In 1984, the South Carolina legislature named the Boykin spaniel the official state dog. At that time, the breed had been in existence for about 75 years, developing a reputation as a field hunting dog par excellence. The official registry for the breed started in 1977. In 2009, the Boykin spaniel was fully recognized by the American Kennel Club. This handsome, medium-sized, good-natured canine also makes a fine family pet and athlete.
Originally bred to hunt wild turkey, the Boykin spaniel is also found accompanying duck or dove hunters, along with those hunting upland game, such as pheasants. Smaller than most other hunting breeds, the Boykin's size allows him to fit comfortably in small waterfowl hunting boats without upsetting them. In the field, his brown coat provides natural camouflage when out with pheasant and turkey hunters.
If you're not familiar with Boykin spaniel, you might think he's a brown cocker spaniel mix. That's not far off the mark. The Boykin's ancestry includes various spaniel and retriever breeds, including the cocker and the English springer spaniel -- which were once the same breed -- the American water spaniel and the Chesapeake Bay retriever. The progenitor of the Boykin spaniel was a stray dog found in the vicinity of Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the early 1900s. The person who took in the dog sensed hunting ability in the animal and sent him for training by Whittaker Boykin. Boykin developed the dog and his progeny into top, small hunting dogs.
Boykin spaniels feature coats of various brown shades. The American Kennel Club breed standard allows rich brown, liver or a dark chocolate shade. While a Boykin might have a patch of white on the chest or toes, that's it as far as markings. At maturity, male Boykins range from 15.5 inches to 18.5 inches tall at the shoulder, with females slightly smaller at 14 inches to 16.5 inches. When fully-grown, these medium-sized dogs weigh 25 to 40 pounds. The spaniel's ears frame his face, hanging near his cheekbones.
Boykins spaniels get along well with other dogs, and are generally good with cats. Most Boykins are smart, friendly and full of energy, so they make fine companions for older children who also have energy to burn. Besides hunting, you can channel that Boykin spaniel energy into other canine activities, such as agility, flyball and anything to do with water.