The sweet and sensitive Field Spaniel is famously docile, but vigorous and game for anything when at play or in the field. These close cousins to Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels may be small in number, but their charm is enormous.
Field Spaniels bear a family resemblance to Cocker, Springer, and Sussex spaniels. The distinctive glossy coat is either black, some shade of liver, or combinations of the two. They stand 17 or 18 inches at the shoulder and should present the picture of well-balanced, moderately proportioned hunting companions. The long, feathery ears frame a facial expression conveying a grave, gentle intelligence. Field Spaniels are sweet, sensitive souls with just enough independence to make life interesting. They are trustworthy with kids, tolerant of their fellow mammals, and responsive to training. The U.S. breed standard calls these tranquil house dogs ‘unusually docile,’ but they are nonetheless playful and enjoy a good backyard romp.
Well into the 1800s, the several British spaniels used by hunters for flushing gamebirds were not classified by breed, as they are today. Rather, they were organized by size and job description. This changed late in the century, with the advent of dog shows in England. Suddenly, setting definite types and breeds became important, and a particular type of spaniel, born of Cocker, English Springer, and Sussex crosses, was designated as the Field Spaniel. These early Fields were an immediate hit in the show ring but also capable hunters.
The breed’s success in the ring encouraged breeders to produce a showy Field Spaniel, exaggerating its long, low shape to extremes—a “grotesque caricature of a spaniel,” as one commentator put it. Such short-sighted breeding practices negated the Field’s worth as a gundog and introduced health problems to the breed. The Field’s decline in popularity was as rapid as its rise, and the breed soon teetered on the brink of extinction.
Still, the Field’s endearing qualities made it too good to dismiss. Dedicated fanciers of the 20th century worked to rehabilitate the Field. By the late 1960s, enthusiasts got back to basics and, with the re-introduction of Cocker and Springer blood, rebuilt the dog along its original lines. In the decades since, the Field Spaniel’s rise and fall and rise-again has served as a cautionary tale for dog breeders.
Temperament: Sweet / Fun-Loving / Sensitive
Height: 17-18 inches
Weight: 35-50 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-13 years
A generally healthy breed, Field Spaniels have seen some issues that also affect other breeds. Responsible breeders screen for genetic disease and select for health-cleared stock. Breeders are urged to adhere to recommended testing and consider orthopedics, thyroid, eyes, cardiac, and late-onset seizures when planning matings. Temperament, structure, and health are all very important in making up this breed that is a “combination of beauty and utility” in an enthusiastic canine companion.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Hip Evaluation
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Autoimmune thyroiditis
The lovely single coat is one of the breed’s most attractive features but requires regular care and maintenance. Weekly brushing and combing will keep the coat shiny and help to reduce shedding. Fields may need minimal trimming about the head and feet. The breed is not to be body-clipped as some other spaniels. Their ears should be checked regularly for any signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs.
An active sporting breed, the Field possesses an energetic spirit that does best with regular exercise and mental stimulation. They are suitable for many canine sports and activities and enjoy brisk activity, as well as downtime at home with their families. Fields are found in a wide variety of lifestyles, from city to country, but do best when given challenges for both the mind and body.