As to the origin of the Irish Water Spaniel there is very little authentic information. Mr. McCarthy seems to have been one of, if not the first, exhibitor of the breed and a successful one, although the Irish Water Spaniel was previously kept largely in Ireland for sporting purposes and a valued member of “Ireland’s Reds”-Red Setter, Red Spaniel, Red Terrier, Red Wolfhound.
The most feasible theory of his origin is a cross between the Poodle and the Irish Setter. There is much in common in type and character between the Poodle and Irish Water Spaniel-viz., in coat, conformation, head, and general character, while in disposition the dog inherits all the dash and determination of the Irish Setter, and partakes of his color, which we can quite understand would be deepened by crossing in again to the Poodle. The Irish Water Spaniel partakes, too, of the great intelligence of the Poodle, who, although regarded as a trick and fancy dog, will hunt and retrieve on land or water with most Spaniels. The breed has never made the progress with the public that it merited by their many good qualities. They are smart and upstanding in appearance, combining intelligence and endurance with a dashing temperament that make them charming companions. They are also splendid guards for children; will play with them by the hour and act as their guards in time of danger.
The chief points to look for in the selection of Water Spaniel puppies at from two to four months old and after, are: A clean head, dark eye, long ears, short back, short whip tail, good size and bone, straight forelegs, and a dark, close coat.
The following description and scale of points is followed by bench-show judges:
HEAD (value 10 is by no means long, with very little brow, but moderately wide. It is covered with curls, rather longer and more open than those of the body nearly to the eyes, but not so as to be wigged like the poodle.
FACE AND EYES (10) are very peculiar. race very long and quite bare of curl, the hair being short and smooth, though not glossy; nose broad and nostrils well developed; teeth strong and level; eyes small and set, almost flush, without eyebrows.
TOPKNOT (10) is a characteristic of the true breed, and is estimated accordingly. It should fall between and over the eyes in a peaked form.
EARS (10) are long, the leather extending, when drawn forward, a little beyond the nose, and the curls with which they are clothed two or three inches beyond. The whole of the ears are thickly covered with curls, which gradually lengthen toward the tips.
CHEST AND SHOULDERS (7 I/2).-There is nothing remarkable about these points, which must, nevertheless, be of sufficient dimensions and muscularity. The chest is small compared with most breeds of similar substance.
BACK AND QUARTERS (7 I/2) also have no peculiarity, but the stifles are almost always straight, giving an appearance of legginess.
LEGS AND FEET (10).-The legs should be straight and the feet large but strong; the toes are somewhat open, and covered with short, crisp curls. In all dogs of this breed the legs are thickly clothed with short curls, slightly pendent behind and at the sides, and some have them all around, hanging in ringlets for some time before the annual shedding.
No feather like that of the Setter should be shown. The front of the hindlegs below the hocks is always bare.
TAIL (10) is very thick at the root, where it is clothed with very short hair. Beyond the root, however, the hair is perfectly short, so as to look as if the tail had been clipped, which it sometimes fraudulently is at shows, but the natural bareness of the tail is a true character of the breed.
COAT (10) is composed of short curls of hair, not woolly, which betrays the Poodle cross. A soft, flossy coat is objected to as indicative of an admixture with some of the land Spaniels.
COLOR (10) must be a deep pure liver, without white; but, as in other breeds, a white toe will occasionally appear with the best litter.
SYMMETRY (5) of this dog is very great.