The English springer spaniel is compactly built, upstanding with proud carriage, slightly longer than tall but with fairly long legs and a deep body. Its build should suggest a combination of strength, agility and endurance, a dog capable of hunting tirelessly under the most difficult of conditions. The outer coat is of medium length, either flat or wavy, and the undercoat is soft and dense. This combination protects the dog from weather, water and thorns. The gait is long and ground-covering. The expression — alert, kindly and trusting — is an essential feature of springer type.
The English springer spaniel is cheerful, playful and energetic, ready for a day in the field and an evening by the hearth. It does everything with gusto and can be overly enthusiastic unless given plenty of exercise. The typical springer is the ideal family companion.
As the spaniels became increasingly specialized, the larger land spaniels that ranged farther afield became extremely useful at flushing or “springing” game. Before the advent of shotguns, the game was flushed into nets or then chased by falcons or greyhounds. The first reference to springers referred to land spaniels in the late 1500s. Around 1800, distinct strains of carefully bred springers began to develop; one of the best known was bred by the Duke of Norfolk. His dogs so heavily influenced the breed that for a while the breed was called Norfolk spaniels. The name was changed to springer spaniel in 1900. The matter is complicated by the fact that the larger springer and smaller cocker spaniels were simply size variations of the same breed. Only in 1902 did the English Kennel Club recognize the springer as a distinct breed. In America, the American Spaniel Club was formed in 1880 and began the task of separating the springer and cocker sizes. After separation, the springer continued to thrive. It has remained popular with hunters demanding a versatile gun dog that ranges fast and far and that can also flush and retrieve. It is also a popular show dog and pet.