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American Cocker Spaniel

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American Cocker Spaniel
Alternative names
Cocker Spaniel
Country of origin
United States
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 8 Section 2 #167  
AKC: Sporting  
ANKC: Group 3 - (Gundogs)  
CKC: Group 1 - (Sporting Dogs)  
KC (UK): Gundog  
NZKC: Gundog  
UKC: Gun Dog Breeds  
Not recognized by any major kennel club
This breed of dog is extinct

The American Cocker Spaniel evolved in the United States from spaniels imported from Great Britain. By the 1930s the American variety had become so different from its English ancestors that it was given separate breed status.


American Cockers weigh 24 to 28 pounds (11 to 12.75 kg) and stand 15 inches (38 cm) maximum height. They come in three major color varieties: black, ASCOB (Any Solid Color Other than Black) and particolor. The other solid colours are chocolate, red, buff, and sable. Particolor dogs are all of the above colors and white. Black and tan, chocolate and tan, and tricolor (white, black and tan) are also common. Roan (black and white or red and white hairs interminged) occurs rarely. The domed head, large dark expressive eyes, short deep muzzle, and abrupt stop are characteristic breed points. The coat is flowing, long, silky and abundant. The long, luxuriantly feathered ears are a striking breed feature. Some cockers bred for hunting tend to have shorter coats and a longer muzzles than pet or show cockers.


Tri-colored Cocker with a Chukkar Tri-colored Cocker with a Chukkar

3 Month Old Cocker Pup 3 Month Old Cocker Pup

Their temperament is typically happy, trusting, and intelligent. The ideal cocker temperament is merry, outgoing and very willing to please. They tend to be "softer" dogs who do not do well with rough or harsh training.

However, their popularity also led to considerable bad breeding in an attempt to keep up with the demand, and some lines contain dogs who tend to be fearful or dominant. Submissive urination and resource guarding also occur in some lines. As with all puppies, owners are advised to choose their breeder carefully.


Cocker Spaniels are susceptible to a variety of maladies, particularly infections affecting their ears and, in some cases, their eyes. As a result, they may require more medical attention than some other breeds. Common eye problems in cockers include Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), glaucoma and cataracts. The American Spaniel Club recommends annual eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist for all dogs used for breeding. Auto-immune problems in cockers include auto-immune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and ear inflammations. Less common are luxating patellas and hip dysplasia. Dogs used for breeding can be checked for both of these conditions, and dogs free of hip dysplasia can be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).


The name cocker comes from the fact that the breed originally hunted woodcock. In the United States the breed is registered under the name "Cocker Spaniel", as is the English Cocker Spaniel in the UK, which can cause confusion between these two breeds. By the 1930s the American variety had become so different from its English ancestors that it was given separate breed status. Originally a gun dog, the Cocker now fulfills the position of family pet or show dog most often and is rarely seen hunting. Some lines are still bred for fieldwork, and a small movement works to preserve the hunting abilities of the breed. He can be a faithful and responsible children's companion. Cockers have been a highly popular American breed since the 1940s, occupying the top position in number of American Kennel Club registrations from 1940-1952. The breed declined a bit in popularity and then resurged to #1 in registrations from 1984-1990. In the last fifteen years the breed's popularity has declined. The cocker spaniel was 15th in AKC registrations for 2004, down from 14th in 2003.

Frontal view of a sleepy Cocker Frontal view of a sleepy Cocker

Famous Cockers

  • Checkers owned by Richard Nixon
  • Lucky Bundy from Married... with Children
  • Solomon and Sophie, pets of Oprah Winfrey
  • Lady from Lady and the Tramp
  • My Own Brucie who won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 1940 and 1941
  • Butch was Albert Staehle's cocker who inspired his Life magazine covers

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