English Water Spaniel

The English Water Spaniel is a breed of dog that has been extinct since the first part of the 20th century, with the last specimen seen in the 1930s. It was best known for its use in hunting waterfowl and for being able to dive as well as a duck. It is described as similar to a Collie or to a cross between a Poodle and a English Springer Spaniel with curly fur and typically in a white and liver/tan pattern.Pre-dating the Irish Water Spaniel and thought to have been referred to by William Shakespeare in Macbeth, it is believed to have genetically influenced several modern breeds of dog, including the American Water Spaniel, Curly Coated Retriever and the modern variety of Field Spaniel. It is unknown if the breed was involved in the creation of the Irish Water Spaniel.


In 1570, Dr John Caius described the Water Spaniel. It has been suggested that William Shakespeare also knew the breed "for he mentions the `water rug' in Macbeth. " Furthermore, Shakespeare specifically mentions the breed in Act III Scene 1 of The Two Gentlemen of Verona when Launce says of his love, "She hath more qualities than a water-spaniel."The breed is mentioned specifically by name as early as 1802, in Sportsman's Cabinet, where it is described as having "hair long and naturally curled, not loose and shaggy"; the description accompanied an engraving of a liver and white curly coated spaniel. This shows that they pre-date the Irish Water Spaniel which was not developed as a breed until the 1830s. Unfortunately as the person credited with developing the Irish Water Spaniel, Justin McCarthy, left no written records, it is unknown if the English Water Spaniel was involved in its development. During the first half of the 18th century, the English Water Spaniel was used for duck hunting in East Anglia.The Kennel Club initially had a class for "Water spaniels other than Irish" as no standard was specifically set up for the English Water Spaniel and the judging of this class was described as "chaos" by Hugh Dalziel in British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, And Exhibition. Writing in 1897, Dalziel said of the breed, "I do not believe the breed is lost, but that scattered throughout the country there are many specimens of the old English water spaniel, which it only requires that amount of encouragement to breeding which it is in the power of show committees to give to perpetuate the variety and improve its form." Writing in 1967, author John F. Gordon stated, "After two centuries of breeding it is now extinct. None have been seen for over thirty years." The Curly Coated Retriever is considered to have descended from the Poodle, the retrieving setter, the St. John's water dog and the English Water Spaniel. Records for the origin of the modern Field Spaniel are more precise and show that one of the four progenitor dogs used in creating the breed was an English Water Spaniel-English Cocker Spaniel Mixed breed dog which was registered at the time as a Sussex Spaniel due to his liver colour.

Additional Info

  • Height: 50.8cm
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