The History and Differences of English and American Cocker Spaniels

As a dog lover, I’ve always been fascinated by the origins of different breeds. One breed that particularly caught my attention was the Cocker Spaniel. With a history that spans several centuries and two continents, there’s no shortage of interesting facts to uncover. In this article, we’ll explore the curious case of the English and American Cocker Spaniels. From their origins as hunting dogs to their role as beloved family pets, these two breeds have a rich and storied history. So, let’s delve into the world of Cocker Spaniels and unravel the mysteries of their past.

The Origins of Spaniels

The Origins Of Spaniels
Spaniels are a group of dog breeds that have a rich history dating back to the medieval times. They were originally bred as hunting dogs for flushing out game, especially birds, and retrieving them for their owners. The word “spaniel” comes from the Old French word “espaigneul,” which means “Spanish dog,” as many of these breeds were developed in Spain. Today, spaniels are popular family pets known for their friendly personalities and sweet temperaments. To learn more about the evolution of the spaniel breed, you can read our previous article on the evolution of the spaniel breed. Or if you are interested in the hunting history of Cocker Spaniels, you can check out our article on Cocker Spaniels’ hunting history. For information on the American Cocker Spaniel’s history, head to our article on Cocker Spaniels in America.

The Spaniel Breed

The Spaniel breed is a type of gundog that was originally bred to flush out game birds for hunters. They were first mentioned in medieval times and were popular among the nobility in England. There are many different breeds of Spaniels, but they are all known for their athleticism, intelligence, and affectionate nature.

In the 19th century, Spaniels began to be divided into two categories: land spaniels and water spaniels. The land spaniels, such as the English Springer Spaniel, were used for flushing game out of bushes and trees, while the water spaniels were used for hunting waterfowl.

Over time, breeders began to specialize in different types of Spaniels, and the Cocker Spaniel was developed from the land spaniels. The name “Cocker” comes from the breed’s ability to flush out woodcock, a type of bird.

The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest breed of Spaniel, weighing between 12 and 15 pounds. They are known for their long, silky coats that come in a variety of colors, including black, brown, and red. They have long, droopy ears and a sweet, expressive face that endears them to their owners.

Cocker Spaniels are also known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They are great family pets and love to be around people. They are intelligent dogs that are eager to please, making them easy to train. They are also very social animals that enjoy the company of other dogs and pets.

Despite their small size, Cocker Spaniels are very active dogs that require a lot of exercise. They love to play and run, and they have a lot of energy. They are also very good at agility sports, such as obedience and flyball.

The Cocker Spaniel is a beloved breed known for its affectionate personality, intelligence, and athleticism. They make great family pets for those who are willing to give them the exercise and attention they need.

Development of Cocker Spaniel

During the 19th century, spaniel breeds were classified based on their size and hunting abilities. According to historical records, spaniels were categorized as either water or land spaniels. However, as the need for smaller hunting dogs grew, breeders began mixing various spaniel types.

Origination: The Cocker Spaniel was originally bred to hunt woodcock in the United Kingdom. To improve their hunting abilities, breeders started crossing them with Springer, Sussex, and Field Spaniels. This eventually led to the development of two Cocker types – one that hunted on the land and the other that hunted in the water.

Naming: After the creation of these two types, the land Cocker Spaniel was officially named Cocker Spaniel, while the other was coined the Clumber Spaniel. The name Cocker referred to the breed’s ability to hunt woodcock.

Increase in popularity: The breed’s popularity continued to soar in the early 20th century, both in England and the United States. In 1901, the American Spaniel Club was founded, and the breed’s standard was established in 1905. However, due to breeders’ varying breeding standards, the English and American Cocker Spaniels started to develop noticeable differences.

Breeding Differences: As breeders in England started breeding Cocker Spaniels for shows, they focused on their appearance and emphasized the breed’s secondary characteristics, such as their physical features. Meanwhile, American breeders placed more emphasis on breeding the breed for hunting, de-emphasizing physical traits.

The breed standard for the American Cocker Spaniel continues to focus on their abilities in the field, while the English standard emphasizes their physical appearance.

The breeding practices of the two different regions led to the creation of two distinct breeds. The American breed is smaller and has shorter ears while the English breed is taller and has longer ears. Although the breeds have different physical appearances and personality traits, both are still loved by many spaniel enthusiasts worldwide.

English Cocker Spaniel

English Cocker Spaniel
The English Cocker Spaniel is a majestic breed that has won the hearts of many dog lovers around the world. With its striking appearance and lively personality, this breed has a rich history that dates back centuries. From its origins as a hunting dog, to its role as a beloved companion, the story of the English Cocker Spaniel is one with many twists and turns. In this section, we will explore the unique characteristics of this breed, including its appearance and temperament, as well as its fascinating history. So, let’s dive in and learn more about this charming breed!


The appearance of English Cocker Spaniels and American Cocker Spaniels may appear similar at first glance, but there are some notable differences. Here are the distinguishing features of each breed’s appearance:

English Cocker Spaniel:

  • The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized dog, weighing between 26-34 pounds.
  • They have a sturdy, compact build, with a broad skull, square muzzle, and long, pendulous ears.
  • Their coat is typically thick and soft, with feathering on their legs, chest, and ears.
  • English Cockers come in a variety of colors, including black, red, liver, and blue roan.
  • The breed’s eyes are large, dark, and expressive, giving them a friendly and kind disposition.

American Cocker Spaniel:

  • The American Cocker Spaniel is a smaller dog, typically weighing between 20-30 pounds.
  • They have a longer, leaner build with a rounded head, shorter ears, and a plumed tail.
  • Their coat is thick and curly, with feathering on the chest, legs, and ears.
  • American Cockers come in a variety of colors, including black, red, buff, and parti-color (white with patches of another color).
  • The breed’s eyes are large and round, often described as “dreamy,” giving them a somewhat goofy and affectionate expression.

Both breeds have a distinct appearance that makes them easily recognizable. While the English Cocker Spaniel has a heavier build and longer ears, the American Cocker Spaniel has a more rounded head and plumed tail. Their coat and eye colors also vary slightly.


When it comes to temperament, both English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel have unique personalities. Here are some notable traits of each breed:

English Cocker Spaniel:

  • Intelligent: English Cocker Spaniels are known for their intelligence and quick learning ability. They love to please their owners and thrive in training sessions.
  • Active: These dogs are energetic and require regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy. They enjoy running, hiking, and other outdoor activities with their humans.
  • Friendly: English Cockers are typically friendly and affectionate towards everyone they meet, making them great family pets.
  • Independent: While they love attention from their owners, these dogs also have an independent streak that can make them stubborn at times.
  • Lively: With their high energy and playful nature, English Cocker Spaniels are always ready for a good time.

American Cocker Spaniel:

  • Sociable: American Cocker Spaniels are social dogs that love being around their families and other animals. They do not tolerate being alone for long periods of time and require companionship.
  • Gentle: These dogs are known for their gentle nature and are great with children. They make loyal and affectionate family pets.
  • Intelligent: American Cockers are quick learners and respond well to positive reinforcement training methods.
  • Happy: With their wagging tails and upbeat personalities, these dogs are known for spreading joy wherever they go.
  • Sensitive: American Cocker Spaniels have sensitive temperaments and require gentle handling. They do not respond well to harsh punishment or negative reinforcement methods.

While both breeds share similarities in temperament, there are some distinct differences. English Cocker Spaniels are more independent and lively, while American Cocker Spaniels are more sociable and sensitive. It’s important to consider these differences when choosing which breed is right for you and your lifestyle.

American Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniel
When it comes to loyal and affectionate canine companions, few breeds can outshine the American Cocker Spaniel. This beautiful breed is known for its soulful eyes, fluffy coat, and playful personality, making it a popular choice for families and singles alike. Native to the United States, the American Cocker Spaniel is a descendant of the English Cocker Spaniel, but over time, it has developed its own unique traits and characteristics. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the distinctive features of the American Cocker Spaniel, from its appearance to its temperament.


When it comes to comparing the appearance of English Cocker Spaniels and American Cocker Spaniels, there are some significant differences. Here are the distinct characteristics that set them apart:

English Cocker Spaniel:

  • The English Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized breed that stands around 15-17 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs between 26 and 34 pounds.
  • They have a well-proportioned body with a square head and a long, wavy, silky coat that comes in various colors such as black, liver, red, and golden.
  • Their large, dark, and expressive eyes give them a charming and friendly appearance, and their long, floppy ears are covered with feathering fur that adds to their cute and adorable look.
  • Their tail is usually docked a bit shorter than other spaniel breeds, which gives them a balanced and distinct look.

American Cocker Spaniel:

  • The American Cocker Spaniel, also a medium-sized breed, is smaller than their English counterparts, standing around 13-15 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 20 and 30 pounds.
  • Their head is rounded with a prominent stop, and they have shorter, curlier, and silkier coats that come in colors like black, golden, chocolate, or a mix of white and another color.
  • Their eyes are big, round, and dark, and when combined with their long, curly-furred ears, they give off a cute and playful vibe.
  • Their tails are usually docked as well, but they are kept longer than in English Cocker Spaniels, giving them a feathered tail that moves gracefully when they are excited.

While both breeds share some common features, the differences in their appearance are apparent. The English Cocker Spaniel has a longer and more flowing coat, and their heads are not as round as the American Cocker Spaniel. On the other hand, the American Cocker Spaniel’s curly and shorter fur is easier to maintain and gives them a fluffier look.


The temperament of English and American Cocker Spaniels can vary due to differences in breeding and training. However, both breeds are known for their loyalty, affection, and willingness to please their owners.

English Cocker Spaniel: English Cockers are highly intelligent and social dogs that thrive on attention and human interaction. They have a friendly and outgoing personality, making them excellent family pets. They tend to be lively and energetic, so they need regular exercise and mental stimulation. However, they are also known to be sensitive and can be easily hurt by harsh words or actions. English Cockers respond best to positive reinforcement training methods and can excel in a variety of activities such as hunting, obedience, and agility.

American Cocker Spaniel: American Cockers are also known for their loving and affectionate nature. They are loyal companions that crave human attention and thrive on being close to their owners. However, they tend to be more sensitive and emotional than their English counterparts, making them more prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. American Cockers are highly trainable and can be excellent family pets with the proper socialization and training. They are often used as therapy or emotional support dogs due to their kind and gentle nature.

Despite their similarities in temperament, there are some key differences between the English and American Cocker Spaniel. English Cockers tend to be more independent and aloof, while American Cockers are more clingy and emotive. Additionally, American Cockers can be more vocal and bark more frequently than English Cockers. It is important for potential owners to research and understand these differences before choosing which breed is right for them.

Differences Between English and American Cocker Spaniels

For those not familiar with the Cocker Spaniel breeds, it can be easy to mistake the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel as simply two variations of the same breed. However, while they do share a common ancestor, the two breeds have diverged in significant ways. In this section, we will explore and highlight the main differences between these two beloved breeds. So, let’s dive in and discover what sets the English and American Cocker Spaniels apart!


When it comes to appearance, both English and American Cocker Spaniels have distinct features that differentiate them from each other.

English Cocker Spaniels: are medium-sized dogs with a sturdy and balanced build. They have a well-proportioned head with a square muzzle, dark round eyes, and long pendulous ears. The coat is thick and silky, with feathering on the chest, legs, and ears. English Cocker Spaniels come in various colors such as black, liver, red, and golden.

American Cocker Spaniels: are also medium-sized dogs, but they have a more compact and refined build. They have a rounded head with a shorter muzzle than English Cocker Spaniels, and their ears are longer and more heavily feathered. The coat is also silky and dense, with feathering on the chest, legs, and ears. American Cocker Spaniels come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including black, buff, parti-color, and roan.

To easily compare the differences between the two breeds’ appearance, here’s an html table:

AppearanceEnglish Cocker SpanielAmerican Cocker Spaniel
BuildSturdy and balancedCompact and refined
EarsPendulousLonger and more heavily feathered
CoatThick and silky with moderate featheringSilky and dense with heavy feathering
ColorsBlack, liver, red, goldenBlack, buff, parti-color, roan

As you can see, there are clear differences between the two breeds when it comes to appearance. The English Cocker Spaniel has a sturdier build with a square-shaped head and longer muzzle, while the American Cocker Spaniel has a more refined build with a rounded head and shorter muzzle. Both breeds have silky coats with feathering, but the American Cocker Spaniel has heavier feathering.


The temperament of the Cocker Spaniel is one of its most endearing qualities. Both the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel are known for being friendly and loyal companions.

Some of the key personality traits of both breeds include:

  • Affectionate: Cocker Spaniels are known for their affectionate nature and thrive on human interaction.
  • Sociable: They are very friendly and sociable with other dogs and people which makes them great family pets.
  • Intelligent: Both breeds are highly intelligent and eager to please, making them easy to train.
  • Fearful: Cocker Spaniels can be fearful when not properly socialized or when introduced to new situations or environments.
  • Playful: They are playful and enjoy activities like fetching, swimming and long walks.
  • Stubborn: Sometimes, they can be willful and stubborn when it comes to training, but this can be overcome with patience and consistency.

It is important to remember that individual dogs may exhibit different temperaments even within the same breed. Proper training, exercise, and socialization can help bring out the best in the Cocker Spaniel’s temperament.


In conclusion, the English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel may share similarities as members of the Spaniel breed, but they are distinct breeds with their own unique origins, appearances, and temperaments. The English Cocker Spaniel has a longer history, originating in England as a multipurpose gundog used to hunt game birds, while the American Cocker Spaniel was developed in the United States with a focus on aesthetic appeal as a show dog.

The English Cocker Spaniel has a more athletic build, with a medium-length coat that comes in a variety of colors. Their temperament is typically loyal, affectionate, and intelligent, but may be prone to stubbornness if not properly trained and socialized.

The American Cocker Spaniel has a shorter, more rounded head and a profuse coat that requires regular grooming. Their temperament is typically cheerful, playful, and eager to please, but may be more sensitive and prone to separation anxiety.

The differences between the two breeds extend beyond just their appearances and temperaments. English Cocker Spaniels are generally more suited for active lifestyles and outdoor activities, while American Cocker Spaniels are better suited for indoor living due to their smaller size and less energetic disposition.

Overall, both breeds make wonderful companions for the right owners, but it is important to consider their unique needs and characteristics before choosing which one is right for you. Proper training, socialization, and care are crucial to ensure a happy and healthy life for your furry friend, regardless of which breed you choose.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a spaniel and a cocker spaniel?

Spaniels are a breed of dog known for their hunting skills. Cocker Spaniel is a subtype of spaniel known for their specific size, temperament, and appearance.

What is the origin of spaniels?

Spaniels have been around for centuries, originating in Spain, before being imported to England in the 14th century.

When was the Cocker Spaniel breed officially recognized?

The Cocker Spaniel breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878 and the United Kennel Club in 1914.

What is the difference between English Cocker Spaniel and American Cocker Spaniel temperaments?

The English Cocker Spaniel tends to be more independent, while the American Cocker Spaniel is known for being a bit more affectionate and family-oriented.

What is the average lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel?

The average lifespan of a Cocker Spaniel is 12-15 years.

Do Cocker Spaniels require a lot of exercise?

While Cocker Spaniels do require regular exercise, they do not need excessive amounts. A 30-60 minute daily walk is sufficient.

What health issues are common in Cocker Spaniels?

Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections, hip dysplasia, and cataracts among other health concerns. It is important to provide proper health care and regular check-ups.

What is the grooming requirement for Cocker Spaniels?

Cocker Spaniels require regular grooming to maintain their coat. Daily brushing and occasional trimming is recommended.

Are Cocker Spaniels good with children?

Cocker Spaniels can make good family pets and are generally good with children, but as with any dog, proper socialization and training are important.

Can Cocker Spaniels be trained as hunting dogs?

Yes, Cocker Spaniels can be trained as hunting dogs and are known for their excellent retrieving skills.


Matthew Farthing

Matthew Farthing

Сontributing author at DogCareHacks, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

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