The Breed History
In the early years of spaniel breed development, the spaniels were divided into water and land spaniels. The land spaniels were generally called Field Spaniels in the 1800s, but in 1892 small spaniels, now termed English Cocker Spaniels were officially split into a new breed based on their lesser weight (< 25 lb). Originally, breeders wished to develop a black spaniel breed. For a while Field Spaniel breeding programs produced a dog of extremely exaggerated type due to repeated outcrosses with Welsh Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound and Sussex Spaniels. This made them unsuited in conformation for their work. By the 1940s the breed was threatened by extinction. The Field Spaniel breed was recovered by implementing selective breeding practices, and by out-crossing to Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels. This restored a functional breed type. Field Spaniels are smaller than English Springer Spaniels.
Breeding for Function
Their primary purpose was as a bird dog, particularly for water and heavy cover work. Dogs were selected for good endurance and for tolerance of extreme temperatures.
Height at Withers: female 17" (43 cm), male 18" (45.5 cm)
Weight: 35-50 lb (16-23 kg)
Coat: This single coated dog has colors of liver, black, or roan. The base color may be combined with tan points. Small white chest markings are allowed. The hair is long and lies flat, is straight to slightly wavy, fine and glossy, with feathering as for the setter type.
Longevity: 10-12 years
Points of Conformation: These dogs possess good bone, moderate size and muscling, and are a bit longer than tall. Dark brown to dark hazel moderately deep-set almond shaped eyes are medium in size. Palpebral margins and nose match in pigmentation. No nictitans should be visible. Long, low-set pendulous ears are well feathered, with moderate leather and the tips rounded. There is a distinct occipital protuberance, the muzzle is strong and long, stop is moderate, and the face is well chiseled under the eyes. The nose is large, the nostrils, the lips close and clean, and the neck is long and muscular with a slight arch. The topline is level. The thorax is deep, the rib cage stays deep caudally and ribs are well sprung. There is little abdominal tuck up, and the low set tail is usually docked. Limbs are straight boned, feet are webbed, large, and round with thick pads. No dewclaws. These dogs are smooth moving with a long low gait and high head carriage.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported characteristics include: Gentle disposition, high activity levels, need human companionship, independent streak, intelligent, playful though reserved with strangers. Sensitive, friendly, need to have a fence if off leash, high exercise needs, and need early socialization to children. Grooming needs are minimal.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 18.7% affected. Reported at a frequency of 6.05% in the 2002-2003 Field Spaniel Health Survey.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 1.3% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 0.6% affected.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Can cause retinal detachment and blindness. Reported in 8.75% of Field Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 6.8% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 8.97% in the 2002-2003 Field Spaniel Health Survey.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 6.69% of Field Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 5.15% of Field Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 4.04% in the 2002-2003 Field Spaniel Health Survey.
Cataracts: Anterior cortex punctate, intermediate, and capsular cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 3.26% of Field Spaniels CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 2.47% in the 2002-2003 Field Spaniel Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Field Spaniel with a cataract.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Can present with grand-mal or focal seizures. Appears later in the breed, usually between 5-9 years of age. Control with anticonvulsant seizure medication. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 1.12% in the 2002-2003 Field Spaniel Health Survey.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Subaortic Stenosis are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Renal Calculus: Report of a single case of a kidney stone in a Field Spaniel.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for black liver colors, and black or brown nose are available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes CERF eye examination (at 2, 4, 6, and 8 years), hip radiograph, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies (at 2 & 6 years) and elbow radiographs. Optional recommended tests include patella examination and cardiac evaluation. (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org).
- Breed name synonyms: none
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 140 (117 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Field Spaniel Society of America: http://fieldspaniels.org/
Field Spaniel Society (UK): www.fieldspanielsociety.co.uk
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