Showsight Presents The Cocker Spaniel

Oil painting by Maud Earl, Lager Gallery, London

HISTORY OF THE

COCKER SPANIEL

by DIANE KEPLEY

T he final lineup of Cocker Span- iels at the 2014 American Span- iel Club National Specialty was stunning with the dogs coming into the ring at the Purina Event Center in Grey Summit, Missouri, to a rousing round of applause by the fanciers. Long-time Breeder/Judge Nancy Gallant had the di ffi cult task of choos- ing from the Parti-Color special, Grand Ch. Jem’s Going for the Knockout, the ASCOB special, Grand Ch. Silverhall’s

Strike Force and the Black special, Grand Ch. Mario N Beechwood’s Mid- night Express. In the end, Mrs. Gallant’s choice was the Black special, known to his fans and friends simply as “Ace”. In an interview following her judging, Mrs. Gallant said she was pleased the three variety winners not only showed correct type for the breed but also correct move- ment. As for her Best of Breed winner, she said she had in mind all the beautiful pictures there have been over the years of Cocker Spaniels which exemplified the breed and added Ace is everything breed- ers and judges should ever want in a dog. Ace is the present—the latest in a long line of Cocker Spaniels that have thrilled show audiences for well over a century. He is a Best in Show winner with a stellar career in both the United States and Can- ada, including his ASC National BOB win and a Best of Variety win at Westminster. But show wins do not tell the whole sto- ry about either Ace or the Cocker Spaniels

that have come before him. His breeders have said he has not only been a great show dog, but also a pleasure to live with. And that trait is what has endeared the Cocker Spaniel to people for decades. Author Ruth Kraeuchi described the Cocker Spaniel as “right in size. His beau- ty is breathtaking. But most of all, he is a dog of superb disposition.” 1 What was true when that was written in 1979 is true today, just as it was when the breed first arrived in North America in the 19th Century. Th e Cocker Spaniel is the smallest of the sporting dogs. It was developed in the United States during the latter part of the 19th century by sportsmen who hunted over their field spaniels. Th e smaller dogs in litters became known as cockers because they hunted a bird known as a woodcock, beautifully depicted in paintings by famed canine artist Maud Earl (see above).

Photo copyright J.J. Hanlin

1 The New Cocker Spaniel , by Ruth Kraeuchi

S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2014 • 239

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