Welsh Springer Spaniel

The ancestor of this dog is the red and white spaniel depicted in ancient Welsh paintings and prints. Having worked for a long time as a hunter, it is now becoming popular as a pet because of its good nature and adaptability.

History

In the past this breed has been called variously the Starter, the Tarfgi, the Red-and-White Spaniel, the Welsh Spaniel or the Welsh Cocker. Like all the other Land Spaniels, its gun-dog role is to locate, flush out and then retrieve small game. To many of its friends it is known simply as the Welshie. The name ‘Tarfgi’ means, literally, ‘the dispersing dog’.

There is some evidence that this may be the oldest surviving breed of spaniel. Welsh Spaniels are mentioned in the Laws of Howel Dda which date from the early part of the tenth century. In these laws it is stated that ‘the Spaniel of the King is a pound in value’. This is many years before there is any mention of this type of dog in England and suggests that it began as a Celtic dog and only later started to move east across the border.

Those very early Welsh dogs were not specified as being one particular type of spaniel or another. Sometimes they were called simply Welsh Spaniels; at other times, Welsh Cockers. At the nineteenth century, when the breed was accepted by the Kennel Club in London, the name was changed from Welsh Cocker to Welsh Springer Spaniel, but since its body weight is intermediate between the large English Springer and the smaller English Cocker, the choice of precise name appears to have been almost arbitrary.

What is puzzling about the origin of the Welsh Springer Spaniel is how a Spanish dog made the journey to Wales, there having been little direct connection between these two countries prior to the tenth century. Two theories have been put forward. One sees an early migration from Spain to Ireland and then from Ireland to Wales. The other envisages a shorter journey from Brittany to south Wales, with the Brittany Spaniel and the Welsh Spaniel sharing a common ancestor.

In addition to being smaller than the English Springer, the Welsh Springer Spaniel also has a more tapering head and a characteristic red-and-white coat pattern. No other colour form is permitted. It was rarely encountered outside its homeland until the 20th century, but because of its attractive appearance has in recent years gained some popularity as a show dog. Its ability to withstand extremes of temperature has also meant that it has been exported across the globe to work as a gun dog in such countries as Australia, Thailand and India.

Appearance

The Welsh Springer Spaniel is compact and well balanced. It has a strong body; long legs; a short, straight back; a domed head of proportionate length; an angular muzzle; relatively small ears hanging close to the cheeks; hazel or dark eyes; long muscular jaws; moderately feathered long front legs of medium length; strong, muscular hind legs; and a tail docked two-thirds the length from the tail joint. Its short, thick coat should be soft and silky with feathery ears, lower abdomen, and limbs. Coloring should be red and white only.

Temperament

Strongly independent, intelligent, calm, brave, and agile, this dog is good with other animals because of its cheerful, gentle, friendly, and obedient nature. Equipped with an excellent sense of smell, the Welsh Springer Spaniel can hunt both on land and in water. A tireless, strong gundog, it also makes a good watchdog and a house pet.

Care and Exercise

The coat will remain beautiful if brushed twice a week. Occasional professional trimming is desirable. The Welsh Springer Spaniel needing a lot of outdoor activity to keep it calm and satisfied.

Puppies and Training

The six to ten puppies in each litter mature to adult size in nine months. It is desirable to keep them as close to people.

Gallery of Welsh Springer Spaniel