feathering on the back of the legs, chest and belly, with lighter feathering on the ears and tail. Coat colors come in red and white in any pattern, sometimes with ticking. They are a working dog, bred for hunting, and while not as rare as some varieties of spaniel, they are rarer than the more widely known English Springer Spaniel with which they are sometimes confused.

Breed Standard

Head: Well-chiseled, fairly long. Slightly domed skull. Pronounced stop. Muzzle of medium length, straight, fairly angular. Brown or dark brown nose. Strong jaws.
Ears: Set on fairly low, hanging close to cheeks.
Eyes: Medium-sized, hazel or dark in color.
Body: Strong, not long. Neck long, muscular, without dewlap. Well-sprung ribs. Short back. Muscular, slightly clean-flanked loin.
Tail: Set on low, never carried above the topline. Usually docked.
Hair: Straight and flat, silky, dense, never hard or wavy. Light feathering on the legs, ears, and tail.
Coat: Bright red and white. No other colors allowed.
Size: Dog: approx. 48 cm (19 in). Bitch: approx. 46 cm (18 in).
Weight: 17 to 20 kg (37.5-44 lb).


The origin of the Welsh Springer Spaniel is unknown, however dogs resembling the breed with its distinctive red and white coat are frequently depicted in old pictures and prints. This type of dog was known as the Land Spaniel, and is considered to be similar to the modern Welsh Springer.[2] John Caius, writing in 1570, said "Spaniels whose skynnes are white and if marked with any spottes they are commonly red". It is thought that these Spaniels may have made their way into the Welsh valleys where local sportsman and hunters managed to conserve them in a pure state.

At one time called the Welsh Starter, it was used to spring game, originally for hunters using falcons. The traditional red and white colour of the Welsh Springer was once also found in English dogs, but by the early 20th century any such dogs were considered to have "died out long ago".

The Welsh Springer Spaniel was also at one time called the Welsh Spaniel, and also at one point was included in the Kennel Club (UK) studbook as Cocker Spaniels, and was known as the Welsh Cocker. During the 19th century were several different varieties of Cocker Spaniel, including the English, the Welsh and the Devonshire as the term was used to describe the size of the dog rather than the breed. Unusually, in John George Wood's 1865 book The Illustrated Natural History, an image is described showing a Welsh Cocker Spaniel as a solid coloured dark spaniel. The same inscription is used in the 1867 work The Dog in Health and Disease by Stonehenge and he further describes the Welsh Cocker and the Devonshire Cocker as "both being of a deep-liver colour". The Welsh Springer was relatively unknown during the 19th Century, but this changed in 1900 when Mr. A. T. Williams of Ynis-y-Gerwn won the team stake at the Sporting Spaniel Club Trials. The trials were held on Mr. Williams' own estate, and it was thought that when his team defeated eight well known teams it was because of the home advantage. This was disproved when dogs from the same kennel went on to win in successive years around the UK. His conformation show champion dog Corrin was the first Welsh Springer Spaniel to be photographed.

Welsh Springers were recognized by The Kennel Club, after the breed had gained popularity, in 1902 under the new name of Welsh Springer Spaniel. Until then the breed was shown alongside the English Springer Spaniel. The Welsh Springer Spaniel was transported to America in the late 19th century and gained recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1906.

World War I caused problems for the breed in the United Kingdom, and when the war was over there were no dogs whose parents had registered pedigrees. The breed restarted with the remaining unregistered dogs, and it is these dogs that formed the modern day breed. The breeders in the 1920s and 1930s developed these dogs into the type of Welsh Springer Spaniel which remains today. The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club (UK) was formed in 1923, registrations slowly increased between the wars but all records held by the breed club were destroyed in an air raid during World War II. Following the two World Wars, it was thought that no Welsh Springers remained in the United States. The breed was reintroduced, and the descendants of those dogs make up the breed today in the United States and Canada. The breed was officially imported into Australia in 1973.

In 2000, The Kennel Club registered 424 Welsh Springer Spaniels, compared with 12,599 English Springer Spaniels and 13,445 English Cocker Spaniels. Numbers remained steady, with 420 Welsh Springer Spaniels being registered in 2004, however numbers of English Springer Spaniels increased to 14,765 and English Cocker Spaniels to 16,608. Numbers remain closer to the American Cocker Spaniel which registered 610 in 2000, and 599 in 2004. The breed remains more popular than some other breeds of Spaniel, including the Clumber Spaniel, Field Spaniel, Sussex Spaniel and Irish Water Spaniel. Total registrations in the UK during 2016 fell to 299 qualifying it to be included on The Kennel Club's list of Vulnerable Native Breeds.


The Welsh Springer Spaniel is active, loyal, and affectionate. They may meet strangers barking when in their territory, or act aloof, cautious or wary. The breed is well known for being friendly and demonstrative to all members of the family, especially children, and accepting other pets of the household with a friendly, playful attitude.

The breed is quick to learn but can be headstrong, though with correct training can become very obedient. The Welsh Springer was bred for work and endurance, and as with many breeds of hunting dogs requires a regular exercise routine to keep them healthy and content. Without adequate exercise, a Welsh Springer Spaniel may appear hyperactive. Some Welsh Springers can become clingy towards their owners and suffer separation anxiety when alone.


Hunting Dog, pet.


The Welsh Springer is generally a healthy breed, but some can suffer conditions common to many breeds such as hip dysplasia, Canine glaucoma and like other dogs with pendulous ears, they are prone to ear infections such as otitis externa. Some Welsh Springer Spaniels are predisposed to become overweight. In a survey of over a hundred breeds of dog conducted in 1997, the Welsh Springer Spaniel was ranked 14th for worst hip score, with the average score of the breed being 18.45. The average lifespan is 12 to 15 years.

Eye disorders
Welsh Springers can be prone to entropion, which is a disorder that affects the eyelids. The condition causes them to curl inwards, pressing the eyelashes against the surface of the eye itself and causing them to scratch it. This can lead to irritation and damage to the cornea. In most cases it only affects the lower eyelid on one or both eyes, but in some cases the upper eyelid can be affected as well. Symptoms can include tearing, squinting, the rubbing of the eyes, thick discharge from the eyes and rolling of the eyelid along with wetness on the hairs next to the eyelids. There is no medical treatment for entropion, and surgical correction may be necessary depending on the severity of the case. This condition may be present soon after birth, or later in life as a secondary condition to other eye related diseases or infections. Other breeds also affected by the condition include the Chow Chow, Great Dane, Golden Retriever and the English Springer Spaniel.

Narrow/closed angle glaucoma is an autosomal dominant inheritable trait in the breed. It is a leading cause of blindness in dogs, and is where there is increased fluid pressure within the eye. If the fluid is not reduced, the pressure causes permanent damage to the retina and optic nerve. Loss of eyesight can happen as quickly as within 24 hours if the pressure if elevated enough, or slowly over time if it is only a mild elevation. The sudden, rapid elevation of pressure is more common with narrow/closed angle glaucoma which is more common to the breed than the slower open angle glaucoma. Symptoms can include redness in the eye, the eye itself looking cloudy, sensitivity to light and the dog may rub at their eye, or even rub it along other objects and carpet as the condition is moderate to extremely painful. Treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition but if inherited glaucoma appears in one eye then it usually occurs in the other eye eventually.

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