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THE COCKER SPANIEL
INFERENTIALLY the cocker spaniel is a very old breed, if it be true, as reputed, that he is the stock from whence the toy spaniels originated. Some have associated him with the spaniel gentle or comforter of Dr. Caius, which would date the breed back to the sixteenth century. Be this as it may, the variety was a well established one a hundred years ago, and Daniel, in his Rural Sports, figures a couple of liver and white specimens. The cocker derives its name from the fact that it was used for woodcock shooting, and its size is adapted to forcing its way through the dense haunts those wily bipeds often affect. Stonehenge describes the cocker of his time as much more active than the springer, of any colour more or less marked with white, and weighing up to 18 lbs. in bitches and 25 lbs. in dogs. The latter is the modern limit imposed, but the breed itself is now divided into two classifications, the black and the any other variety, which includes such a diversity of shades of coats as black and tan; liver and tan; liver ; black and tan and white ; liver, tan and white; lemon and white, blue and red roans, and, in fact, any combination or blending of colours. As colour is the only distinction between the two varieties, I shall, as in the case of field spaniels, include both in the same section.
I am so happily provided with contributions about cockers that I prefer to let my correspondents deal with the subject. And I cannot begin my long list of quotations better than by supplying the reader with the notes which Mr. Harding Cox, the President of the Cocker Club, has very kindly written for this work.
MR. HARDING Cox.-Of late years the interest in the cocker spaniel has greatly increased, and it is now one of the most fashionable and popular of breeds. But type has been a hard nut for the experts to crack, and there are at least three distinct qualities, each of which has its votaries, For my own part I propose to deal only with that which experience has proved to me to be the most useful for all sporting purposes. My views must therefore be accepted for what they are worth. They are as follows:
General Appearance.—My ideal cocker spaniel is a small, strongly built spaniel, differing but little in type from a miniature field spaniel, but not so long in the back as even a modified specimen of the latter breed. Albeit a cocker spaniel should appear slightly longer in length than in height. The idea that a cocker should be very short in the back is an erroneous one ; such specimens lack liberty, and are almost invariably short in the neck and inactive.
Action.—This little spaniel has been aptly termed the “merry cocker,” and he should display a bustling activity that seems to pervade him from tip to tail. The action of the stern should be continual whilst the dog is at work, and, as in the case of other spaniel breeds, that action should be low, and the stern never raised above the level of the back. In the show ring a cocker will often elevate his caudal appendage to show his contempt for a rival, and such a transgression may be excused if he displays the orthodox action when raced along by himself.
Coat. The coat should be of moderate length, thick and soft, and quite flat; any tendency to wave or curl should be penalised, but the hair should feather off under the chest and flanks. Both fore and hind legs should be provided with a straight feathering sufficient to protect the dog from the scratches of brambles and gorse. If the feather is too heavy, it is detrimental to work; but this should not be penalised in the show ring, because it is impracticable to breed to such a nicety that the feather is of the exact length desirable. On the other hand, deficiency of feather
is a very prevalent fault, and one of far greater seriousness than a profusion of the commodity.
Head.—The best type of head is one which resembles that of the high quality field spaniel. The skull should be capacious and rounded over the brows, but not peaked in the occiput. The ears long and pendulous, and set rather low, but in many cases they are both shorter and squarer in proportion than those of the field spaniel. The hair on the ear is slightly spiral and in strands, but any appearance of curl is detrimental. The eyes are fairly round and full, but neither sunken nor unduly prominent ; in colour they are a very deep soft brown, and their expression is highly intelligent and benevolent, and often rather deprecatory. The muzzle is long, strong, and square, but the lips should not be pendulous. There should be no falling away below the eyes, and weakness or snipeyness of the jaw is most objectionable. The neck is well arched and fairly long, well set in clean, sloping shoulders, and showing a beautiful, curving line. The chest deep, rather wide, flat below the shoulders, but fairly sprung in the back ribs. The couplings rather long, but in no way showing a waist.
Feet.—The feet large and close, feathered between the toes, and provided with strong, hard pads. The stifles are well bent, the hocks, also, well bent, bony and working true. Any intertwining or cow-hocked tendency is a grave blemish.
Weight.--A cocker should be 23 lbs. for dogs and 21 lbs. for bitches; they should not exceed 25 lbs., or be less than 20 lbs. In the latter case they risk a charge of toyishness, though it does not follow that because a cocker is small he is necessarily open to such a description.
Colour.-There are many variations. The all blacks are in great favour, and probably show more all round quality and purity of blood than their coloured cousins. A few white hairs on the chest of a black cocker is of small consequence, and even a patch of white on that part is by no means a disqualification ; but foul markings on the feet and body are not admissible. The browns and livers are allied to the blacks, and often appear in litters of identical strain. They are, for some unknown reason, unpopular; but reds (Irish setter colour) are highly prized. Black and tans are also found, owning descent from blacks, and present a handsome appearance. The roans are very taking to the eye, and are much sought after; blue-roans, liver-roans, lemon-roans, and strawberry-roans are run after, but the black and white and the liver and white are at a discount, though white and lemon