Cocker Spaniel (nick Cocker
The English Cocker Spaniel is a breed of gun dog. It is one of several varieties of spaniel and somewhat resembles its American cousin, the American Cocker Spaniel, although it's closer to the working-dog form of the Field Spaniel and the Springer Spaniel. Outside the US, the breed is usually known simply as the Cocker Spaniel, as is the American Cocker Spaniel within the US. Due to the breed's happy disposition and continuously wagging tail, it has been given the nickname "merry cocker".
The Cocker is a sturdy, compact, well-balanced dog. It has a characteristic expression showing intelligence and alertness. Its eyes should be dark and its lobular ears should reach the tip of the nose when pulled forward. The breed's slightly loose skin and feathered coat allow it to fight through any brush unharmed. The Cocker's tail is customarily docked in North America. The tail is generally docked at about 4 or 5 inches in field-bred dogs.
Height at withers:
Dogs: 15-17 inches (3843 cm)
Bitches: 15-16 inches (3841 cm)
Dogs: 2834 lb (1315 kg)
Bitches: 2732 lb (12-15 kg)
Show dogs are restricted to certain colours dependent on country, whereas working Cockers can be any of a wide variety of colours. They come in solid (or "self") colours, where white is restricted to only the chest in show dogs, parti-colour, roan, and merle.
Many hunters prefer to have some white in the coat to make the dog more visible to gunners.
The Cocker is generally a healthy breed. Its main health problems are progressive retinal atrophy, kidney disease, and hip dysplasia. They are also often prone to ear infections because of their pendulous ears.
Cockers are renowned for their friendly, faithful, playful, and affectionate natures. They are easily trained and make a good medium-sized family pet. Very few Cockers have temperament problems; in a 2002 survey consisting of 487 cockers, only 1% of the dogs were aggressive to people and 2% were aggressive to other dogs.
Spaniel type dogs are have been found in art and literature for almost 500 years. (Kolehouse). Initially, spaniels in England were divided among land spaniels and water spaniels. The differentiation among the spaniels that led to the breeds that we see today did not begin until the mid 1800s. During this time, the land spaniels became a bit more specialized and divisions among the types were made based upon weight. According to the 1840 Encyclopedia of Rural Sports, cockers were between 12 and 20 lb. (Kolehouse). At this time it was not uncommon for cockers and springers to come from the same litter. Even a puppy from a Toy sized lineage could grow to be a springer (Kolehouse).
There is no indication from these early sources that spaniels were used to retrieve game. Rather they were use to drive the game toward the guns. (Kolehouse)
During the 1850s and 60s other dogs types of cockers were recorded. There were Welsh Cockers and Devonshire Cockers. Additionally, small dogs from Sussex Spaniel litters were called cockers. (Kolehouse) In 1874 the first stud books were published by the newly formed kennel club. Any spaniel under 25 lb was placed in the cocker breeding pool, however the Welsh Cocker was reclassified as a springer in 1903 due to its larger size and shorter ear (Kolehouse). "...in those days only those dogs up to a hard days work and sensible specimens were allowed to live, as absolute sporting purposes were about their only enjoyment and dog shows were hardly heard of..." (Kolehouse)
The hobby of dog showing began in earnest among spaniels after the Spaniel Club was formed in 1885. When showing, the new Springer and Cocker, both were in the same class until The Spaniel Club created breed standards for each of the types. The Kennel Club separated the two types eight years later. Since then, the Springer and Cocker enthusiasts have bred in the separate traits that they desired. Today, the breed differ in more ways than weight alone.
In America, the American Cocker type was forming. As a result, the English Cocker lost favor. The two Cocker Spaniels were shown together until 1936, when the English Cocker received status as a separate breed. The American Kennel Club granted a separate breed designation for the English Cocker Spaniel in 1946.
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