The American Cocker Spaniel is a breed of sporting dog. It is a spaniel type dog that is closely related to the English Cocker Spaniel; the two breeds diverged during the 20th century due to differing breed standards in America and the UK. In the United States, the breed is usually called the Cocker Spaniel, while elsewhere in the world, it is called the American Cocker Spaniel in order to differentiate between it and its English cousin. The word cocker is commonly held to stem from their use to hunt woodcock in England, while spaniel is thought to be derived from the type's origins in Spain.
The first spaniel in America came across with the Mayflower in 1620, but it was not until 1878 that the first Cocker Spaniel was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). A national breed club was set up three years later and the dog considered to be the father of the modern breed, Ch. Obo II, was born around this time. By the 1920s the English and American varieties of Cocker had become noticeably different and in 1946 the AKC recognised the English type as a separate breed. It was not until 1970 that The Kennel Club in the UK recognised the American Cocker Spaniel as being separate from the English type. The American Cocker was the most popular breed in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s and again during the 1980s, reigning for a total of 18 years. They have also won the best in show title at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on four occasions, and have been linked to the President of the United States on several occasions, with owners including Richard Nixon and Harry S. Truman. In 2013, the cocker spaniel ranked 29th the American Kennel Club registration statistics of historical comparisons and notable trends.
The breed is the smallest of the sporting dogs recognised by the AKC, and its distinctly shaped head makes it immediately recognisable. In addition, there are some marked differences between it and its English relative. It is a happy breed with average working intelligence, although by being bred to a show standard it is no longer an ideal working dog. Members of the breed suffer from a wide variety of health ailments including problems with their hearts, eyes and ears.
The word spanyell is thought to date from the late 12th century when it was used to name a type of dog imported into England from Spain, with the span part of the word referring to the country of origin. Records from the mid-14th century show that selective breeding was already in place, with the breed being separated into two distinct types, called water spaniels and land spaniels. By 1801, the smaller variety of land spaniel was called the Cocker or Cocking Spaniel, so named for its use in flushing woodcock.
According to historical records, the first spaniel was brought to North America aboard the Mayflower which sailed from Plymouth, England and landed in New England in 1620. The first Cocker Spaniel recorded in America was a liver and white dog named Captain, who was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1878. In 1881, the American Cocker Spaniel Club was formed; it would later become the American Spaniel Club (ASC) and is now known as the oldest breed club for dogs in the United States. The task of the club was initially to create a standard to separate the Cocker Spaniel in America from other types of land spaniels, a task which would take over 20 years, only being completed in 1905.
The dog considered to be the father of the American Cocker Spaniel was sired by the dog considered to be the father of the English Cocker Spaniel. Ch. Obo was bred to Ch. Chloe II, who was shipped to America while she was pregnant. Once in the United States, she whelped a dog who became Ch. Obo II. He differed greatly from the modern breed, being only 10 inches (25 cm) tall and with a long body, but was considered to be an excellent dog of that era and became a popular sire.
Towards the end of the 19th century, the breed had become popular in America and Canada due to their dual use as a family pet and a working dog. In the early 20th century the breeders on either side of the Atlantic had created different breed standards for the Cocker Spaniel and the breed gradually diverged from one another, with the two becoming noticeably different by the 1920s. The American Cockers by now had a smaller muzzle, their coats were softer and the dogs overall were lighter and smaller. The differences were so apparent that in 1935, breeders founded the English Cocker Spaniel Club and restricted breeding between the two types of spaniel. The two types of Cocker Spaniel in America were shown together as one breed, with the English type as a variety of the main breed, until 1946 when the American Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed.
The head of an American Cocker Spaniel makes the breed immediately recognizable, with the rounded dome of the skull, well-pronounced stop, and a square shaped lip. The drop ears are long, low set, with long silky fur, and the eyes are dark, large, and rounded. The nose can be black or brown depending on the colour of the breed.
The coat of the breed come in a variety of shades with the colours being separated into three main groups: black/black and tan, any solid colour other than black (ASCOB), and parti-colour. The black variety is either all black, or with tan points on the dog's head, the feet and the tail in a pattern called black and tan. The group known as ASCOB includes all other solid colours from light cream through to dark red, although some lighter colouring is allowed on the feathering according to standards. Parti-coloured dogs are white with patches of another colour such as black or brown, and includes any roan coloured dogs. In addition, American Cockers coats can come in a pattern known as merle, which is not recognised by the American Kennel Club.
American Cockers have rounder eyes, a domed skull, shorter muzzle and more clearly pronounced eyebrows than the English Cockers, whose head is more setter-like. In colours, the roan colours are rarer in the American variety than in the English but the shade of buff which is common in the American is not seen in the English breed at all, although there are English Cocker Spaniels which are considered to be a shade of red. The English breed is also slightly larger, being between 14.5–15.5 inches (37–39 cm) in height.
Known as the "Merry Cocker", the American Cocker Spaniel breed standard defines the ideal dog of the breed as being "equable in temperament with no suggestion of timidity." The breed ranks 20th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, a rating that indicates good "Working or Obedience Intelligence", or trainability. IQ tests run on a variety of breeds in the 1950s and 1960s showed that the American Cocker performed the best when tested on its ability to show restraint and delayed response to a trigger, a trait which was put down to the breed's bred-in ability when hunting to freeze upon finding a bird before flushing it out on command. However, they proved to be the worst breed tested when it came to manipulating objects with their paws, for instance uncovering a dish of food or pulling on a string.
With a good level of socialisation at an early age, an American Cocker can get along with people, children, other dogs and other pets. This breed seems to have a perpetually wagging tail and prefers to be around people; it is not best suited to the backyard alone. Cockers can be easily stressed by loud noises and by rough treatment or handling. Members of the breed were originally used as hunting dogs, but increased in popularity as a show dog. It was bred more and more in conformation with the breed standard, resulting in certain attributes, such as a long coat, which no longer make it an ideal working dog.
American Cocker Spaniels in UK and USA/Canada surveys had a median lifespan of about 10 to 11 years, which is on the low end of the typical range for purebred dogs, and one to two years less than other breeds of their size. The larger English Cocker Spaniel typically lives about a year longer than the American Cocker Spaniel. In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the most common causes of death were cancer (23%), old age (20%), cardiac (8%), and immune-mediated (8%). In a 2003 USA/Canada Health Survey with a smaller sample size, the leading causes of death were cancer, hepatic disease, and immune-mediated.
|Other names||Cocker Spaniel (in USA), Cocker, Merry Cocker.|
|Country of origin||USA|