Field Spaniels, Maine Coons & Siberians



The History of the Field Spaniel


The Early Spaniels (1880 - 1920)

Before the advent of dog shows the spaniel family were bred and kept for their sporting abilities. The main concern for owners was to breed dogs better suited to the terrain over which they worked and the type of work required of them.

Those owned by the Sporting Aristocracy and worked on their Country Estates were often named after their illustrious owners, such as the Norfolk and Clumber Spaniel. Others, like the Sussex Spaniel, took their name from a geographical location.

A further group became known after the type of work they did, the Water Spaniel - used for wild fowling and the Cocking or Cocker Spaniel - used for flushing woodcock for the guns. All of these varieties were known collectively as Field Spaniels - that is, spaniels used in the field.

With the onset of dog shows the spaniel family began to divide into their various varieties. One thing evident, to a small band of enthusiasts, was the lack of a large black spaniel. To create such a dog, that would be useful in the field and a thing of beauty in the show ring, they inter-bred the following varieties to form the root stock of the new spaniel.

Black and Tan Cocker Spaniel - Owned : Dr. Spurgin
Black Cocker Spaniel - Owned : Mr. Jones
Black & White / Liver & White Norfolk Spaniel - Owned : Mr. Footman
Cross Breed - Bebb (Bebb was registered as a Sussex Spaniel, purely because of his liver colour)
(English Water Spaniel x Black Cocker Spaniel) - Owned : Mr. Bullock

The new large Black Spaniel, slightly high on the leg to enable him to work well in the field, was a great success and thus the Field Spaniel was born. (Fields were exhibited in two weight classes - Fields over 25 lbs and Fields under 25 lbs. In 1892 the small Field Spaniel was recognised by The Kennel Club as the Cocker Spaniel).

During the early days of the breed Mr. Thomas of Newton Abbot decreed that the Field Spaniel should be similar in stature to the Sussex Spaniel. Thomas, along with his faithful followers, cross-bred extensively with the Sussex to produce Fields that were low to the ground with long bodies. In the late 1880’s the Field had become useless as a working dog and the writers in the dog press of the time ridiculed the breed.

With the recognition of the Cocker in 1892, many breeders swapped allegiance from the Field and in an effort to counteract this, Fields were crossed with Bassett Hounds. This introduced new colours into the breed whilst still retaining their long low looks but this fad was short lived and Field numbers began to decline.

A few breeders had continued their interest in the black Field producing dogs of better proportions with the characteristic Field heads, but by World War I the Field was near to extinction.

The Rise and Fall (1920 - 1945)

In the early 1920’s a well known gundog man wrote in the press “The Field Spaniel is dead, he has taken a knock out and few will mourn his passing”, thankfully he was wrong, since the Cliffe Kennel still had Fields and through the interest of the sporting men of the Midlands they were set for a revival. With an infusion of English Springer Spaniel and Cocker Spaniel blood the breed soon produced strong active dogs that by the end of the 1920’s had set the pattern for modern Field Spaniels.

During the mid 1930’s Fields, in their multitude of colour variations, were popular as Field Trial dogs, but never quite transferred this success to the show ring. 1938 was to strike an almost fatal blow for the Field Spaniel, with the onset of World War II. Field numbers during the war years slumped to an all time low and in some instances entire kennels were put down.

Post War (1945 - 1970)

The return of dog shows and classes for Field Spaniels at championship shows in 1948 showed how low Field numbers were. Only four bitches can be traced back to this period and they form the base of all modern Fields, Keepsake of Westwind, Rothley Rival, Bourbon of Strouds and Gipsy of Myvod.

It would not be until 1952 that Fields would begin to appear in the Stud Book of the Kennel Club, a gap of 12 years since the last registration. In 1957 it was decided to out-cross to English Springer Spaniels to improve blood lines and although the English Springer Whaddon Chase Duke was used, all of the progeny were sold. In 1958 Mr. Jack Tannant managed to find a bitch from the Springer union and registered and used her under the name Sherelake of Rhiwlas.

Two major litters were born in the late 1960’s, the A litter of Elmbury and the J litter of Mittina. Many of these dogs appear several times over in the extended pedigrees of modern Fields and have helped to improve the quality of the breed.

The 70’s Revival (1970 - 1990)

The 1970’s began a decade of improvement to the Field Spaniel in stature and type. Coloured varieties have waned in popularity and liver became the dominant colour. Owners were starting to use their dogs for working as well as showing and the dual purpose Field came of age. Through careful selection of stock, given the small gene pool to work from, breeders began to enhance the breed in all aspects.

The 1980’s has seen the rise in popularity of the breed and the appointment of a Working Secretary to the Field Spaniel Society to cater for the Field Trials enthusiasts.

With Challenge Certificates (CC) available at many Championship shows several dogs have become Show Champions (Sh.Ch.) by gaining three CC’s under three different judges. For those dedicated few it has been possible to promote their dogs to Full Champions (Ch.) by attaining a further qualification of a Certificate of Merit (COM) at a working test.

The Roaring 90’s and Beyond (1990 – Present Day)

In the 1990’s the show scene for the Field Spaniel was very strong with at least 17 Show Champions produced in that decade and several other dogs receiving challenge certificates on their way to becoming Show Champions.

The late Clive Rowlands from the Rhiwlas Kennel took on the task of Working Secretary to promote the breed in the field. The culmination of all these efforts was to push the Field Spaniel to success in working tests and provide the breed with 7 Full Champions.

In 1998 the Field Spaniel Society celebrated its 75th anniversary with the breed strong in numbers, both in the show ring and on the working side. Due to the efforts of many breeders the Field Spaniel has developed into a robust and healthy breed. Although there have been very few health problems breeders have made a conscious effort to test for hip dysplasia (HD) and eye tests for multifocal retinal dysplasia (MRD).

Today unfortunately Field Spaniel numbers are back in decline and puppy registrations are low. This has prompted The Kennel Club to place the Field Spaniel on the vulnerable breeds register.

Contributions to the above text from The History and Management of the Field Spaniel by Peggy Grayson

Personal View of the Field Spaniel

The Field Spaniel is an unusually docile dog with a well-balanced and steady temperament. They make fine pets or companion dogs and if trained properly excellent workers in the field.

Fields thrive on human contact and become totally devoted to their owners but can become quite noisy and insistent when seeking attention. They will also strike up instant friendships with anyone prepared to share food with them and are past masters of that ‘I haven’t been fed in weeks’ look!

It is often said that Field Spaniels are ideally suited to rural living and are not happy in urban surroundings since they require plenty of exercise. In the main this is true but like all dogs any exercise is good exercise whether it is across open fields or on urban pavements. Two walks a day and the odd skirmish in the garden can often be all that is required to keep your dog content and healthy rather than that enforced two hour route march that becomes a chore rather than an enjoyable event. Exercise is not just for muscle and bone it is also for the brain since new sights, sounds, smells and experiences are all absorbed to give your dog a more rounded personality and encourage confidence. Take heed, Field’s love water and are quite accomplished swimmers and need little encouragement to partake in one of their favourite past-times. Mud and puddles can also be a great adventure and you would be amazed how wet a Field can make itself in a puddle the size of a dustbin lid.

As working dogs they are very robust by nature with a keen nose and a good deal of intelligence. They make fine dogs for people interested in rough shooting who enjoy that companion relationship with their dogs. Training Field’s requires patience as a virtue since they are more difficult to train than the traditional working dogs such as the Cocker or Springer. Although not as flighty and eager as some breeds they can be quite head strong to the point of distraction, but as with any gundog firm but fair not boot and stick will win the day.

At home they make good companions and like nothing better than to share your living space. If allowed Fields can be avid lap dogs, but mature males weighing in at 55 lbs are not everyone’s ideal for sharing the sofa and can have a habit of making like a sack of spuds! They may also be kept as kennel dogs and can adapt to this style of living quite happily although they may become noisy if kept in isolation and prefer the company of other dogs as stable mates.

Grooming should be daily ensuring feathering on the legs, chest and ears are knot free. Unlike many of the other spaniel breeds Field’s do not grow excessive coats and trimming is minimal to keep them clean and tidy. The feet will need attention from time to time and should be clipped into a neat shape and excessive hair around the pads removed. Ears should be inspected on a weekly basis and cleaned out with damp cotton wool to prevent excessive wax build up.


Renaissance of the Working Field
by Pamela Rowlands

The First Encounter

The first I knew of Field Spaniels working was back in the 1970’s when we purchased two Field Spaniels from Mr. Jack Tannant. He used to rough shoot regularly with his Fields over the lovely countryside between Wales and Shropshire.

It seems that not much was known of the Field Spaniel working, but during 1900 - 1940 it is understood from Field Trial records that it was a dog to be reckoned with, holding it’s own against other breeds of spaniel.

Though not very strong numerically, the kennels in those days were keen to breed a strong all purpose spaniel for hunting fur and feather and I have heard they were very good at hunting and retrieving the Coypu in the Fen country.

The Character

The Field Spaniel is a powerful, noble and upstanding dog of good temperament that responds to kindness and firmness; his aim is to please with a few hiccups in between!

The Field takes a long time to develop - puppyhood extends usually well into its second year - but working expectancy is long. His ability to scent game is second to none and his stamina makes him ideal when working heavy cover or rough terrain.

It has been written that the Field is a `Jack of all trades’, well this may be true, but I also think it is a dog for all seasons!

They are great lovers of the Human race - almost to the point of being a nuisance - but will be the model of contentment if they can share their life with you.

The Resurgence

During the 1980’s it was noted by the Field Spaniel Society that some members were not only showing the Field Spaniel but were also working them. With this revival of the Field, the Society appointed a Working Secretary, a position that had not existed since the 1930’s.

In 1987 a working test was staged, with 19 dogs entered, but sadly, only one retrieve was made all day. I am glad to say that by 1993 the standard of working had greatly improved: there were more full champions in the Field Spaniel breed than any other breed of spaniel.

Today through the efforts of the dedicated few, Field Spaniels now work on many varied shoots, from springing for Hawks to Deer Stalking through to the more conventional pheasant shoots. The Field is also worked in Scandinavia as a beaters dog and as a tracker.

In the North of Sweden there are at least two Fields which track the Elk and Golden Deer. Owned by game wardens, these dog work for days on end in the culling season and are, I understand, very good at their job.


If you are interested in training your Field to work on a shoot or run in working tests or field trials, I suggest you attend the gundog training days run each year by the Field Spaniel Society.

Many gundog Societies hold training classes for gundogs during Spring and Summer. I know that most cater primarily for the English Springer and Cocker Spaniel, but I am quite sure if you are really serious about training your Field Spaniel you will be welcomed.

I can promise you two things; both you and he will be fitter than you were before you started, and will enjoy a stronger bond of trust and loyalty than you thought possible.