The English Water Spaniel: Everything You Need to Know

Originally developed to assist hunters in retrieving waterfowl from the water, the English Water Spaniel was a skilled and hard-working dog with a long and fascinating history. 

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the now-extinct English Water Spaniel, including its history, physical traits, personality, and health.

A Brief History of the English Water Spaniel

The English Water Spaniel was one of the oldest spaniel breeds and originated in England around the 1600s. The breed was specifically developed to aid hunters in retrieving waterfowl from the water.

Brief History of the Breed 

The English Water Spaniel resembled a Collie and is believed to be a cross between the Springer Spaniel and the Poodle. The breed was highly skilled at swimming and retrieving birds. 

The breed was quite popular but its numbers dwindled during the 19th century due to the introduction of other breeds used for hunting. The English Water Spaniel went extinct in the early 20 century.  

The Breed’s Role in Hunting and Retrieving

English Water Spaniels were bred for the purpose of working in water. They were trained to locate downed birds, swim out and retrieve them and bring them back to their handlers.

They had webbed feet, which allowed them to swim efficiently. Additionally, their coat was waterproof and made up of tight, curly hair that helped keep the dog warm and dry while working in the water. 

The English Water Spaniel’s Legacy 

Despite being extinct, the English Water Spaniel has a legacy and is considered to be an inspiration for modern breeds such as Field Spaniels, American Water Spaniels, and Curly-Coated Retrievers. 

The English Water Spaniel has cultural importance, too, as it is mentioned in two plays by the famous English poet William Shakespeare, Macbethand “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” and  

Physical Characteristics of the English Water Spaniel

Size and Weight

The English Water Spaniel had a sturdy build and strong legs. Breed members generally used to weigh between 35 and 90 pounds and stood around 18 to 22 inches tall at the shoulders, with males being heavier and taller than females. 

Coat and Color

The breed’s curly coat had a woolly texture and was waterproof. Common coat colors included dark brown, solid black, black & white, reddish, and brown & white. 

Distinctive Features

The breed’s distinct features included its long snout, webbed paws, and a small docked tail. Another important hallmark of the English Water Spaniel was the protective woolly coat. 

Personality and Temperament

The English Water Spaniel was known for its loving and affectionate nature. It was quite intelligent and got along well with humans and pets. Moreover, its eagerness to please the owner made it easy to train.

The English Water Spaniel had high energy levels and loved to participate in outdoor activities. It enjoyed swimming and playing fetch, remaining true to its water-retrieving ancestry. 

Health and Lifespan

We do not know much about the health issues of the English Water Spaniel. However, based on health problems in similar breeds, we can assume that the dog was prone to orthopedic problems, skin conditions, and ear infections. 

Lifespan and Aging

The average lifespan of the English Water Spaniel was around 10 to 12 years. With proper care and attention, many breed members lived to reach their golden years. 


The English Water Spaniel was a friendly, active, and intelligent breed that made an excellent pet and hunting companion. Sadly, in the early 20 century, the breed went extinct. 

Despite its absence in the modern world, the English Water Spaniel is highly prized for its skills on the hunting field and contribution to the development of newer dog breeds. 

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