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Irish Water Spaniel

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Irish Water Spaniel
Irish Water Spaniel (with short clip)
Irish Water Spaniel (with short clip)
Alternative names
Shannon Spaniel
Rat Tail Spaniel
Country of origin
Common nicknames
Classification and breed standards
FCI: Group 8 Section 3 #124  
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

Known as the "clown" of the spaniel family, the Irish Water Spaniel is the largest and one of the oldest breeds of spaniels. It is also one of the rarest with only around 500 dogs left in the UK


The Irish Water Spaniel resembles a stocky Poodle. The coat consists of dense curls, sheds very little, and is a solid liver color. Their coat is also unusual in that it is comprised of hair, not fur (hence the tendency not to shed). This characteristic means that people usually allergic to dogs might have less of an allergic reaction to Irish Water Spaniels (see hypoallergenic), and also means that the dogs must have regular haircuts, as humans. The dogs are strongly built, and a bit taller and more squarish than other spaniels. There is a curly topknot upon the head and the face is smooth. The most distinguishing characteristic of these dogs is their long "rat-like" tails, which are a striking contrast to their otherwise curly coats. Dogs range in height from 22 to 24 inches (56-61 cm), and weigh 55 to 65 pounds (25-30 kg). As their name would imply these dogs love water and to this end they have evolved slightly webbed feet to aid this.


This is an active breed that is usually found in a real working retriever environment. They are intelligent, quick to learn, alert, and inquisitive. They sometimes display humorous antics while working, earning them their "clownish" reputation. With proper socialization they can be gentle dogs with family and children, but are often shy around strangers. Irish Water Spaniels require lots of exercise and need an experienced trainer, and therefore are probably not the best choice for a casual dog owner. They also require access to water to swim, an activity they specialise in.


Although the current breed stock are Irish, the ultimate origin of the breed is unknown. It is possible that more than one ancient breed of spaniel has gone into its makeup. Irish Water Spaniels share a common lineage with the Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, and Barbet, but whether they are antecedents, descendants, or mixtures of these other breeds is a matter of some speculation. What is clear is that the breed has ancient roots. The modern breed as we know it was developed in Ireland in the 1830s.

External links

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