The Boykin Spaniel is a dog that is considered to be a truly American breed developed in South Carolina, using stock from such breeds as the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, the Springer Spaniel, the Cocker Spaniel and the American Water Spaniel. The breed is indeed an “american invention” bred for a strange but specific purpose in the early 1900s.
The hunters of South Carolina hunted the swamplands of the Wateree river and due to the scarcity of roads in this wild country, the hunters liked to use a style of boat that could be taken apart and put into pieces in the back of the wagon or carted overland across stretches of wilderness. They needed a hunting and retrieving dog that was small enough to fit in this small boat, along with all the guns and other gear . The Boykin was developed to fit this purpose and later the dog also became popular as a dove hunter . The slogan of the American Boykin Spaniel Club is “the dog that doesn’t rock the boat”.
The Boykin Spaniel is pictured as the spaniel on the 1988 South Carolina duck stamp designed by Jim Killen, the famous wildlife artist. The Boykin appears to be very similar to the Field Spaniel. It is a small dog, 30-40 pounds, with an eager disposition and a strong instinct to hunt and to retrieve on both land and water. He is a good swimmer and is small enough to work through heavy underbrush easily. His coat is of medium length and can be wavy or flat, it is a single coat of a solid brown or liver. There may be a small white marking on the chest but white is not allowed anywhere else.
This Spaniel is quite intelligent and eager to please, making a good family pet and all around pleasant dog, small enough to be an urban dweller but because of his natural hunting inclination he of course needs plenty of exercise and preferably should be used as a hunting dog when possible. He is generally friendly to other dogs and good with children.
There are hunters who have a belief, often erroneous, that the hunting dog will not make a good indoor dog and this may be true of some of the larger more active hunting dogs, but the Boykin Spaniel is not only small enough to live comfortably as a “house pet” but is also very eager to please, affectionate and indeed needful of human companionship and will bond to family members of all ages.
The Boykin is generally healthy, although there needs to be special attention paid to the eyes if the dog is bred, for the “pop eye” can be a problem. Dogs with health clearances for hip and elbow dysplasia and eye clearances are the only ones that should be used for breeding. Also epilepsy is rare but can be a problem.
The Boykin Spaniel is a member of the F.S.S. (Foundation Stock Service) registry of the American Kennel Club, in other words, it is a breed which may be considered for admittance eventually into the A.K.C., but meanwhile the F.S.S. provides an avenue for accurate record keeping of the stud records of the breed.