The Cocker Spaniel, unlike the field varieties, is free from any abnormalities, being a rationally built and symmetrical little dog, full of buoyancy and beaming with intelligence, and of tireless energy. Those features and characteristics in the dog account for his popularity.
As to his origin there is the same mystery, but little doubt exists that the Cocker is among the most ancient of the Spaniel family. He derives the name from the fact that he was first used as an aid to the gun in shooting woodcocks, being a handy little dog in getting through the dense thickets and bramble, while as a retriever he has probably not his equal for nose and cleverness. At all the leading shows in America the Cocker section is a very large one, the classes numerous, and the interest in this merry little sportsman probably keener than it is in Eng land. A few years ago this breed showed signs of degenerating as sporting dogs, having drifted into toyishness on the one hand and become too low on leg in many cases, although, to the credit of breeders it may be said, that the true type of the dog was never lost.
Cockers even vary very much in size and type. We have the Devonshire Cockers and the Welsh Cockers, and others indigenous to different districts of the country to which they are more or less adapted, but happily there is only one type now recognized in the show ring, and that is the short coupled, sturdy, well-balanced, good-fronted flatcoated dog with a nicely chiseled head, dark eye, and square muzzle, who looks like and is a workman from stem to stern, a dog of from 23 to 27 pounds.
The chief points, therefore, to aim at in breeding Cocker Spaniels are compactness of body, straightness of forelegs, squareness of muzzle, dark eyes, and flat coats, with a down-carriage of stern. Common defects in the breed, especially the colored variety, are crooked fronts, light eyes, and cocktails, which are an abornination alike to sporting men and to good judges.
The chief points to look for in the selection of Cocker Spaniel puppies, any color, from two to four months old and after, are: A nicely balanced head, distinct stop, square muzzle, dark eye, short, compact body; well balanced in proportion to length of leg, down-carried tail and flat coat.
The Cocker Spaniel standard is as follows:
SKULL (8).-Not so heavy as in other Sporting Spaniels, with smooth forehead and clearly defined eyebrows and stop, the median line distinctly marked and gradually disappearing until lost rather more than half way up a well-developed, rounded, and comparatively wide skull, showing no prominence in the cheeks, which, like the sides of the muzzle, should present a smooth, clean-cut appearance.
MUZZLE (10).-Proportionately shorter and lighter than the Field Spaniel, showing no fullness under the eyes, the jaws even and approaching squareness. Teeth sound and regular, the front ones meeting. Lips cut off square, preventing any appearance of snipiness. Nose well developed in all directions and black in color excepting in the reds, livers, parti-colors of these shades, and in roans of the lighter lines, when it may be brown or black.
EYES (7).-Comparatively larger, round, rather full, yet never goggled nor weak, as in the toy Spaniel kinds. They should be dark in the blacks, black-and-tans, the darker shades of parti-colors and roans. In the reds and livers and in the particolors and roans of these colors they should be brown, but of a shade not lighter than hazel.
EARS (4.).-Lobular, set low, leather fine, and not extending beyond the nose; well clothed with long, silky hair, which should be straight or wavy.
NECK AND SHOULDERS (15).-Neck sufficiently long to allow the nose to reach the ground easily, muscular, free from throatiness, and running into clean-cut, sloping shoulders, which should not be wide at the points.
BODY (18).-Comparatively short, compact, and firmly knit together, giving the impression of a concentration of power and untiring activity. Chest deep rather than wide, not narrow-fronted nor yet so wide as to interfere with free action of the forelegs. Ribs well sprung, deep, and carried far back; short in the coupling and flank, free from any tucked appearance. Back and loin immensely strong and compact in proportion to the size of the dog, the former level and the latter slightly arched. Hips wide, with quarters considerably rounded and very muscular.
LEGS AND FEET (18).-Forelegs short and straight, though proportionately longer than in any of the other breeds of short-legged Spaniels; strongly boned and muscled, with elbows well let down and straight, short, strong pasterns. Hindlegs proportionately short. Stifles well bent, strong thighs clearly defined. Hocks clean, strong, well let down, bent and turning neither in nor out, the hindquarters from a back view presenting an impressive combination of propelling power. Feet neither small nor large, round, firm, not spreading, and with deep, strong, horny pads and plenty of hair between the toes. They should turn neither in nor out.
STERN (5).-Should be set on and carried level with the back, and when at work its action should be incessant in this the brightest and merriest of the whole Spaniel family.
COAT (10).-Flat or slightly waved, silky, and very dense, with ample Setter-like feather.
COLOR AND MARKINGS (5).-Blacks should be jet black and reds, livers, etc., should never be faded or “washy” shades, but of good, sound colors, white on the chest of self-colors, while objectionable, should not disqualify.
WEIGHT.-Not under 18 nor exceeding 24. pounds.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION.-A neat-headed, wideawake, serviceable-looking little dog with an expression of great intelligence; short in body when viewed from above, yet standing over considerable ground for one of his inches upon strong, straight front legs, with wide, muscular quarters suggestive of immense power, especially when viewed from behind. A downward tendency in front he ought not to possess, but should stand well up at the shoulders like the clever little sporting dog that he is. Massive in appearance by reason of his sturdy body, powerful quarters, and strong, well-boned limbs, he should nevertheless impress one as being a dog capable of considerable speed, combined with great powers of endurance, and in all his movements he should be quick and merry, with an air of alertness and a carriage of head and stern suggestive of an inclination to work.