Aspiring dog owners looking to welcome a new furry companion into their homes might be curious to learn about the origins of different dog breeds. One such breed is the American Cocker Spaniel, beloved for its affectionate personality and beautiful coat. But have you ever wondered how these fluffy pups first made their way to the United States? In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating history of American Cocker Spaniels and their journey across the Atlantic. From their origins in Spain and England to their popularity in American pop culture, there’s so much to learn about these charming pups. Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in!

The Origins of the Cocker Spaniel

The Origins Of The Cocker Spaniel
The history of the Cocker Spaniel is shrouded in mystery, with the breed’s origins spanning across two continents over centuries. Despite the uncertainty and conflicting tales that surround their beginnings, one thing is for sure- American Cocker Spaniels are one of the most beloved dog breeds of the modern era. To gain a better understanding of this breed’s roots, we will explore the Cocker Spaniel’s origins in both Spain and England, the divisions in the breed between the American and English variations, and the breed’s transition to the United States. Let’s dive into the fascinating history of the Cocker Spaniel. To learn more about the breed’s evolution, you can also check out our in-depth study.

Origins in Spain and England

The American Cocker Spaniel is a beloved breed that has been a popular household pet for many years. However, its origins can be traced back to Spain and England. In Spain, smaller spaniels were used to hunt woodcock, which is where the breed gets its name . These small spaniels were also used as companion dogs, which made them very popular with the Spanish aristocracy.

When the breed was introduced to England, it began to evolve in both size and appearance . Breeders began to selectively breed for specific traits until the breed began to split into two distinct varieties: the “Merry” cocker and the “Field” cocker. The Merry cocker was bred for its friendly disposition, while the Field cocker was bred for its hunting abilities.

The differences in breeding led to a division in the breed that would eventually come to affect the American Cocker Spaniel as well. While the Merry Cocker became a popular household pet, the Field Cocker remained a popular hunting dog.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that American breeders began to show an interest in the breed. They imported several of the dogs from England and began selectively breeding them with the goal of creating a smaller version of the breed that was better suited to being a household companion.

Today, the American Cocker Spaniel is recognized as a separate breed from the English Cocker Spaniel . While they share many similarities, including their origins, the two breeds have distinct physical characteristics and temperaments. To learn more about the differences between the two breeds, check out our guide here: English vs American Cocker Spaniel: What’s the Difference?

Divisions in the Breed

The divisions within the Cocker Spaniel breed can be traced back to the 20th century. In 1901, the Kennel Club in England recognized the Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed from the English Springer Spaniel. However, it wasn’t until 1946 that the American Kennel Club also made the distinction.

Once the breed was recognized as separate from the English Cocker Spaniel, further division occurred within the American Cocker Spaniel breed. The split was between the show type and the field type. The show type was bred for its appearance, while the field type was bred for hunting. The American Cocker Spaniel had been prized for its hunting abilities in England, but breeders in the United States began to emphasize the breed’s looks over its function.

The split between the two types became more distinct in the 1930s when breeders began to cross American Cocker Spaniels with smaller breeds, such as the Poodle and the Bichon Frise, to create a smaller version of the breed for show purposes. This new smaller size became known as the “Merry Cocker.”

The split between the show and field types of American Cocker Spaniels became an issue in the 1970s when some breeders expressed concern over the amount of inbreeding and the emphasis on looks over function. These breeders felt that the breed was losing its hunting ability and that breed standards were being misrepresented.

As a result of this concern, the American Spaniel Club – the parent club of the breed – created a separate registry for field-bred American Cocker Spaniels in 1970. These dogs were bred specifically for their hunting abilities and were not restricted by the same breed standards as the show type. Today, many breeders focus on breeding field-bred American Cocker Spaniels for hunting purposes.

It’s important to note that while American Cocker Spaniels were originally bred for hunting, they are more commonly kept as companion animals today. However, their hunting instincts still exist, and they can make excellent hunting dogs when trained properly. You can learn more about keeping American Cocker Spaniels for hunting purposes by reading our previous article here.

American Cocker Spaniels Arrive in the United States

American Cocker Spaniels Arrive In The United States
The journey of how the American Cocker Spaniel arrived in the United States is a fascinating tale full of heritage and history. It all started with their ancestors who were originally bred in Spain and brought to England, where the breed underwent significant development. Over time, the American Cocker Spaniel has become an American icon, with many famous individuals owning and raising them. Let’s take a closer look at the arrival of this breed in the United States, and how they became one of America’s most popular breeds. For more information about the history of famous Cocker Spaniels, you can also check out our article Famous Cocker Spaniels throughout History.

Early Importations

Early importations of American Cocker Spaniels to the United States can be traced back to the late 1800s. In 1879, a group of spaniel enthusiasts in Ohio imported the first American Cocker Spaniel known as “Obo II” from England. The dog went on to win numerous awards and became a popular stud dog, contributing greatly to the breed’s development in the United States (1).

In the following years, more American Cocker Spaniels were imported, mainly from England and Canada. In 1883, the American Spaniel Club was formed, making it one of the oldest breed-specific clubs in the United States. The club played a significant role in the development and promotion of the breed and ensured that ethical breeding practices were followed (2).

During the early 1900s, the popularity of American Cocker Spaniels increased rapidly. Their charming personalities and striking looks made them highly sought after as pets and show dogs. There was a surge in breeding activity, and the American Spaniel Club created the first breed standard in 1905 to maintain the breed’s quality and consistency (3).

In the 1920s and 1930s, American Cocker Spaniels became the most popular breed in the United States, and their demand led to breeders producing dogs with exaggerated features, such as a shorter muzzle and larger eyes. These traits became hallmarks of the modern American Cocker Spaniel, which differs significantly from the English Cocker Spaniel (4).

Despite the breed’s popularity and recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1946, the American Cocker Spaniel’s gene pool has been plagued by various health issues due to inbreeding and overbreeding (5). Today, breeders are working to reverse the negative effects and maintain a healthy and diverse gene pool to ensure the breed’s longevity in the United States.

1. AKC (2021). American Cocker Spaniel History. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved from
2. American Spaniel Club (n.d.). American Spaniel Club (ASC) History. American Spaniel Club. Retrieved from
3. Canadian Kennel Club (n.d.). American Cocker Spaniel: Breed Standard. Canadian Kennel Club. Retrieved from
4. Morris Animal Foundation (n.d.). American and English Cocker Spaniel: Divergence in Type: Health Implications for both Breeds. Morris Animal Foundation. Retrieved from
5. PDSA (n.d.). Cocker Spaniel (American). PDSA. Retrieved from

Breed Popularity in the United States

The American Cocker Spaniel first arrived in the United States in the late 19th century and quickly gained popularity among dog enthusiasts. Many Americans were immediately drawn to their smaller size, cute looks, and eager-to-please personalities.

In 1936, the American Kennel Club (AKC) declared the American Cocker Spaniel as a separate breed from the English Cocker Spaniel, which helped to solidify their popularity in the country. Since then, the American Cocker Spaniel has consistently been one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

According to AKC registration statistics, the American Cocker Spaniel has consistently ranked in the top 30 most popular breeds in the United States since the 1920s. In fact, in the 1940s, the American Cocker Spaniel was the most popular breed in the United States for several years running.

People were drawn to the breed for many reasons, but one of the biggest factors was their ability to adapt to different living situations. These dogs were equally comfortable in urban or rural environments, and could adapt to both small apartments or large homes with yards.

Another factor that contributed to their popularity was their versatility. American Cocker Spaniels were used for a variety of tasks, including hunting, obedience, and even therapy work. Their intelligence and eagerness to please made them easy to train for many different tasks.

As the breed gained more popularity, demand for American Cocker Spaniel puppies increased. Unfortunately, this also led to a rise in irresponsible breeding practices and an increase in health issues within the breed. Today, responsible breeding practices and increased knowledge of genetic health issues have helped to address some of these problems.

Despite the challenges, the American Cocker Spaniel remains a beloved breed in the United States. Their cute looks, friendly personalities, and versatility continue to make them a popular addition to many American households.


American vs. English Cocker Spaniels

When it comes to the differences between American and English Cocker Spaniels, there are several distinguishing factors. These two breeds may have originated from common ancestors, but they have evolved differently in both physical appearance and temperament over time.

One of the most prominent differences between the two breeds is their size. American Cocker Spaniels are generally smaller than English Cocker Spaniels. They usually weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, while English Cocker Spaniels weigh between 26 and 34 pounds on average. This size difference is reflected in their height, as well, with American Cockers standing up to 15 inches tall and English Cockers standing up to 17 inches tall.

Another noticeable difference between these two breeds is their coat. American Cocker Spaniels tend to have a longer, thicker coat with more feathering on their legs, ears, and chest. English Cocker Spaniels have a shorter, coarser coat with less feathering in these areas. The colors and patterns of their coats also differ slightly, with American Cockers typically sporting more solid colors and English Cockers having more complex patterns.

When it comes to temperament, both breeds are known for their friendly and affectionate personalities. However, American Cocker Spaniels are generally considered to be more active and energetic than their English counterparts. They tend to be more playful and require more exercise and mental stimulation to prevent destructive behavior. English Cocker Spaniels, on the other hand, are considered to be more laid-back and easier to train due to their lower energy levels.

To summarize, the following table highlights some of the key differences between American and English Cocker Spaniels:

CharacteristicsAmerican Cocker SpanielEnglish Cocker Spaniel
Size20-30 pounds, up to 15 inches tall26-34 pounds, up to 17 inches tall
CoatLong, thick coat with more feathering; usually solid colorsShort, coarse coat with less feathering; more complex patterns
TemperamentMore active and energetic; requires more exercise and stimulationMore laid-back and easier to train; lower energy levels

Both American and English Cocker Spaniels are wonderful breeds with their unique characteristics and traits. Whether you prefer a smaller, more active dog or a larger, more laid-back one, there is sure to be a Cocker Spaniel that fits your lifestyle and personality.

American Cocker Spaniels in Pop Culture

American Cocker Spaniels have become an iconic breed that holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Not only are they beloved pets, but they have also made their way into popular culture. From winning the Westminster Dog Show to appearing in movies and TV shows, these furry companions have certainly made a mark in entertainment. In this section, we’ll explore some of the ways American Cocker Spaniels have left their pawprints on pop culture.

Wins at the Westminster Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is one of the most prestigious dog shows in the world. American Cocker Spaniels have a strong history of success at the event, with several memorable moments throughout the years.

In 1921, Ch. Midkiff Seductive became the first American Cocker Spaniel to win Best in Show at Westminster. This victory helped to establish the breed in the United States and increase its popularity.

Over the next several decades, American Cocker Spaniels continued to find success at Westminster. Notably, in 1940, Ch. My Own Brucie won the title of Best in Show at the young age of nine months old, making him the youngest dog to ever win the competition.

Another memorable moment occurred in 1968, when a black American Cocker Spaniel named Ch. My Own Brucie’s nephew, Ch. Ascot Peterbilt, won Best in Show. This victory marked the first time in history that two dogs from the same breed and family took the title in consecutive years.

Decades later, in 2015, Ch. Afterglow’s Frankie became the most recent American Cocker Spaniel to win Best in Show at Westminster. This impressive win helped to reignite the breed’s popularity and showcase its unique qualities to a new generation of dog enthusiasts.

The success of American Cocker Spaniels at the Westminster Dog Show has helped to solidify their position as a beloved and respected breed in the United States and around the world.

1921Ch. Midkiff Seductive
1940Ch. My Own Brucie
1968Ch. Ascot Peterbilt
2015Ch. Afterglow’s Frankie

Popular Culture References

American Cocker Spaniels have become a beloved part of popular culture in the United States. They have been featured in various forms of media, including movies and television shows. Here are some popular culture references that highlight the charm and appeal of American Cocker Spaniels:

  • Cocker Spaniel Lady – In the Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp,” the titular character Lady is an American Cocker Spaniel. Her sweet nature and kind heart make her a beloved character amongst viewers of all ages.
  • Famous Pals – Many famous figures have owned American Cocker Spaniels, including Frank Sinatra, Gerald Ford, and Oprah Winfrey. Their love for these furry companions further solidifies the breed’s popularity.
  • The Sweetest Thing – In the movie “The Sweetest Thing,” the main character’s American Cocker Spaniel plays a significant role in the romantic storyline. Her adorable antics and wagging tail steal the audience’s heart.
  • The Iconic Cockers of Beverly Hills – In the popular children’s book series “The Cocker Spaniels of Beverly Hills,” readers are introduced to a group of glamorous and stylish American Cocker Spaniels. These dogs embody the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and are sure to capture the imagination of young readers.
  • Welcome Home – American Cocker Spaniels have a heartwarming reputation for greeting their owners with wagging tails and excited barks when they return home. This loving and enthusiastic nature is one of the reasons why the breed has become a favorite amongst pet owners.

These popular culture references not only demonstrate the widespread appeal of American Cocker Spaniels, but also highlight their endearing qualities. From their sweet nature and loving personality, to their charming and adorable presence in pop culture, it’s easy to see why American Cocker Spaniels have become such a popular breed in the United States.


In conclusion, the American Cocker Spaniel has a rich history that begins in Europe, where the breed was developed for hunting and retrieving game. The Cocker Spaniel eventually arrived in the United States and quickly became a favorite among dog enthusiasts due to its sweet disposition and playful personality.

Despite some challenges along the way, including divisions within the breed and questions around the purity of bloodlines, the American Cocker Spaniel has remained a beloved breed in the United States, with a dedicated following of breeders and owners who have helped to preserve and promote the breed.

While the American Cocker Spaniel’s history is rooted in its role as a hunting dog, the breed has also made a name for itself in popular culture, winning numerous awards at the Westminster Dog Show and appearing in countless movies, TV shows, and advertisements over the years.

Today, the American Cocker Spaniel remains a popular breed among families, thanks in part to its affectionate nature and adaptability to a variety of living situations. Whether you’re looking for a loyal companion to share your home or a talented hunting dog to take out in the field, the American Cocker Spaniel is a breed that is sure to win your heart.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of the Cocker Spaniel breed?

The Cocker Spaniel breed originated in Spain and later became popular in England. The breed was originally known for hunting small game such as woodcocks, which is how they got their name.

What are the different divisions of the Cocker Spaniel breed?

The Cocker Spaniel breed can be divided into two groups: American Cocker Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels. The two groups have some distinct physical and temperamental differences.

How did American Cocker Spaniels first come to the United States?

American Cocker Spaniels were first imported to the United States in the late 1800s. The exact details of their arrival are not known, but it is believed that they were brought over by breeders who were looking to improve the breed for show purposes.

What was the popularity of American Cocker Spaniels when they first arrived in the United States?

When American Cocker Spaniels were first imported to the United States, they were not very popular. It wasn’t until they started winning dog shows that their popularity began to grow.

What is the difference between American and English Cocker Spaniels?

There are several physical and temperamental differences between American and English Cocker Spaniels. American Cocker Spaniels are smaller and have a shorter nose, while English Cocker Spaniels have longer noses and are larger in size. English Cocker Spaniels also tend to have a calmer temperament than American Cocker Spaniels.

Have American Cocker Spaniels made appearances in popular culture?

Yes, American Cocker Spaniels have made appearances in popular culture. They have been featured in movies, TV shows, and books, often as beloved family pets.

Have American Cocker Spaniels won any awards in dog shows?

Yes, American Cocker Spaniels have won many awards in dog shows, including Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. They have also won many other awards at various dog shows around the world.

What are some of the popular culture references to American Cocker Spaniels?

There are many popular culture references to American Cocker Spaniels. Some of the most notable include Lady from the movie Lady and the Tramp and Zoey from the TV show Nurse Jackie.

Are American Cocker Spaniels good family pets?

Yes, American Cocker Spaniels can make great family pets. They are friendly, affectionate, and loyal. However, it is important to remember that they do require regular exercise and grooming.

What should I consider before getting an American Cocker Spaniel?

Before getting an American Cocker Spaniel, it is important to consider if you have the time and resources to properly care for one. They require regular exercise, grooming, and attention. It is also important to consider any potential health issues that the breed may be prone to.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

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