Prominent during the Tudor reign of Henry VIII, the English Cocker Spaniel gained great popularity as a versatile hunting gun-dog suited to both wet and dry terrain and progressively, as a docile and affectionate companion dog. Whilst proving a favourite in the royal courts of the 16th and 17th centuries, literative references to 'spanyells' date back as early as the 14th century, reflecting the early prominence of the breed. Utilised in hunting, the Cocker Spaniel derived its name from its ability to hunt woodcock specifically. Until 1990, the breed was considered the most popular as registered by the American Kennel Club, however it now ranks 25th.
Divided into 7 breed variations since 1873, including English Springer, Irish Water and Clumber, the Spaniel was originally differentiated by little more than its size. The Cocker variation is amongst the most popular and is characterised by an arched head, low-set ears, ovular eyes and a soft, wavy coat in colour deviations of solid black, red or liver with markings of tan, chocolate and white. Highly trainable in line with its heritage, the Cocker Spaniel maintains a strong hunting instinct, however when taught to respect and abide by its owner, makes a loyal, gentle and trusting pet for the family or a dedicated sole owner.
Moderately-sized and with an easy and gentle temperament, the Cocker Spaniel was the original family companion, proceeding the Labrador and Golden Retriever as the dog most compatible with children, other pets and the domestic setting. Whilst there are discrepancies across gender, the average healthy Cocker Spaniel will weigh 12-16 kg, with a life expectancy of 12-15 years when shown appropriate care.
Susceptible to various health complaints that are partly genetic, the English Cocker Spaniel has been known to suffer from optical disorders including glaucoma and cataracts, as well as issues relating to hips and elbows. More serious conditions specific to the breed are cardiac weakness, epilepsy and liver disease, whilst deafness is common in the breed due to the ears hanging low against the ground. Additionally, the Spaniel is prone to easy weight gain, so feeding human foods is not encouraged as even the smallest amount of fat can be detrimental to the general health of the dog.