Showsight Presents The Cocker Spaniel

Sportsmen valued their cockers because they were small enough to go under hedge rows and through brambles and other bushes, where larger dogs were not as e ffi cient. Th e cockers were also adept in retrieving the birds on land and in water. As sportsmen and breeders worked on the development of the breed in the United States, its popularity blossomed. At the Morris and Essex show in 1938, the breed with the highest entry was the Cocker Spaniel. Th ere were 319 Cock- ers shown that day on Mrs. Geraldine Dodge’s polo field! At the same time, two styles of Cocker Spaniels were emerging—the “American” and the “English.” Th e divergence of the two styles was such that in the early part of the 20th Century, the American Kennel Club agreed to allow separate conforma- tion classes for the “English” style dogs. By the early 1940s, the two styles were no lon- ger inter-bred and in 1946, at the urging of the inimitable Mrs. Dodge, the AKC granted separate breed status to English Cocker Spaniels. Dog fanciers around the world can be forgiven for some confusion about which breed is being discussed because of the designations that are given to them! In all countries except the United States, the American-style dog is known as the Amer- ican Cocker Spaniel—however in AKC events, the breed is known simply as the Cocker Spaniel. Th e “other” Cocker Span- iel in AKC events is the English Cocker Spaniel, known everywhere else in the world as the Cocker Spaniel. In AKC conformation events, the breed is shown in three varieties, based on coat color: Black (includes solid blacks and those with specific tan markings); ASCOB (any solid color other than black, including those with specific tan markings); and Par- ti-Color (two or more colors, one of which must be white, which also include the roan pattern; this variety can also include spe- cific tan markings). At all-breed shows the varieties do not compete against one another, except in the group ring. At specialty shows, the varieties are judged separately and then the variety winners compete for Best in Specialty Show and Best of Opposite to Best in Specialty Show. Th e foundation of the Cocker Spaniel in the United States (both American and English) is traced to Ch. Obo II, who was

described in the American Kennel Regis- ter as, “a nice, compactly built little fellow, perhaps a trifle short in the back, but his stock are remarkably long and low. His head is a little strong, but it is nicely car- ried; his coat is dense and flat and his legs and feet first-class.” His dam was pregnant when she was imported to the United States by Mr. F.F. Pitcher of Clermont, N.H. and his litter whelped in 1882. 2 Obo II proved to be both an outstand- ing show dog and producer. In 1884, he was awarded a special prize for Best Cocker Spaniel at the New Haven Kennel Club show and was awarded a sil- ver cup, which is now a part of the Ameri- can Spaniel Club archives. Obo II’s grave was reported to the ASC Archival Work Group in July, 2001. It’s on the former property of Mr. J.P. Willey in the small city of Rollingsford, New Hampshire. Th e grave marker has been registered with the Rollingsford Historical Society as a His- torical Monument to the Cocker Spaniel. Long considered a hallmark of the breed is the head and eye expression. Even though head shapes have changed—the soft expression can be found throughout the more than 130-year history of the Cocker Spaniel. In CH Obo II, there is a compelling look to the eye and head. Th at same look can be seen in “Ch. Idahurst Belle II”, the only Cocker Spaniel bitch to have won Best in Show at the American Span- iel Club three times—in 1930 (from the classes), 1931 and 1932. Th at look is also seen in the two-time Westminster Kennel Club winning Cock- er Spaniel, Ch. My Own Brucie. Brucie was noteworthy not only for his win record, but also because he represented the beginning of a change in the structure of the breed. Ella Mo ffi t wrote in her book, Th e Cocker Spaniel : “Interestingly enough, the demand for a more sporting type of Cock- er was created about 1923 and became a reality when the first progeny of Red Bru- cie [My Own Brucie’s sire] began to show their value for this purpose. Th is dog, more than any other specimen of the breed according to my records, has been respon- sible for improving the type and for devel- oping the Cocker along sporting lines.” “Red Brucie is particularly outstanding for having produced lean, sloping shoul- ders and powerful hindquarters which give

CH Obo II, welped August 7, 1882. Photo from the American Kennel Register, c. 1884.

Obo II cup. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club.

Ch Idahurst Belle II. Courtesy The American Spaniel Club.

Ch My Own Brucie, c. 1941. Courtesy the American Spaniel Club.

2 “The American Kennel Register” Vol. II, No. 10., 1884

continued on pg. 292

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HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2014

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