HOW FORM SHOULD FOLLOW FUNCTION IN THE ENGLISH COCKER SPANIEL by GENELLE JOSEPH
n Sport as in ladies’ hats, fash- ions have changed with each decade, yes, though fashions may change, we find that the merry little Cocker has always maintained his place in the esteem of the public and sportsmen alike, by dint of his extreme adaptability and courage and, let us face it, also by his hardiness to withstand the rigors of our English climate. He should never have been allowed to become a pam- pered pet, although the vast majority are, nowadays just that. Again blame his adaptability and lovable nature: but anyone who has ever seen these game little dogs working in the field must admit that this is their rightful heritage and the place where they are truly happy. A Cocker that has once tasted the delights of bustling in and out of the hedgerows and thickets and has had the scent of hare, pheasant, partridge, or the humble rabbit in his nostrils is lost forever to the drawing room. He will, on the slightest invita- tion, leave the cream cakes to follow the guns.” Quote from the Dual Purpose Dog by A.W. Collins, circa 1950 (Collinwood Cockers, Kent, England).
Judges faced with the prospect of evaluating a ring full of English Cock- ers today might find themselves feel- ing slightly overwhelmed by the task. In this day and age, the breed can be presented in many shades and col- ors, various types and with luxurious, often sculpted coats which can hide the structure beneath. To successfully sort out the classes and reward the proper type, you would do well to remember the purpose for which the breed was developed. From the opening paragraph in the standard, you get a sense of what the English Cocker was developed for: “The English Cocker Spaniel is an active, merry sporting dog, standing well up at the withers and compactly built. He is alive with energy; his gait is powerful and frictionless, capable both of covering ground effortlessly and penetrating dense cover to flush and retrieve game. His enthusiasm in the field and the incessant action of his tail while at work indicate how much he enjoys the hunting for which he was bred.” The essence of type of any breed should lie in the original purpose. Look- ing at some aspects of the standard,
we can decipher the important traits and characteristics developed by the breed’s founders that make up the foun- dation for a distinctive and correct Eng- lish Cocker Spaniel. Substance: “The English Cocker is a solidly built dog with as much bone and substance as is possible without becoming cloddy or coarse.” Historically bred to hunt in the thick cover and underbrush of the English countryside, the Cocker needed stam- ina, endurance, power and strength. Originally the breed was used only to find and flush the game, however in more recent times they were required to also retrieve, which in turn demand- ed a larger, more robust dog. Therefore, Cockers needed to possess a sturdy body capable of carrying the muscle and bone necessary to push through the thicket, hunt, flush and retrieve whatever game was afoot, often com- paratively large foul or hare. It was essential for the breed to be capable of working all day with their master, being moderate in size, with bone, rib, depth of brisket, forechest and a broad, muscular rear. Through careful breeding we now have the veritable “Jack of all trades”, a steady, biddable,
260 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2018
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