Virtually every dog lover in the UK can name several different spaniel breeds, with the springer, cocker and Cavalier King Charles spaniel being the three that most people instantly think of when they think of spaniels. However, there are well over twenty different spaniel breeds recognised today, and very few dog lovers are able to name more than seven or eight of them off the top of their heads!
In this article, we will look at five of the different breeds of spaniel that are among the most uncommon, and that you may not have heard of or might not have realised were classed as spaniels. Read on to learn a little bit about some of the more unusual breeds of spaniel, and to find out more.
The Russian spaniel is a comparatively recent dog breed that is very popular of course in Russia but that is not yet recognised as a breed in its own right here in the UK.
The breed was developed in the former Soviet Union by means of the crossing of English cocker and springer spaniels in the main part, interspersed with other spaniel-type dogs, which gives the breed a very familiar look to UK spaniel lovers that falls somewhere between the cocker and the springer.
Originally bred for gun sport and hunting, the breed only begun to gain traction outside of Russia in the 1990’s, and as such, they are still very uncommon outside of their home country.
The Stabyhoun is not only one of the least common spaniel breeds, but actually one of the least common dog breeds over all, having the distinction of being ranked within the five rarest dog breeds worldwide as of 2013, with only a few thousand dogs of the breed extant worldwide.
Also known as the Stabij, this dog breed originates in Friesland, from the Frisian forest region, and has a recorded history in the area going back to the early 1800’s. Despite their long history and popularity in their home region, the breed only begun to be spread outside of Friesland during the 1960’s, and only exported internationally post-millennium, and so the chances of seeing one outside of the Netherlands is very low!
Their modern appearance is virtually unchanged since the breed’s early recorded history, and they have the familiar spaniel-shaped head and ears but often with a curled coat and plumed tail.
The Picardy spaniel is a French dog breed primarily used as a gundog, and that has a long history going back to the French nobility, which makes the Picardy one of the two oldest European spaniel breeds still extant today. Popularity of the breed in France dwindled from the 1900’s onwards when many English spaniel breeds were imported to France, although they are still widely owned within their home country and in other parts of Europe.
The Picardy spaniel is relatively large for a spaniel, being around the same height and build as the English setter, but with the signature spaniel shape to the head and ears.
The German spaniel or German quail dog is another European spaniel breed, which like most of the others, was developed as a hunting and gundog. The breed’s origins lie with the historic German breed called the Stoeberer, which was a highly popular pet and working dog all across Germany during the mid 1800’s.
The Stoeberer still exists in Germany, but now the German spaniel too is recognised within the country as a breed in its own right, and is also recognised by many international Kennel Clubs including the United Kennel Club, although not the UK club.
The German spaniel is a stocky, muscular breed with the very typical spaniel face and ears, and all dogs of the breed have a rich mahogany brown coat, occasionally with a little white mixed in. The German spaniel is also related to the Small Munsterlander, which in turn descends from working dog breeds recorded back as far as the 15th century.
Finally, the Boykin spaniel is an American dog breed that is still relatively young, with the breed still undergoing development during the 1990’s. They are valued for their skills as hunting and gundogs, particularly in swampy and wet areas, as the breed has a natural affinity for water, and doesn’t mind getting wet and dirty!
They are a touch taller than the English cocker spaniel and much stockier and heavier in the body, although the complete origins of the breed are not known-the dog that formed the foundation of the Boykin breed was a spaniel of unknown origins that was taken home as a stray!
Unfortunately, the Boykin breed, despite its recent origins, is not one of the most genetically healthy of dogs, and over 35% of dogs of the breed suffer from hip dysplasia, and until this condition has been greatly reduced across the breed as a whole it seems unlikely that it will gain wider recognition and acceptance as a pedigree breed.