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The Cocker Spaniel comes in two varieties: the English Cocker Spaniel and the American Cocker Spaniel. And though they are different, both can be traced back to mid-19th century England. The American Cocker Spaniel was originally bred for hunting small game, and its jolly disposition has made the breed a pet in many homes today.

Physical Characteristics

The American Cocker Spaniel happens to be the smallest of all the Sporting Group spaniels. Its athletic, compact body and soft facial expression gives the dog an appealing look, while its most distinctive feature is the Cocker Spaniel's medium-length silky coat, which can either be slightly wavy or flat. Today, a majority of Cocker Spaniels have a heavy coat meant for field work. The dog also has a strong and balanced gait.

The American Cocker Spaniel is generally split up into three color varieties: black, ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other Than Black), and parti-colors. The black varieties include solid blacks and black and tan, while the ASCOB varieties include colors ranging from the lightest creams to the darkest reds, including brown and brown with tan points. Parti-colored Spaniels have large areas of white with another color(s), usually black and white, brown and white, or red and white.

Personality and Temperament

The American Cocker Spaniel, apart from being sensitive and responsive, is very keen on obeying instructions and learning. Always cheerful and affable, it has even been dubbed as the "merry" Cocker. While this breed loves staying indoors, it considers outdoor walks one of its favorite activities. The breed is also known for its excessive barking, especially if it has been cooped inside the house all day.


It is important that the American Cocker Spaniel receives regular eye, ear, and feet cleanings to keep them dirt-free. The dog also needs its coat brushed a minimum of two to three times a week, as well as a monthly hair trimming and nail clipping. Its exercise requirements, as with many other dog breeds, can be met with regular walks. And as the American Cocker Spaniel is a social dog that needs constant human companionship, it should be kept indoors to be closer with the family.


The American Cocker Spaniel breed generally lives between 12 to 15 years. Some of its serious health problems include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, patellar luxation, and glaucoma. Diseases like elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, and epilepsy can occasionally affect the breed. Other minor health problems that the American Cocker Spaniel suffers from include cardiomyopathy, ectropion, urinary stones, otitis externa, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), hypothyroidism, seborrhea, phosphofructokinase deficiency, entropion, "cherry eye," liver disease, allergies, and congestive heart failure. In order to identify these conditions early, a veterinarian may recommend hip, knee, thyroid, or eye exams during routine checkups; DNA tests may be used to diagnose a phosphofructokinase deficiency, which may lead to anemia in the dog.

History and Background

The Cocker Spaniel is a very lovable and pleasing creature, which comes in two distinct breeds: the English and the American Cocker Spaniels. According to experts, the American breed originated from a large influx of English Cocker Spaniels, which were brought to America during the latter half of the 17th century (possibly on the Mayflower ship).

The first American Cocker Spaniel was registered in the 1880s and went by the name of Obo II. There is evidence which points to a possible cross-breed of English Cockers with smaller toy spaniels to achieve the American version. For U.S. hunters in search of a smaller-sized dog with the ability to hunt quails and other small bird game, the American Cocker Spaniel was a perfect fit.

The American Kennel Club recognized the English Cocker Spaniel as separate breed from its American counterpart in 1946, ending a long discussion of which dog type could bear the Cocker Spaniel title. The English Kennel Club of England followed suit in 1968 and also acknowledged the distinction between both breeds. Whether it is referred to as the American Cocker Spaniel or Cocker Spaniel, this dog breed has become a mainstay in the U.S. and is beloved for its warm temperament and distinctive look.

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