Small in number and little known, field spaniels are diligent workers, friendly, and make good companions. This well-balanced and extremely handsome spaniel deserves to become more popular.History
This breed has had two lives — as an active, game-flushing gun dog and as a carefully presented show dog. In its latter role it came to look quite different for a while and often appeared under the title of ‘Black Field Spaniel’ or simply ‘Black Spaniel’, this being the favoured colour for the show-ring version.
The Field Spaniel is a longer-bodied and slightly larger version of the Cocker Spaniel, At first it had been a valuable hunting companion and had proved itself a worthy member of the spaniel family. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, it underwent a major change of direction, when it was accepted as a pedigree breed for the showring and taken up as a show dog.
Competition breeders, or show-bench fanciers as the hunting fraternity called them, immediately began to modify the breed and exaggerate its shape, to improve its 'type’ for showing. What was called ‘an extremist craze’ developed for producing ‘the longest and lowest of the ultra-show type’. Instead of improving it, however, this trend nearly ruined it, giving it a ‘weak, long body, sagging underbelly, cumbersome head and crooked leg’. One critic suggested that the show dog’s only hope of survival was for it to sprout a third pair of legs in the middle of its hammock-slung body.
As the years passed, it became increasingly clear that this new-style Field Spaniel would be hopeless if it were once again asked to go to work in the hunting field. By the end of the 19th century attempts were being made to restore it to its original form, but the breed had lost so much support that this proved an uphill struggle.
By 1945, with a progressive loss of interest in the breed and with the ravages of two World Wars, it was nearly extinct. But there were still those who thought that the old hunting version of the breed was worth saving, and they laid plans to rescue it and reconstitute it. They started this process in the 1960s by introducing Cocker and Springer crosses. This rebuilt the original working Field Spaniel and the breed was safe once more, although it has to be admitted that it is still a great rarity, completely overshadowed by the immensely popular Cocker Spaniel.Appearance
Extremely agile and equipped with an astonishing sense of smell, the field spaniel has a muscular back and loin; a long head; a lean muzzle; drop ears that are longer and set lower than those of other spaniels; hazel or brown eyes; and a low-set tail carried lower than the top line of the back even when docked. It is shorter than the springer spaniel and taller than the cocker spaniel. Its rich, straight, silky coat is very shiny and slightly wavy. Coloring includes black, liver, golden liver, mahogany red, or either of these colors with tan.Temperament
Gentle, calm, loving, and obedient, this versatile, useful breed is a good domestic dog and also a good watchdog. A willing worker, the field spaniel is most fit for hunting in a big area. It is an excellent bird dog, easily trained, and a tireless worker with great perseverance and an excellent nose.
The breed Standard mentions “unusual docility” but it should be remembered that the breed is a sporting spaniel which is active, enjoys exercise and it will get bored if left alone for too long. The Field is energetic and affectionate and needs outlets for both of these qualities.Health
The Field Spaniel is a generally sound animal. Like all spaniels its ears need regular cleaning, but it is generally free from hereditary problems which is remarkable considering the frequent in-breeding which was practiced to preserve the breed. Most good breeders check for hip dysplasia and eye problems. Some instances of thyroid problems do crop up.Care and Exercise
The field spaniel needs to be brushed for five minutes twice a week. Trimming is necessary only a few times a year. Regular cleaning of the ears will keep them healthy. The Field is smart and biddable and retains its working qualities to enjoy activity in the field. As this is an active breed, it is important to let it run freely sometimes, if it lives indoors.Adaptability
The Field Spaniel needs plenty of outdoor exercise and enjoys nothing more than gamboling in fields — it will not be deterred by rain or mud. Given that it needs an active and typical life, it might not be the best choice of
breed for the houseproud because it is likely to bring in mud and debris when it returns from a country walk.Puppies and Training
A litter of seven puppies is average. As with other breeds, the earlier the training, the better.