Types of Cocker Spaniels
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Despite being one of the best known dog breeds in the world, not many people are aware there are different types of Cocker Spaniel breeds. Originating from the Iberian Peninsula, this breed has been spread all over the world and its wide geography has resulted in different lines. While there are many Cocker Spaniel mixes, only the English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel are officially recognized. Learn more about these different types of Cocker Spaniel with our AnimalWised English vs. American Cocker Spaniel breed comparison.
Cocker Spaniel characteristics
Although there are different types of Cocker Spaniels, there are very important characteristics they all share. The origin of this type of Spaniel breed lies in the 14th century. They were originally bred in Spain to accompany hunters and retrieve birds and other game. Originally known as ‘spaynels’ in their country of origin, they derived the name ‘cocker’ from their prevalent use in hunting woodcocks.
What these different types of Cocker Spaniel share is their sweet and friendly temperament. Some can think of them as being sullen, but this is a false reputation. They are lively, cheerful and incredibly intelligent. They are medium in size and weigh an average of 11-12 kg (24-26 lb). They have a compact and developed musculature, with a height of around 36-38 cm (14-15") at the withers.
How many types of Cocker Spaniels are there?
As we stated in the introduction, the Cocker Spaniel has developed over time. Today, there are two types of Cocker Spaniels that constitute two completely different dog breeds:
- English Cocker Spaniel
- American Cocker Spaniel
Although they share the above common characteristics, each breed has their own distinguishing features. We find out more in the sections below.
English cocker spaniel
As we know, the first Cocker Spaniels were raised in Spain as highly prized hunting dogs. When these dogs arrived in England, the breed adapted to local requirements in terms of hunting and other work. This gave rise to what we know today as the English Cocker Spaniel.
An English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized dog, with a height at the withers of between 38 and 43 cm (15-17") and a weight between 12 and 16 kg (26.5-35 lb). The body is slender with very elegant and elongated lines. Within the English Cocker Spaniel breed type, a distinction is made between exhibition dogs and hunting dogs, as we will see later.
american cocker spaniel
The American Cocker Spaniel is similar to the English Cocker Spaniel, varying mainly in size. They range from 34-39 cm (13-15") in height and weigh between 12 and 13.5 kg (26.5-30 lb). As these measurements suggest, the American Cocker Spaniel is smaller than their English relative. However, both are larger than the original Cocker Spaniel from which the two current types of Cocker Spaniel descend.
The body of these dogs has more rounded shapes, with a square muzzle and a more compact body than the English Cocker. The American Cocker also has show and working sub-varieties, as shown below.
Show Cocker Spaniel vs. working Cocker Spaniel
With both the English and American Cockers, we can find two types of Cocker Spaniel:
- Show Cocker Spaniel: thew main difference between working and show Cockers is appearance. In show dogs, the crosses which took place in breeding were carried out to encourage particular aesthetic traits. These were to best ensure specimens adhered to the breed standard. For this reason, show Cocker Spaniels have a longer and thicker coat which requires more attention to maintain quality and avoid tangles.
- Working Cocker Spaniel: for working dogs, not only were crosses made to encourage working ability, but their physical attributes needed to be more practical. For this reason, their coat is shorter and less dense. They are generally more energetic and require greater amounts of exercise. If they do not receive sufficient opportunity to exercise they can become nervous and develop behavioral problems.
The differences between working and show dogs are both aesthetic and temperamental. If you are choosing to adopt one over the other, it is important you are able to meet the dog's needs and have a lifestyle which is compatible with them.
Regardless whether you adopt a show or working strain of the breed, you will need to know how to look after an English Cocker Spaniel's coat.
English vs. American Cocker Spaniels
As we have seen in this article, there are currently two types of cocker spaniel, the English and the American. In order to be able to distinguish one from the other, the best course of action is to measure their physical attributes. Specifically, we can look at the weight and height of each dog. American Cocker Spaniels are larger than English Cocker Spaniels. We must ensure we measure the dogs when they are either fully matured or of the same age.
We can also tell the difference between American vs. English Cocker Spaniels by body shape. English Cocker Spaniels are more stylized and elegant, whereas American Cocker Spaniels tend to have a more compact body shape.
Facial features can also help us to determine the difference between these types of Cocker Spaniels. The English Cocker Spaniel has a long snout, while the snout of American Cocker Spaniels tends to be a little flatter. The latter also have a more pronounced forehead. For example, if we see a Cocker Spaniel with a small snout and rounded body shape, it is most likely an American type Cocker Spaniel.
An aspect that is not usually useful when it comes to differentiating English vs. American Cocker Spaniels is the coat. We can use the coat to determine whether they are a show dog or a working dog, but not whether there are English are American. This is further complicated by the fact these breeds will often have a haircut. The same applies for their temperament as the difference in behavior will depend more on whether they are bred for show or for work, not whether they are English or American.
If you want to know some more about caring for a Cocker Spaniel, you can take a look at our breed file on the English Cocker Spaniel.
If you want to read similar articles to Types of Cocker Spaniels, we recommend you visit our Comparisons category.
- American Kennel Club. (2019). Meet Two Similar Yet Different Breeds: English Cocker Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/cocker-spaniel-vs-english-cocker-spaniel/
- American Kennel Club. (2019). Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Information. Retrieved from: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/cocker-spaniel/
- International Canine Federation. (2019). Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Information. Retrieved from: http://www.fci.be/es/nomenclature/COCKER-SPANIEL-INGLES-5.html
- International Canine Federation. (2019). Cocker Spaniel Dog Breed Information. Retrieved from: http://www.fci.be/es/nomenclature/AMERICAN-COCKER-SPANIEL-167.html