Decades ago, field and bench English springer spaniels were the same type of dog. Today, the field and bench types are quite different. Some of the differences between the bench and field springers are obvious; others are subtle.
Spaniels receive their name from Spain, the country where these hunting dogs originated. Spaniel-type dogs were hunting in Great Britain before Christianity came to the land. "Springer" spaniels flushed, or sprang, game, while cocker spaniels hunted woodcock. Until the late 19th century, these were basically the same breed, with the smaller members of a litter used for woodcock hunting. By 1892, Great Britain's Kennel Club recognized the English cocker spaniel and the English springer spaniel as separate breeds. Meanwhile, in the United States, the parent breed club, the English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association, was formed in 1924. The field English springer spaniel excels in hunting, while the bench type shows in conformation classes at dog shows. While dual-purpose -- field and bench -- dogs were common when the ESSFTA was founded, the last dual championship occurred in the 1940s. Even in the early years of the ESSFTA, breeders began specializing in field or conformation lines, based on their personal interests.
American Kennel Club Standard
The American Kennel Club standard for the English springer spaniel references the bench type. This dog sports a moderately long coat, with feathering on the ears, legs and chest. At maturity, these spaniels should stand 19 or 20 inches tall at the withers, ranging in weight from 40 to 50 pounds. Males are larger than females. The body's length, from the shoulder to the buttocks, is just a bit longer than the height at the withers. The ears are pendulous, wide and long. Permissible colors include black or liver and white; blue or liver roan, or white hairs among the solid color, and tricolor, black or liver with white and tan.
Field Springer Appearance
In contrast to the bench type, the field springer has a short or wavy coat, with little grooming or trimming required. The field springer has shorter ears and a shorter upper lip. Most are appreciably longer in the body than they are tall. The field springer weighs less than the bench type, maturing between 35 and 45 pounds. Overall, the field springer is a more athletic, muscular dog in appearance than the bench springer.
Choosing a Dog
Choosing the right type of English springer spaniel is easy if you hunt or show. If you neither hunt or show, either type of dog makes a good companion. Both types can also excel at obedience, agility, Flyball and other canine sports. The choice might come down to your activity level. If you're an active person who wants a dog to take out hiking or jogging, the field spaniel might have the edge. If your lifestyle is a bit more sedentary, the bench spaniel might be the better choice.