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Nederlandse Kooikerhondje running in the grass.
©imageBROKER -

You may not have heard of the Netherlands’ favorite little dog: the Nederlandse Kooikerhondje, but they are worth knowing about! From their interesting name to their history and purpose-built features, this little sporting dog is more than meets the eye.

Their Name Might Be Hard to Pronounce

When you first look at this breed’s name, you may not know where to begin. Nederlandse Kooikerhonje is pronounced “Netherlands-e Coy-ker-hond-tsje,” which translates roughly to “decoy dog.”

Their Name Has to Do With Their Purpose

“Decoy dog” refers to the specific job the Kooikerhondje was bred for. Working from enclosures called “eendenkoois” that were built along wetlands and canals, the dog lured ducks into a cage (kooi) for the hunter. The dog would weave in and out of the enclosures, which caught the attention of the ducks.

They Have a Heroic Past

Kooikerhondjes date back at least as far as the 16th century. Anecdotal information says that a Kooikerhondje saved the life of William of Orange by alerting him to an attack by the Spanish. The breed also shows up in paintings by Dutch masters, such as Steen, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.


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Foxes Inspired Their Hunting Style


Hunters in the Netherlands came up a unique way to use these dog for bird-hunting, and it came from foxes. They found that birds were often curious about foxes playing near the water, as long as they didn’t make eye contact. They trained the Kooiker to act similarly, creating a distraction to lure the birds to shore to make them easier to catch.

The Almost Went Extinct

This lovely little spaniel almost became extinct in the 1940s. The breed was preserved and made its comeback through the efforts of a dedicated patron of the breed, Baroness Van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol.

Their Ear Type Has a Funny Name

The Kooikerhondje has distinctive ears, with many dogs having black tips on the ears, called “earrings.” Not quite like the ones we as people wear, but the resemblance is definitely there.

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje head portrait outdoors.
©Charlotte -

Their Pretty Tails Have a Purpose

The breed’s feathered tail, with its white plume, is quite distinctive, as the dog wags it back and forth. The wagging tail, along with the dog’s quick and playful movement, are what attract the ducks.

The Have Similarities With Another Breed

If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because you know a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. The Kooikerhondje is believed to be an ancestor of that North American breed.

They’re Good Family Dogs

Not a duck hunter? The Kooikerhondje may still be for you. He is spirited, easily trained, and loves doing things with his people. He makes an affectionate companion, as long as he gets the physical and mental exercise the breed thrives on.

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje puppy outdoors with a toy in its mouth.
©Shakarrigrafie -

They’re Popular in the Netherlands

They may be a rare breed in the United States, but in their home country of the Netherlands, this breed is everywhere you look. But this charming breed is growing in popularity, slowly but surely, since it became a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club in 2018.