Project Campaign for English Cocker Spaniels in Collaboration with the Finnish Breed Club

The English Cocker Spaniel is an old British bird dog breed, whose origins are in land spaniels. The spaniels were quite a mixed population at that time: dogs were of different colors and sizes, and were used to drive game towards hunters’ nets, hawks and later towards their guns. Other spaniels and setters originate also from the same population. The first mention about Cocker Spaniel dates to early 19th century. It became a separate breed in 1892, when the Kennel Club made a separation between the Cocker Spaniel and the Field Spaniel.

The English Cocker Spaniel is the world’s most popular spaniel breed, and not the least because of its happy character, lovely appearance and compact size. In the breed’s country of origin, about 23 000 Cocker Spaniels are registered each year, which makes it the second most popular breed there. The breed is traditionally divided into three breeding lines: show line Cocker Spaniels are divided in two according to colors, and in addition to these, there are work line hunting dogs. The breeding lines differ in type and nature to some extent. Hence, the breed consists of three separate populations.

What is the genetic diversity of the different Cocker Spaniel lineages? Many popular sires are known to exist in breed’s history and inbreeding has been very common. According to the Mate Select of the Kennel Club the breed’s coefficient of inbreeding would be 9.5. The coefficient is apparently calculated from 12 generations. This gives an indication that preserving genetic diversity could be a cause of concern. The rumor is that some work line breeders may have deliberately mixed, for example, setters and English Springer Spaniels in their lines. The sable pattern, present in show line Cocker Spaniels, results also potentially from cross-breeding. The color does not fall within original colors of Spaniels. Or is it sable or something else? Evidence of any kind of crosses does not exist.

The English Cocker Spaniel is generally speaking a healthy breed, but different types of atopies and ear infections are however typical. Autoimmune diseases, such as IMHA (Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia), are also encountered in the breed. Individuals with Familial Nephropathy cannot be registered, for example, in Finland (the offspring of a carrier). Hereditary eye disorders to be mentioned are prcd-PRA and Hereditary Cataracts (HC). Cardiomyopathy has also been present in the breed. Solid color English Cocker Spaniels have a questionable reputation because of their nature. The main health problems of work line dogs are with their bones: hip dysplasia and radius curvus (curvature of the front legs). Curiously, all of the Cocker Spaniels suffering from epilepsy, that have been brought to the attention of the Finnish Breed Club recently, have been particolored, which also raises thoughts and questions.

The Finnish Breed Club Cockerspanielit ry is now interested in assessing genetic diversity within the English Cocker Spaniel. The Club is starting a project to support the testing of English Cocker Spaniels in Finland and wishes to have tested as many Cocker Spaniels from different lines as possible. The more dogs tested, the more useful the results will be for the breed.

MyDogDNA wants to support the Finnish Breed Club in getting a comprehensive view on the genetic situation of English Cocker Spaniels. Therefore, MyDogDNA offers the possibility for reduced campaign pricing for all English Cocker Spaniel owners and breeders.  This campaign is ongoing during the month of May. With the campaign code COCKER2014, MyDogDNA PASS can be purchased at the price of 99 euros instead of the regular price of 129 euros in our web shop.

Cockerspanielit ry and MyDogDNA want to invite all English Cocker Spaniel owners and breeders to contribute to the project by testing their dogs with MyDogDNA PASS! Let’s gather information about the genetic diversity in this breed!

In case you have questions, please contact