A Short History of English Springer Spaniels
Histories hint that dogs of the spaniel type have populated the civilized world for many centuries. The Spaniel is thought to have originated in Spain and was perhaps introduced to ancient Britons by the Roman legions. The Spaniel was known in pre-Christian Britain, and is mentioned by name in an ancient law of Wales as early as 300 AD.
Prints and paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries show dogs of similar type to today’s English Springer Spaniel, some with docked tails. The dog was used to spring (flush) or start game, both feathered and fur bearing, for hawks, coursing hounds, and nets. The invention of the wheel lock firearm in the 17th century made “flying shooting” possible, and the Spaniel was highly successful at flushing game for this syle of hunting.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th century in Britain, smaller dogs in the same litter would be used to hunt woodcock; they were called “cockers.” Larger littermates, used to flush (or “spring”) game, were called “Springers.” The Sporting Spaniel Society of Britain decided upon the name “Springer” in 1902.
The first English Springer Spaniel in North America of any traceable lineage was imported from England to Canada in 1913. In little more than a decade, the breed had risen from the ranks of the unknown to become numbered among the most popular of breeds eleigible for American Kennel Club registration…
Excerpted from A Short History of English Springer Spaniels by ESSFTA