When you combine handsome with intelligent you get the Welsh Springer Spaniel. Somewhere in the middle of the spaniel world—Welshies aren’t as popular as the Boykin or Cocker but certainly edge out the Clumber and Field.
While it’s not unique for a breed to have a murky history, as does the Welsh Springer Spaniel, historians do believe this breed to be ancient.
In fact, certain historians believe the breed to be the oldest of all spaniels from the U.K.
So what makes this sporting breed such a wonderful choice as a household pet?
Here is what you need to know about the Welsh Springer Spaniel.
There’s no debate that the Welsh Springer Spaniel is an ancient breed. However, how ancient the breed is — is where the debate begins. Whether their name was the Welsh Springer or Starter or English Springer is irrelevant — what we do know is that a breed similar to that of what we know to be the Welshie did appear in pictures at least from the 16th century.
By default, spaniels are archaic, most, if not all, being from Spain. Some say that the Welshie possibly came via the Celtics to the British Isles as soon as 900 BC. Of course, this theory seems plausible, considering.
Yet, one can take the account from the American Kennel Club. Their history derives from Spain dating back to 7000 BC. In The United Kingdom, according to legendary dog historian, John Caius, there was a dog with a white coat and red spots in the 16th century.
Before guns, hunters had to rely on a few humble tools to eat. One being a net. Of course, a net wouldn’t be enough to invite game into them, so something had to startle and trick the bird into the net. Enter the spaniel.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel’s original job would consist of flushing game from their cover and into the nets for their respective humans to kill. It was that, or the option, flushing them out and into the air so a Falcon could swoon in for the kill. Either way cut the mustard for the English for centuries. Which is why the breed was so incredibly popular.
There was another element to their popularity. It was their ability and durability. Some dogs are tougher than others, and the English Springer Spaniel is no exception. They had the luster to work all day, but to work in conditions most dogs could not. Adding to that and a handsome looking dog was their mental aptitude. A reputation for having mild manners and eager to please, a Welshie then, as it is now, was loyal and a jovial family dog.
Holding their own as retrievers and being excellent swimmers, the Welshie made a name for itself in the 18th and 19th century.
Yet, the breed had to share some of that glory with the English Springer Spaniel. In fact, the Welshie would appear in shows or in public as the English Springer. That was until their of recognition from the Kennel Club of England in 1902.
While the invention of guns and better technology made hunting breed expendable, their popularity would wane a bit in the early going. Insofar, it was thought that the breed didn’t exist in North America in the first half of the 20th century. That was due to fighter pilots wiping out the registry of a Welsh Springer Spaniel club.
Thankfully, the breed would survive, and during the 1920’s and 30’s, a revamp of the breed was underway. With both the American Kennel Club (1914) and the UKC (1956) giving recognition, the breed would never reach the height of popularity as the English Cocker and Boykin. Today, according to the American Kennel Club, the breed is 133rd most popular in the United States. That is ten slots higher than 2016.
Currently, the breed is on England’s vulnerable native breeds list. Although most people expect the breed to survive, there are some with concerns. In 2017, the breed had an abysmal 299 registrations.
A medium size breed — males can stand between 18 to 19 inches while females stand between 17 to 18 inches.
With regards to weight — a male Welsh Springer Spaniel must weigh between 40 to 55 pounds. A female should range between 35 to 50 pounds.
Personality and Temperament
If you like simple then the Welsh Springer Spaniel is the dog for you. You should be active, however, someone who enjoys the outdoors or like to hunt. This is a highly energetic breed with a nose for the trail. The Welshie is always rearing to go, ready for whatever you throw at them. This is a versatile hunting breed — while their strong suit is flushing, they can spring and retrieve. With their web feet, and their durable coat, the breed is adaptable to most conditions.
Aside from work, you can take this dog anywhere. Incredibly adaptable, country or city, although the breed prefers the country air to that of the smog, anywhere you go they’ll be happy. Whether you’ve bred tons of show winners or this is your first dog — the Welshie is for all.
Kids will adore them and the Welsh Springer Spaniel will adore your kids in return. Have another dog, that’s quite okay for this breed. They are friendly, overall, although strangers may see a wary side. This isn’t due to shyness or being afraid, rather, the breed has more interest in those that feed them.
They can be vocal, they will alert and protect the home with all of their might. That’s because this is a dog with a surplus of affection and loyalty for family. Their melting expression and happy go lucky demeanor is what made them so popular to English families in the 19th century.
Easy to train, intelligent, the Welsh Springer Spaniel is eager to please their hand. Hot or cold weather, this family driven dog loves to partake in agility, obedience, tracking and rally.
All in all, the breed is fun and engaging. Active but knows their limits. Loves the entire family not just their mom or dad. Can co-exist with others well and you won’t have to worry about angry neighbors or a frightful mail carrier.
When you buy a Welsh Springer Spaniel from a breeder, do yourself a favor, and ensure you are buying from a reputable breeder. This person should be able to supply you with documents you’ll need regarding a dog’s well-being. Health clearances shouldn’t be a problem and you should always ask for them. Ask the questions, read the reviews!
In addition, you can help your cause out by using common sense preventative measures. Measures like: vaccines, routine maintenance of your dog, daily or weekly inspections of your dog. You can also take them to the veterinarian occasionally to ensure your Welshie’s health.
If you do the above, there’s no reason to believe your Welsh Springer Spaniel can’t live between 12 to 15 years.
Something pet owners fear is the malformation of the hip joint, Hip Dysplasia. This condition can create trouble for your dog’s ability to work or recreational time. Lameness, discomfort and pain are the common symptoms. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the Welsh Springer Spaniel has a 11.5% dysplastic rating. This isn’t as bad as other breeds, but does give room for pause. At 103rd worst on the OFA’s list, the Welshie ranks among the Malamute, Beauceron and Irish Setter.
Similarly, but with the elbow, which is Elbow Dysplasia, the abnormal growth of the elbow can complicate the breed’s health as far as lameness, discomfort and pain concerns. It can also invite osteoarthritis down the line. The OFA ranks the Welsh Springer Spaniel 99th worst among the Weimaraner, Black & Tan Coonhound and Boykin Spaniel. Out of 1,000 plus evaluations, the breed’s dysplastic rating is 1.7.
Where trouble come to the door is Hypothyroidism or issues with the thyroid gland. A lack of hormonal production can cause problems with the coat and the dog’s overall energy. Lethargy, weakness, lack of appetite can occur when the dog is stricken with this complication. According to the OFA’s ranking system, the breed ranks 12th worst in the thyroid department of 114 breeds. This puts them among the Tibetan Mastiff and Rhodesian Ridgeback.
The other areas of concern seem to exist within the eyes. Entropion, which is when the eyelid rolls inward causing the dog irritation due to the rubbing against the cornea. This may require surgery to correct if it worsens. Cataracts is easy to detect due to the fact that a dog’s eye will cloud up around the lens. This leads to night blindness at first and can proceed further to complete blindness. Glaucoma is also an area of concern for the breed that can lead to blindness and pain.
Other issues include epilepsy, dental problems with tartar buildup and infections, as well as Otis Externa, which is inflammation of the external ear canal.
This is a breed that is keen on having close contact with their humans. Hence their popularity with the English as hunting/companions. You won’t want to leave a breed of this caliber alone for long periods of time. Of course, when you leave a dog alone for long durations it can lead to issues of jealousy and issues with destructive habits. If you don’t have the time to give this breed the attention and affection it deserves, look for a different breed.
Due to their hunting background, the breed may showcase some prey drive. This just means you don’t want to put up a squirrel house or invite mice over for dinner. Unless you are trying to exterminate the two, avoid contact between smaller animals and the Welsh Springer Spaniel. On a side note, the breed should be fine with cats and other dogs.
The breed may wander off and chase animals they consider prey. This just means you’ll need a fence or leash to secure the Welsh Springer Spaniel.
A breed like this should have a role. A job or something to keep their minds going and in good physical standing. Early training and socialization is always a plus to create a more personable dog. Include them in family events, introduce them to new situations and people.
Daily exercise, a trip to the dog park or a dip in the lake are all in line with this breed. You can train them or teach them agility, obedience and rally. Check their long hanging ears weekly for bacterial buildup, trim their nails routinely and brush their teeth daily or frequently.
A Welsh Springer Spaniel has tons of energy and needs a high quality winning formula. It should have a blend and balance of all prudent nutrients. A quality blend of vitamins, minerals, quality crude fat, protein and calories. Meat should be the first ingredient.
Not all dogs will eat the same amounts. This all depends on their age, energy requirements and metabolism. Spaying and neutering can also play a part in how much a dog will eat.
Most people with a Welsh Springer Spaniel seem content feeding them between 1.5 cups to 2.5 cups per day. This, of course, should be broken up into two meals per day. This will help reduce the chances of Bloat or Gastric Torsion. Gastric Torsion is a deadly issue with the stomach, this is both painful and preventable.
As always, you should provide your Welsh Springer Spaniel with fresh drinking water.
This is a seasonal shedder, that is rather easy to care for. A once a week comb over should suffice the Welsh Springer Spaniel.
The majority of their coat should feel soft and look straight. There should be some moderate feathering on the underside of their body, their chest and hinds.
According to the American Kennel Club, there is one acceptable color for their coat: Red and white.
There are no acceptable markings.
Fun Welsh Springer Spaniel Facts
- According to their Welsh Springer Spaniel Club, the breed’s first appearance in a photo was back in 1893.
- The formation of the Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America began in 1961.
- The breed’s former name was “The Welsh Starter.”
- According to a book on dog’s intelligence, the breed is the 41st most intelligent dog meaning they’ll obey their first command 70 percent or better of the time.
- Ooops! According to the AKC, the breed didn’t have any registrations with the club between 1926 to 1948. This may be why some thought Welshies didn’t exist in North America.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel has had quite the ride. Nobody knows exactly how old the breed really is, but we do know that they’re really old. And cute! Of course, none of that has meant much regarding their popularity. But not all dogs can be as popular as some.
While they are rare, the breed still carries enough clout to be a force. They are obedient and smart enough for the show ring — durable and versatile enough for the field — while at home, they are everything we want in a dog — loyal, loving and fun to be around.
Those traits will always be popular, which means, the Welsh Springer Spaniel will always have a home.