Welsh vs. English Springer Spaniels: What’s the difference?

You may think there is just one kind of springer spaniel when you first enter the springer spaniel world. There are two kinds of springer spaniels that are regarded as separate breeds. The two breeds are the Welsh springer spaniel and the English springer spaniel. Proponents of each breed maintain a strong claim that they are different dogs and defend their particular breed vigorously. So is there any difference between the Welsh and English springer spaniels, and if so, what is the difference.

Welsh springers are slightly smaller than English springer spaniels, and they have less feathering than English springer spaniels. They are both loyal and love to be with their owners. English springer spaniels are friendly with all people, but Welsh springer spaniels are wary of strangers.  

Welsh and English springer spaniels have some differences that we will explore in this article. There are physical, temperament, and some health differences that may influence your choice of a springer spaniel.


What Is A Springer Spaniel?

Originally springer and cocker spaniels all came from the same bloodlines, with springers and cockers being chosen from each litter depending on the dog’s size. The cockers were the smaller dogs that worked in the heavy underbrush and were used for flushing woodcocks. The springers were those dogs with longer legs, and they were used for flushing and retrieving large game birds. They got the name ‘springer’ from how they jumped to flush the game from the bushes causing the game to spring out.

The term spaniel originally comes from the Latin word ‘explanere,’ the Italian word ‘spianere,’ and the French word ‘Espanir’ that all mean ‘to flatten or crouch.’ This term referred to the dogs’ hunting style that included flattening themselves as they flushed game. 


What Is The Origin Of The Welsh And English Springer Spaniels?

The English springer spaniel originated from Norfolk or Shropshire spaniels that are now extinct. The British kennel club differentiated cocker spaniels from Field or Springer spaniels in 1893. Up until this time, the differentiation had been informal. In 1902 the British Kennel Club officially recognized the English springer spaniel and Welsh springer spaniel. Breed standards were established for each breed.

Welsh springer spaniels were thought to have developed from spaniel-type dogs brought to Wales from Iberia. There is limited documentation to show if this is true. There are references to spaniel-type dogs with Welsh springer characteristics in documents dating from 250BC. It is generally accepted that Welsh Springer spaniels are the oldest type of spaniel in Britain.


Historical Uses For Springer Spaniels

Initially, falconers used springer spaniels for flushing game birds that the falcon caught and took to the falconer. As guns became more accessible, the springer spaniels were used by hunters armed with rifles or shotguns. At this stage, springer spaniels began retrieving the game as well as flushing it. 


How Did The Separation Of The Two Types Of Springer Spaniel Occur?

The English springer spaniel developed from English spaniel-type dogs. The Welsh springers also originated from Welsh spaniel-type dogs. The springer spaniels were more isolated in Wales and so developed different characteristics to the English springer spaniel. In Wales, the dogs were known as Welsh starters or Welsh cockers for many years. They are also referred to as Welshies.


What Are The Characteristics Of An English Springer Spaniel?

An English springer spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a double coat. Feathering is apparent on the legs, ears, and underside of the body.  Males are nineteen to twenty-one inches (48 cm to 53 cm) at the wither, and they weigh forty to sixty pounds (18 kg to 27 kg).  The females are a little smaller, with an average height of eighteen to twenty inches ( 46cm to 51 cm) and weighing thirty-five to fifty-five pounds (16 kg to 25 kg).

There are two types of English springer spaniels.  The show type has a long, luxurious coat with longer ears, while the field type has a shorter, coarse coat with smaller ears. There is a lot less feathering on the field type.


What Are The Characteristics Of A Welsh Springer Spaniel?

Welsh springer spaniels are smaller than English springer spaniels but larger than a cocker spaniel. A male Welshie stands at approximately eighteen to nineteen inches (46 cm – 48 cm), weighing forty to forty-five pounds. A female is seventeen to eighteen inches (43 cm to 46 cm)at the wither, weighing in at thirty-five to forty pounds.

Welsh springer spaniels are medium-sized hardy dogs with a double coat and feathering on the ears, legs, and lower body. They tend to have less feathering than English springer spaniels. Welsh springer spaniels have smaller ears than their English counterparts.


Coat Differences In Welsh And Springer Spaniels

Nothing is as glorious as a well-groomed English springer show spaniel. They have heavy feathering and long luxurious coats that require a  lot of grooming. Field English springer spaniels do not need as much grooming – approximately two to three times a week will suffice. Their topcoat may be wavy or flat.

Welsh springer spaniels are the easiest to groom as their coats are the shortest. Once a week, brushing should suffice. Their topcoats are always flat, and their feathering is significantly less than both English springer field and show spaniels. There is no differentiation between field and show Welsh springer spaniels.


Shedding In Welsh And English Springer Spaniels

Both breeds shed a moderate amount and need regular grooming. They have two periods of heavier shedding in spring and fall. This is to allow the thick winter coat to fall out in preparation for summer and to grow a new winter coat in fall. 


Colour Differences In Welsh and English Springer Spaniels

Welsh springer spaniels only come in one color. They are always a combination of white with rich red-brown patches. They are referred to as red and white dogs. There may be some ticking on Welsh springer spaniels, but it is not a requirement, nor is it penalized in the show ring if it is present.

English springer spaniels come in a variety of colors. They are usually a combination of white and black or white and liver. The white may be predominant, or the liver or black may be dominant. Field Spaniels are traditionally predominantly white, allowing them to be easily seen by the hunter.

Ticking is seen on both show and field springers. Ticking is when small groups of colored hairs are seen on the white area of the coat.  Diluted black genes give rise to a ‘blue’ color, and this commonly occurs with roaning,  giving rise to blue roans. Roaming occurs when the colored  (black or liver) hairs are mixed with white hairs.


Is There A Difference In Temperament In Welsh And English Springer Spaniels?

Both Welsh and English springer spaniels are very human orientated and should not be left on their own for long periods. They follow their owners around and are great family dogs. Both types of springer spaniels get on exceptionally well with children and other pets. They can sometimes be unpredictable around birds such as chickens. They are genetically orientated to be triggered into a hunting drive by birds.

English springer spaniels are generally friendly with everyone. Welsh springer spaniels are more reserved with strangers. They will be cautious and wary, barking at unknown people. Socialization with people is essential for Welsh Springer Spaniels. Show English springer spaniels have rage disorder in some lines, but fortunately, it is not common.


Training Welsh And English Springer Spaniels

Both breeds are intelligent and quick to learn. They like to please their owners, but they do have a stubborn streak that makes them inappropriate for first-time dog owners. They do not flourish with harsh training methods as they are soft-natured dogs. Despite the stubbornness, they can reach high levels of obedience. Excellent obedience training is needed for hunting to keep the dog safe from being shot by accident.

There is some disagreement about whether English and Welsh springer spaniels like water and will work in water. Springers are definitely happy working in shallow water or marshy areas. It would seem some individuals do not like to swim, and you will meet resistance if you try to train water retrieval, especially in cold water.

Some individuals may take to water retrieval, but it cannot be assumed that they all will. Springers do not have coats with the same water resistance as Labradors and will feel the cold more quickly, so care should be taken to ensure they do not get too cold.


Exercise Requirements

Both Welsh and English springer spaniels are working dogs and, as such, have a high need for exercise. They do not cope well in small gardens and need space to play. They do best if they have another dog companion for playing. Both Welsh and English springers will happily accompany their owners on runs, hikes, and bicycle rides. The English springer spaniel is regarded as the fastest spaniel, but both have high exercise endurance levels.

If you are looking at getting a springer spaniel as a family pet, it is better to choose a show lines English springer spaniel. They will still need quite a significant amount of exercise, but it will not be as much as the field lines. If you do not provide sufficient exercise for springer spaniels, they will find their own entertainment that may not be to your liking.


Training Welsh And English Springer Spaniels For Hunting

Good recall and obedience training are essential for hunting dogs. Both English and Welsh springer spaniels can be slow maturing. Training must not be left too late; otherwise, their natural hunting drive takes over, and they will begin to hunt by themselves. This causes a lot of problems as it is difficult to retrain the dog to hunt on command. The spaniels may become a problem escaping from yards as their hunting drive overwhelms all other urges.

If you intend to send the dog to a trainer, then the English springer spaniel is a better option. Due to Welsh springers’ wariness of strangers, they are unlikely to do well with an unknown trainer. They will respond better to their owner due to their extreme loyalty.


Which Is The Better Working Dog?

Proponents of each breed will claim their breed is better than the other. English working springer spaniels are speedy dogs and are popular in the hunting field. They are often favored by hunters whose primary target is pheasants because of their speed. They are easy to train, and it is easy to locate a puppy.

Welsh springers are harder to find as they are less well-known. Proponents of Welshies claim that although they are slower than English springers, they are methodical hunters with dogged determination. They have excellent scenting abilities and seldom lose downed prey.


Uses For Welsh And English Springer Spaniels

Both Welsh and English springer spaniels are excellent dogs for search and rescue. They have a lot of energy, and their good scenting abilities will make them good trackers. English springer spaniels’ friendliness is considered an asset in searching for lost people as they are non-threatening to survivors that they find.

The scenting ability also makes them excellent detection dogs. They are favored for use in public places such as airports and schools because of their friendly, non-threatening natures. Springer spaniels are used to detect drugs, guns, and other illegal contraband. There have been many stories of springers saving hundreds of lives in areas at war. Their excellent noses make them highly proficient at detecting mines.

They are not usually used for therapy dogs because they become so attached to their owners. Therapy dogs are typically sent to foster homes for the first year, and changing homes will psychologically distress springer spaniels.

Some springer spaniels will become therapy dogs for their owners because of their loyalty and sensitivity to their owners. Their sensitive natures quickly detect changes in their owners, and they may become naturally trained therapy dogs. The spaniel becomes a therapy dog because of his close relationship with his owner and not because of training.


Are There Different Breed Problems In Welsh And English Springer Spaniels?

As mentioned previously, some English springer show lines have rage disorder or rage syndrome. Rage syndrome is a sudden, unpredictable onset of extreme aggression. The dog may attack anyone in the near vicinity and seems unable to control himself.

After a brief period, the dog will become calm and respond normally to its owners and other animals. The underlying reasons are not clear, but researchers suspect that rage disorder is a form of epilepsy that occurs in the brain’s emotional center. Treatment is individual, and no treatment protocol has been established yet.

Both Welsh and English springer spaniels are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia.  It is best to buy a puppy from a breeder who screens their breeding dogs for dysplasia.  Ear infections are also a common risk in both dogs. Ear infections can be managed by cleaning ears carefully and grooming around the ears to encourage airflow.

Both English and Welsh springer spaniels tend to eye problems such as cataracts, entropion, and glaucoma. English springer spaniels also get retinal dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). PRA is inherited and usually diagnosed between two and six years of age. The parents can be genetically tested to see if they carry PRA genes.


Which One Is Healthier?

The Welsh springer spaniel has less inherited health conditions than the English springer spaniel. It is crucial to ascertain the parent dogs’ health and ask the breeder for test results for those conditions that can be genetically screened. These questions would apply to both breeds but are especially important with English springer spaniels.


Conclusion

Welsh and English springer spaniels are similar dogs, but they are classed as different breeds. Welsh springers are smaller than English springer spaniels and only come in one coat color. English springer spaniels have a variety of coat colors and have larger ears. They are both dogs that adore their owners.

While English springers are friendly to everyone, Welshies tend to be cautious with strangers. They have some similar health problems, but overall the Welsh springers seem to be healthier, with fewer inherited eye and temperament conditions. They are both energetic, fun dogs to own for active families or someone who wants to hunt.


References

https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/english-springer-spaniel/

https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/welsh-springer-spaniel/

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