Working gun dogs such as retrievers, pointers, and spaniels have somewhat similar appearances -- all generally have drop ears, soft eyes and longish snouts. However similar their appearances and history, spaniels and pointing dogs fulfill very different roles and generally vary greatly in size.
Pointer History and Function
Modern pointer ancestors were developed as a distinct strain of dogs and are generally believed to have come into general use in Portugal, Spain and the British Isles, and throughout Eastern Europe, all around 1650. Pointer breeds were developed to assist hunters in locating prey by "pointing" with an outstretched nose, lifted paw and straight tail. These dogs indicate where the bird or rabbit is, and some varieties will also retrieve the prey for the hunter.
Pointer Size and Behavior
Pointers are generally medium-size to large dogs, such as the Spinone Italiano, the English pointer, and the German shorthaired pointer, all of which stand about 20 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 75 pounds. Pointers are leggy, energetic and driven, able to cover many miles when on the job. As companions, they require strenuous daily activity, but they also enjoy relaxing with their families. Pointers are usually good-natured, playful and good with people of all ages.
Spaniel History and Function
Many believe spaniels originated from Spain since the term "spaniel" may have been derived from the country's name. Spaniels were referenced in literature as early as the 1300s and were originally used to flush birds from underbrush. Some also retrieve, both on land and in water. They traditionally have longer, feathered fur, especially on their legs and ears, to keep burs or rough terrain from scratching their skin.
Spaniel Size and Behavior
Spaniels are the smallest of the hunting breeds, developed to be versatile, outgoing working companions. Dogs such as the cocker spaniel, clumber spaniel, and Brittany stand between 12 and 20 inches tall, and most are between 25 and 50 pounds, though heavyset breeds like the clumber can weigh as much as 80 pounds. Spaniels are typically gregarious, happy, and extroverted companions who enjoy the bustle of family life and thrive on regular exercise.