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Origin, History and Development of the English Springer Spaniel:
THE ENGLISH SPRINGER SPANIEL, leading candidate for the title of best all-around gun dog, is a very old and esteemed breed whose ancestors can be traced back into the faint and remote reaches of time. Thus the sportsman who would be completely prepared to train and use these fine dogs in the field should have basic knowledge and understanding of the breed's origin and early history in order to attain total employment of their various and vast hunting attributes.
There are several theories as to where the primordial parent stock of spaniel-type dogs originated. Some say they originated in Great Britain. The mainstream view, however, holds that they first came from Spain (the Spanish Spaniel), as the name implies. This position is perpetuated by prominent authorities, the first of which was the French nobleman, Gaston de Foix (often called Gaston Pheobus). He wrote "Livre de Chasse" in 1387, most of which was reproduced in "The Master of Game," written between the years 1406 and 1413 by Edward, second Duke of York, who wrote that spaniels were good "hounds" for the hawk and that even though they came from Spain, there were many in other countries. Supplementary substantiation of this distribution throughout Europe may be found in the statement of the late Freeman Lloyd, a 20th century sportsman-writer, who said to Charles S. Goodall (about 1934) that he had seen an Italian tapestry circa the 1st century A.D., which depicted a spaniel-type dog (the Italian Spaniel) fawning at its master's feet. However, it may have actually been the Romans that brought the Italian Spaniel type dogs to Spain, initially....
Another authority of note holding to the Spanish origin theory was the brilliant 16th century British scholar, Dr. John Caius, whose book "Of Englishe Dogges", a short dissertation written in Latin and published in 1576, states: "Of gentile dogges serving the hauke, and first of the Spaniell called in Latine Hispaniolus, there be two sorts:
- The first findeth game on the land.
- The other findeth game on the water.
" Dr. Caius described the land spaniel as "one which spryngeth the bird and betrayth flight by pursuite." He intricated supplementary by adding, "the first kinde of such serve the Hauke, the second the net, or traine. The first kinde have no peculiar names assigned unto them save only that they be denominated after the byrde which by naturall appointment he is alloted to take, for the which consideration, some be called Dogges
- For the Falcon
- The Pheasant
- The Partridge
- And such like.
The common sort of people call them by one generall word, namely Spaniells, as though these kinde of Dogges came originally and first of all out of Spaine."
The good Doctor then distinguished between the two kinds of land spaniels of that day, one of which flushed game and the other of which set or pointed its game. He described this type, which is generally considered to be the early ancestors of our present day Setters (the English Setter), by the Latin name of "Index". This work of Dr. Caius' was translated into English by Abraham Fleming at a later date.
Most of the dependable contemporary connoisseurs on Spaniels ascribe the origin of the breed to Spain. Such thought-provoking scholars of Spaniels as R. Claude Cain, Henry Ferguson, Clarence Pfaffenberger, C. A. Phillips and Maxwell Riddle embraced the Spanish origin theory. The late 19th century British writer, J. R. Walsh, who used the nom de plume "Stonehenge," wrote that he had no doubt that the sport of Hawking was recognized and performed by the early Britons, but that the Roman invaders under Caesar in 55 B.C. were completely oblivious of the art. He declared additionally that the Romans, who began their occupation of the Isles in 43 A.D., gained knowledge of the sport of Hawking from Britons and enhanced upon it by introducing the Land Spaniel, if not the Water Spaniel, too, to the country. Supplementary substantiation of the Spaniel's early habitation in Britain is to be found in an antediluvian Welsh law of 300 A.D. and 942 A.D. which referred to them by breed name. Despite whether one accepts the Spanish origin hypothesis, it's not too difficult to imagine the sports-minded robust adventurers of Ceasar's Roman legions "unshackling" a few Spaniels in their conquest of Spain and taking them to Britain, even as soldiers in the World Wars of the 20th century and earlier wars had done.
More to follow....