The Welsh Springer Spaniel is considered to be an ancient breed of dog. Although the true date of its origin cannot be accurately traced, the distinctive red and white coat of the Welsh Springer Spaniel has been depicted in prints dating back the late 1600’s. It is believed earlier predecessors to the Welsh Springer Spaniel may have made their way into Welsh valleys where local sportsman and hunters managed to conserve them in a pure state, providing us with the modern day Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Previously called the Welsh Starter, this breed was used to spring game for hunters. Prior the invention and common use of the gun, the Welsh Springer Spaniel would spring ground fowl toward a net for the hunters or into the air for a falcon to capture. A superb hunting dog, with a keen sense of its surroundings, the Welsh Springer rarely advances beyond the easy gun range of the hunter.
This breed was also known as the Welsh Spaniel and Welsh Cocker. In the early 19th century it was included in the United Kingdom Kennel Club studbook as a type of Cocker Spaniel. A relatively unknown breed during the early part of the 19th century. The Welsh Springer Spaniel did not come into its own and gain popularity until Mr. A. T. Williams won the team stake at the Sporting Spaniel Club Trials by defeating eight well known teams. He then continued this winning tradition over a number of successive years with the Welsh Springer Spaniel.
As the breed gained in popularity it was finally recognized by the United Kingdom Kennel Club as a Welsh Springer Spaniel in 1902. This surge in popularity resulted in the breed being exported to the United States where in gained recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1906.
During World War I the breed was almost lost. The conflict and destruction associated with the war resulted in all records of lineage or pedigree being destroyed. A small group of fanciers started a process to restore the breed by gathering and breeding the few remaining unregistered Welsh Springer Spaniels that could be found. It is from these unregistered Welsh Springer Spaniels of the 1920’s and 1930’s that the current breed as we know it today was created.
In 1923, the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club was formed to further preserve this breed by creating a registry and adopting guidelines for its breeding. However, during World War II all records of registration were destroyed by an air raid, and it was believed that there were no Welsh Springer Spaniels left in the United States. So the breed was reintroduced, and it is through this reintroduction that we have the modern day Welsh Springer Spaniels that inhabit the United States and Canada.
A relatively small breed by comparison with other Spaniels there were 424 Welsh Springer Spaniel registrations with the United Kingdom Kennel Club in 2000, compared to over 12,000 English Springer Spaniels and 13,000+ English Cocker Spaniels. Registration numbers for this breed have remained steady and would be most comparable to the American Cocker Spaniel which had 610 registrations in 2000.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel is slightly smaller than the English Springer, and possesses a solid and compact frame, that gives the impression of length due to its obliquely angled forequarters and well developed hindquarters. The properly developed Welsh Springer Spaniel should be slightly longer in length than the height at the withers.
The tail is traditionally docked but may be full length in countries with legislation that prevents tail docking.
The coat should be soft and flat to the touch, medium in length with the only acceptable color being a rich dark red and white, any pattern is acceptable so long as it meets this standard and any white area may be flecked with red. The coat is to be thick and silky with no tendency to be wavy and is very nearly self-cleaning.
The back of the legs, chest, and underside of the body are feathered, with the ears and tail lightly feathered.
Male Dogs should be 18 to 19 inches at the withers with females slightly smaller at 17 to 18 inches, with an average weight for the breed of between 35 to 45 lbs.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel is an active intelligent dog that displays a loyal and affectionate disposition. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘Velcro’ dog due to the strong bond that it forms with its master, meaning you cannot go anywhere without your ‘Shadow’.
Although this breed is somewhat reserved with strangers, he is not timid, shy or unfriendly and makes a devoted family member and excellent hunting companion. However this breed does possess a stubborn streak, so you should exercise patience and start training early.
Although the Welsh Springer Spaniel is not mean or aggressive, this breed knows when to be protective and guard masters things or property.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel posseses a medium-length coat that only requires an occasional brushing. This breed is prone to shedding so more brushing may be required to remove excess hair.
This breed can also be professionally groomed with clippers and thinning shears for that show dog look.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel is prone to hip problems such as hip dysplasia, and in a survey of over a hundred separate breeds the Welsh Springer Spaniel was ranked 14th for worst hip score, with a breed average score of 18.45.
This breed is also prone to ‘Cocker Ear’ or repeat ear infections called Otitis Externa.
Eye problems include narrow/closed angle canine glaucoma a condition marked by increased fluid pressure within the eye that leads to blindness. Entropion, a disorder causing the eyelids to curl inwards pressing the eyelashes against the surface of the eye, which results in them scratching it, thus it is possible to irritate and damage the cornea.
There have also been documented cases of Epilepsy present within this breed.