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16 Surprising Cocker Spaniel Facts You May Not Know

Written by: Jeff Weishaupt

Last Updated on April 30, 2024 by Dogster Team

english cocker spaniel walking outside

16 Surprising Cocker Spaniel Facts You May Not Know


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether English or American, Cocker Spaniels are a fun dog breed that loves being around children and family members. They love getting attention from their family and aren’t fond of being alone for long periods. At the same time, they’re brilliant, determined, and athletic.

If you already own a Cocker Spaniel or are interested in getting one, here are a few facts you might have not known about the breed before now.

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The 16 Cocker Spaniel Facts

1. Cocker Spaniels Have Made an Appearance in Chaucer’s Work

Geoffrey Chaucer was an English writer and poet who lived in the 1300s. He is often considered one of the greatest English poets. The Canterbury Tales is one of his best works, still taught in schools and English degrees today.

One of his works, The Wife of Bath’s Tale, mentioned “spanyels.” The term referred to what we know today as Cocker Spaniels.

English Cocker Spaniel
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

2. Cocker Spaniels Come from Spain

It is thought that Cocker Spaniels originated in Spain, especially since Spain and Spainel are closely related terms. British and European Cocker Spaniels were initially grouped into two categories: land spaniels and water spaniels.

In the 19th century, when written breed standards came into being, the popularity of purebred dogs rose in England. That’s when Spaniels were categorized into specific breeds and they were split into American and English Cocker Spaniels.

3. Cocker Spaniels Separated Into Two Varieties in America

When Cocker Spaniels came to America, they diverged into two types: English and American. The English Cocker Spaniel was taller and had a longer head compared to the American Cocker Spaniel. Also, its coat was not as wavy and was more suited to hunting.

The American Cocker Spaniel was shorter and had a rounder head. Canadian kennel clubs started registering these varieties as different breeds in the early 1940s. The American Kennel Club then gave them different names in 1946: Cocker Spaniel and English Cocker Spaniel.

English cocker spaniel
Image Credit: Labrador Photo Video, Shutterstock

4. The Cocker Spaniel Is a Part of American History: The “Checkers” Speech

Before he became president, Richard Nixon was a US Senator who was the Republican vice-presidential nominee for the 1952 election. He was accused of using $18,000 from a political fund collected by the party’s supporters for his personal use.

Nixon gave a 30-minute speed to deny these allegations, claiming that the money was solely used for election campaign expenses. He also cited an audit report from certified public accountants to back his claim. But what made the speed memorable enough to be the sixth most important 20th-century American speech was Nixon’s mention of a Cocker Spaniel named Checkers. That’s also where the address got its name from.

In his speech, the to-be president said his two young girls wanted a dog. His wife had mentioned this on a radio show. A man from Texas heard this and gave a Cocker Spaniel as a gift to the Senator. Nixon’s 6-year-old named the dog Checkers. In his speech, Nixon assured that no matter what happened with the electoral campaign, he would keep the dog.

That’s how the Cocker Spaniel became a symbol of US politics. The speech was so effective that hundreds of telegrams and calls poured in from all over the country in Nixon’s support.

5. The Oldest Cocker Spaniel was 22

Cocker Spaniels usually have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years. But there are always exceptions.

Uno, a black and white dog, was the oldest reported Cocker Spaniel. He was born in 1988 and lived up to the age of 22. That’s over a century in human years!

black and white english cocker spaniel running
Image Credit: rebeccaashworth, Shutterstock

6. A Cocker Spaniel Was on the Mayflower

The Mayflower is a historically well-known 17th-century English ship that brought a group of English separatists, also called Pilgrims, to the New World in 1620. These Pilgrims arrived off the coast of what later became Massachusetts and established their residence at Plymouth.

Historical records show that there were at least two dogs on this ship—a Mastiff and a Cocker Spaniel. The American Kennel Club’s archives show that the characteristics of the spaniel mentioned in Pilgrim’s journals describe today’s English Springer Spaniel.

It’s assumed that the Cocker Spaniel was on the ship to hunt game birds. Meanwhile, the Mastiff protected the Pilgrims from wild animals and unfriendly tribes.

7. A Cocker Spaniel Inspired the World-Famous Sperry Shoes

Paul Sperry, the founder of Sperry Shoes, was inspired by his interest in sailing to create shoes that provide good traction on slippery wet surfaces. His creation, the Sperry shoes, are known to have “launched a thousand ships” because of their popularity among sailors.

But did you know that a Cocker Spaniel inspired the design of Sperry shoes? That’s right.

Sperry had a Cocker Spaniel named Prince. While watching his dog play in the snow, Sperry realized that the spaniel does not slip. So, he designed his first pair, the Top-Spider, according to the shape of the cracks and grooves in a Cocker Spaniel’s paws.

While it took some trial and error, Sperry was successful in his design, and the shoes became an instant success.

Joyful,Cocker,Spaniel,Sits,In,A,Backpack.,Concept,Of,Hiking_Aleksey Boyko_ Shutterstock
Image Credit: Aleksey Boyko, Shutterstock

8. The Cocker Spaniel Is the Smallest in the Sporting Dog Family

Sporting dogs are a family of dogs bred for hunting and sporting activities such as field trials, water retrieving, bird hunting, and more. The Cocker Spaniel is the smallest dog in this category. Males range in height from 14.5 to 15.5 inches, while females are 13.5 to 14.5 inches.

These dogs also don’t weigh much, with males weighing 25 to 30 pounds and females weighing 20 to 25 pounds.

9. The Term “Cocker” Comes from the Eurasian Woodcock

Breeders in the UK mainly bred the Cocker Spaniel for its hunting capabilities. The dog was bred to hunt the Eurasian Woodcock, a small bird-like creature. That’s where the “Cocker” in the breed’s name stems from.

american cocker spaniel
Image Credit: Olga Aniven, Shutterstock

10. Ruby Was the First Cocker Spaniel to Get the Master Hunter Title

The American Kennel Club awards dogs a Master Hunter title based on their hunting skills. Participants of this competition have to pass six Master Hunter tests. These tests simulate hunting challenges and conditions, such as retrieving birds from the water and working under thick cover.

AKC tests the dogs based on their problem-solving, retrieving, and marking skills. Ruby from CH Pett’s Southwest Breeze was the first Cocker Spaniel to win this title.

11. Brucie, a Cocker Spaniel, Had His Obituary Published in the New York Times

Brucie was an American Cocker Spaniel and the winner of the Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Dog Club Show consecutively in 1940 and 1941. He quickly became popular among dog fanciers and the public.

After his win at the dog club show, his owner, Herman Mellenthin, received plenty of offers for him, some as high as $15,000, but he refused.

When the dog won for the third time, its hometown Poughkeepsie, New York, gave the dog and the owner a testimonial dinner. Brucie was so popular that when he died at the age of 8 due to an illness, the New York Times published his obituary.

english cocker spaniel lying on bed
Image Credit: Adriana Morales, Pixabay

13. Cocker Spaniels Are Easy to Train

Cocker Spaniels are people-pleasers. They are intelligent and want to make their owners happy, and if following commands accomplishes that, they’ll do it happily.

However, they are quick to notice a change in the owner’s tone of voice. Any harsh or insensitive correction measures will not be productive in training your Cocker Spaniel.

The breed also likes the challenges that come with performance activities. You can take advantage of this by enrolling your Cocker in agility classes or any other sport.

Cocker Spaniel puppy and Asian boy under a tree
Image By: Jeanette Virginia Goh, Shutterstock

14. Cocker Spaniels Have Starred in Disney Films

In 1955, Disney released a movie with two dogs as protagonists called The Lady and the Tramp. The film was set in the early 1900s and had Lady, a Cocker Spaniel, as the lead.

Lady was a female dog living her best life in the luxurious part of town, being pampered by her owners. Her love interest, Tramp, is a street mutt living in the rough part of town.

The movie’s release increased the already-existing hype around Cocker Spaniels.

15. Tangle, a Cocker Spaniel, Detected Cancer in Patients

Some scientific evidence shows that trained dogs might be able to detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from human breath and urine samples pointing to cancer growth.

Tangle, a 2-year-old Cocker Spaniel, was one of the first dogs trained to detect cancer in humans in 2004 successfully. The doctors training the group of dogs for cancer detection said that the accuracy rate of the dogs in detecting cancer was 41%.

American Cocker Spaniel standing near lake
Image By: lkoimages, Shutterstock

16. Cocker Spaniels Can Produce Double Merles

When two dogs with the merle gene are bred together, there’s a possibility of their offspring having two copies of this gene. This situation is called double merle.

Double merle dogs have coats with a distinctive pattern of colors and may have vision and hearing problems. Some of these dogs may be partially or completely deaf. Breeding two Cocker Spaniels can produce double merle puppies. That’s why it’s essential to check the breeder’s background and reputation before deciding to purchase a pup.

17. Cocker Rage Is a Thing

Cocker Spaniels are rarely aggressive, but they may be diagnosed with rage syndrome or sudden onset aggression. It’s important to remember that the condition is an exception and not the norm.

When rage syndrome occurs, it’s most common in males of solid colors, most often golden. The condition is characterized by a sudden and vicious attack without any warning. Some research shows that the rage may result from the breed’s genetic makeup. However, note that this is rare, and proper training can help manage the problem.

cocker spaniel dog sitting on the grass looking at something and barking
Image By: Kyryk Ivan, Shutterstock



The Cocker Spaniel is an amazing breed with a rich history. The breed has been popular for centuries and is still a favorite. It’s an intelligent breed that loves to learn new things, making it perfect for performance activities.

From Disney films and English literature to world-changing events, the Cocker Spaniel has made an appearance at every point in time. It has even found a place in scientific advancements. The best part is that the breed makes excellent pets.

These dogs love to please their owners and are easy to train. They also blend in well with families and make perfect companions for homes with children.

Featured Image Credit: Katrina S, Pixabay

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