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The spaniel is a hunter’s companion bred to find, flush, and fetch game, but their exact origin is unknown. Some scholars speculate the type originated in Spain, hence the name. Other research suggests that they originated in Asia and migrated west, to Europe and beyond. Spaniels go back to at least the 14th century, but their ancestry might be even older.

Today, the AKC recognizes the following 15 spaniel-type breeds.

American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel, native to the lake country of the upper Midwest, is an upbeat, outdoorsy athlete who loves to hunt and swim. They are known to be happy, eager, and charming, though aloof with strangers and a bit stubborn.

Best of Breed: GCHS CH Carolina's Running With The Hare BN RN SH JHR, Spaniel (American Water); Sporting Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Boykin Spaniel

A medium-sized flushing and retrieving dog known for their rich brown coat, the Boykin Spaniel is avid, eager, merry, and trainable. This mellow housedog and tenacious bird dog was once South Carolina’s best-kept secret.

Boykin Spaniel hunting in tall grasses.
(c) 2020 Cynthia Davison/Shutterstock


Sportsmen on both sides of the Atlantic cherish the agile, energetic Brittany as a stylish and versatile gundog. Bright and eager at home, and tireless afield, Brittanys require a lot of exercise, preferably with their favorite humans.

Brittany retrieving game in the water.
©Field Dog Imagery

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel wears their connection to British history in the breed’s name. Cavaliers are the best of two worlds, combining the gentle attentiveness of a Toy Group breed with the verve and athleticism of a sporting spaniel.

©Holly -

Clumber Spaniel

A dignified and mellow hunting companion of kings, the Clumber Spaniel is the largest of the AKC flushing spaniels. For those who can handle some shedding and drooling, the amiable Clumber is an amusing best friend and a polite housemate.

Clumber Spaniel running in a field.
©lenkadan -

Cocker Spaniel

The merry and frolicsome Cocker Spaniel, with their big, dreamy eyes and impish personality, is one of the world’s best-loved breeds. They were developed as hunting dogs, but Cockers gained their wide popularity as all-around companions.

Cocker Spaniel laying down in the grass.
©deviddo -

English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel lovers often use the word “merry” to describe their breed. Upbeat in the field and mellow at home, this compact, silky-coated bird dog is widely admired for their delightful personality and irresistible good looks.

English Cocker Spaniel sitting on a rug near the door.
belchonock via Getty Images

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a sweet-faced, lovable bird dog of great energy, stamina, and brains. Sport hunters cherish the duality of working Springers—good-looking, mannerly pets during the week, and trusty hunting buddies on weekends.

English Springer Spaniel in a scent work trial outdoors.
©Nathan Brower

English Toy Spaniel

The merry English Toy Spaniel was bred to be the companion of kings. But ETS are spaniels first and pampered lapdogs second, and beneath the patrician exterior beats the heart of a dog that is bright, loving, and willing to please.

English Toy Spaniel standing in profile on the beach.
©Dogs -

Field Spaniel

The sweet and sensitive Field Spaniel is famously docile, but vigorous and game for anything when at play or in the field. These close cousins to Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels may be small in number, but their charm is enormous.

Field Spaniel running in a field.

Irish Water Spaniel

The tallest of the AKC’s spaniels, the Irish Water Spaniel is instantly recognizable by its crisply curled coat and tapering “rat tail.” Among the champion swimmers of dogdom, the alert and inquisitive IWS is hardworking and brave in the field, and playfully affectionate at home.

Best of Breed and Best Bred By in Breed/Variety: CH Chantico's Shelter From The Storm CD RN OA NAJ NF, Spaniel (Irish Water); Sporting Group judging at the 2016 AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, FL.
David Woo ©American Kennel Club

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje

The Nederlandse Kooikerhondje is lively, agile, self-confident, good-natured, and alert. The breed is faithful, easy-going, and friendly in the home. Outdoors, they are a true sporting dog, being keen, swift, tough, attentive, and energetic. With sufficient perseverance and stamina, they enjoy working and do so with a cheerful character.

Nederlandse Kooikerhondje walking through a field of dandelions.
Burry van den Brink


The quick, curious Papillon is a toy dog of singular beauty and upbeat athleticism. Despite their refined appearance, the Pap is truly a “doggy dog,” blessed with a hardy constitution. Papillon fanciers describe their breed as happy, alert, and friendly.

Papillon laying in the grass outdoors.
RichLegg/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Sussex Spaniel

“Placid, affectionate, even-tempered, true-blue, loyal.” These all are words used to describe the Sussex Spaniel, a slow-but-steady hunter and congenial housedog. Their frowning expression is delightfully at odds with a typically cheerful nature.

Sussex Spaniel sitting on a park bench.
©Vera Reva -

Welsh Springer Spaniel

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is a vigorous, medium-sized bird dog of happy disposition, known for versatility in the field, companionability at home, and dashing good looks anywhere. The Welshie is among Britain’s oldest sporting breeds.

Welsh Springer Spaniels laying side by side in the grass.
©Eudyptula -
Related article: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel History: Behind the Breed
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