BREED TYPE IN THE SPANIEL FAMILY
FRANK KANE explains
I overheard a conversation about somebody’s pet dog which was described
as ‘a spaniel type’ and I wondered what was the layperson’s perception of a ‘spaniel type’. Long ears, fairly long foreface, docked active tail, feathered coat, colour? Perhaps it is not surprising that there are perceptions of
a generic spaniel type because over a century ago spaniel litters could contain dogs which were allocated to different “breeds”, often determined by size or colour. Therefore with the same blood behind many of the different breeds, it is understandable
that there are some similarities in the physical appearances.
Now, rule out colour, a distinctive and important feature in the breeds, and black out a sil- houette of each of the spaniel breeds , see the picture below.
Could you identify which is which? It should be possible because, apart from size, there is a distinctive outline and balance to each of the breeds. For me, shape is the first feature in defining breed type.
come those breed-specific details which make a dog typical: head features, coat, colour, topline etc. And type is not just defined in the static dog; all breeds do not move in the same way. The way of going is often an inherent part of breed type, and the
spaniel family is a fine example of this.
The rounded rump and low set, ever active tail give the Cocker Spaniel its typical bustle and this is an essential part of that much desired ‘cockery’ quality.
The rolling action of the Sussex and Clumber Spaniels contributes to breed type as does the unique style of the English Springer’s front swing.
So, in assessing the breeds, shape, balance and outline might
be your starting point. Breed specifics, substance, coat and colour can be the next tier and then a look at movement, not just for functionally sound movement but for the carriage, style and way of going which adds a special quality to the breeds.
Back to the blacked out silhouettes, they might be similar but if there is confusion between a couple there is something wrong with the dogs ...or with the judge...“Bring out your Field,” said the judge to the lady
with the Sussex Spaniel. Oops!