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Spaniel Secrets

by David Krassler

One of the most exciting experiences for anyone while bird hunting is to see a well trained gun dog of any breed, display their long time inherited genetics, while incorporating the use of wind direction along with their uncanny nose. They show us the art of perfection in locating small game, hidden in the dense under brush!

For many of us enthusiasts, the enjoyment of watching our sporting dogs seek out and locate game is truly what the sport is all about. Have you ever watched a good dog track down and force a running cock pheasant into flight? The "dog work" is more exciting than the actual shooting end of things during small game hunting. Many of us that have been hunting small game over good dogs become more and more memorized by the exceptional dog work that occurs during an average day in the field.

There are more than 35 different breed types in the sporting dog group today. One of which is the Spaniel or flushing dog group. The Spaniel is the 2nd oldest hunting breed known to mankind today. The earliest written record of the Spaniel was logged in the year 948! The early gamekeepers used the Spaniel in the role of today’s “beaters”. During the shoot, the Spaniels were also used to flush game on the Europe estates. Working in teams as small as 4 and up to as many as 10. Spaniels forced game into flight from the thick undergrowth of brambles, thorns and rough grass for the tenants and syndicate shooters. European countries, where the Spaniel originated, called them the land or flushing Spaniel. Many feel the Carrihagean word "Span" meaning rabbit, seems to have proper meaning for this breed! Even to this day in Europe the Spaniel, when tested during field events, must work both fur and feather. Whiling working, all flushed game, whether it is rabbit, hare, pheasant or partridge, shall be shot. It is required that the Spaniel finds and retrieves all the different sorts of game. Thus, maintaining the Spaniel as a versatile all-around breed for small game hunting.

Among the Spaniel group there are ten different types of Spaniels with the English springer and English cockers, being two of the most popular amongst small game enthusiasts. Authorities such as Henry Davis, David Michael Duffy, and others, (these people who have a world of experience with all types of gun dogs), have concluded that the English springer spaniel is a leading contender for the title of "all-around gun dog" for the one dog-sporting enthusiast!

English springer spaniels have always been known as GREAT pheasant dogs.
Photo by: R. Michael DiLullo
What unique characteristics give the English springer spaniel such an elite statue to be a contender? Lets look at the Spaniel and its’ different expertise of versatility both in the field and the family environment. The Spaniel when released to hunt will travel 10 to 15 yards to one side, quickly reversing direction to the opposite side of the hunter, while maintaining a distance of 10 to 15 yards in front of the hunter. This breed travels with a great spurt of speed and hunting desire, working in a windshield wiper pattern and using the wind direction to their favor. The Spaniel gives his nose every advantage at locating game in the dense cover.

The Spaniel is a beater who covers all the ground to either side in front of the hunter, never leaving any game undiscovered. He always stays within shotgun range for the on foot hunter to take his quarry at his own pace. When a Spaniel is making game he will quickly drop his head and put his nose to the ground in a hound-like fashion. He will stubbornly "nose" the foot scent of the quarry, increasing his speed while closing the gap on a bird or rabbit as the scent trail gets "hotter."
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