Some historians believe the Cocker Spaniel dates back to the 14th century from Spain’s “Spanyl” family. The breed of that time certainly isn’t representative of today’s Cocker.
Their name derives from their precise ability to hunt woodcock. In England, where they originally made their legacy, the Cocker Spaniel was used and still is classified as a gun dog. Hunters would bring the Cocker along hunting excursions to flush out birds so that they could get a better shot. After the bird was shot down, the Cocker would then go track and redeem the trophy.
The modern breed as we know it today is believed to be descended from a father/son combination. A Cocker named, Obo, is believed to be the progenitor of the English Cocker Spaniel, while his spawn, Obo II, is said to be the father of American Cock Spaniel.
In 1801, Wales Historian, Sydenham Edwards, wrote in the Cynographia Britannica, that there were two types of Land Spaniel, hawking and cocker.
During the early 1800’s, a Cocker was simply known as a small Field Spaniel. That list included breeds like the Clumber and Sussex Spaniels. The standard to be labeled a Cocker was to weigh 25 pounds or less.
In America, the dog was bred in a different fashion and are considered somewhat elusive in size, type and coloring from the English brand. The English version has a more narrower chest and head, while the American Cocker Spaniel is smaller with a shorter muzzle and back. Each type, however, have unbelievable senses, and are incredibly alert and sharp when it comes to hunting, tracking, flushing, and retrieving.
In 1878, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed and classed them into the Sporting Group. Most kennel groups elsewhere around the world, still label the Cocker Spaniel in the Gun Group.
By the 1880’s, the first Cocker registered by the American Kennel Club was Obo II. It took until 1935, however, for the distinction to be made between the American Cocker Spaniel and the U.K. version. The U.K. Kennel Club followed suit in 1970.
Since being recognized by the AKC in the late 19th century, the Cocker Spaniel has emerged as a popular Sporting dog, but an even bigger fan favorite as a companion. During the 1930-1950”s, this bred was deemed the most popular in the United States.
Today, the Cocker is still cherished and is ranked 29th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club.