Thought to have developed in the late 19th century due to popular demand for an all-black Spaniel show competitor, the Field Spaniel is the product of crossing between the Sussex Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel. Falling within the 'gun dog' branch of canines, the Field Spaniel shares its classification with the Pointers, Setters and Retrievers. Never enjoying much popularity throughout its existence, with hunters favouring the lighter-coloured dogs that could more easily be seen, the Field Spaniel experienced great decline in the 20th century, remaining a rare breed today. In order to promote the breed, the Kennel Club registered it as a Vulnerable Native Breed, alongside the Dandie Dinmont, Skye and Fox Terriers, and the Clumber, Sussex and Irish Water Spaniels. Recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1894.
Traditionally boasting short legs, the modern Field Spaniel is better adapted to working and hunting, now with longer legs and a shorter topline. In the past it was said that the result of crossing between the Sussex Spaniel and Cocker Spaniel was a dog identical in structure to the Sussex, but for the exception of the head. Further characterising the rare breed is its medium-sized eyes, low-set tail, well defined muzzle and long, hanging ears. The silky coat is typically flat or wavy and of a moderate length, usually with feathering on the underside, back of the legs and tail. Common in colours of liver and black, often with roan, white or tan markings.
Despite its relative rarity, the breed makes an exemplary companion pet. Inherently gentle, docile and affectionate, the Field Spaniel is well suited to relaxed domestic living. As with most Spaniels, the Field possesses a pleasing temperament, is compatible with children and is vigilant around the homestead. Early socialisation is essential from puppyhood in order to avoid meek, fearful or passive behaviours in your dog. On average, a healthy Field Spaniel will weigh 16-23 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of roughly 10-12 years.
The Field Spaniel is predisposed to a variety of mild health complaints. These include hip and elbow dysplasia, a common condition across breeds, optical disorders and cataracts, and ear infections resulting from the ears hanging low against the ground. The leading cause of breed mortality is cancer.