Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

If you live in South Carolina, then you are well aware that September 1st is Boykin Spaniel Day, in honor of these lovable, family companions that have keen hunting skills. Officially recognized in 2009, this spaniel was the 163rd breed to be inducted into the AKC. They are also the 111th most popular dog breed, as ranked by the AKC and they have their own club called the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America. If you hunt with a dog, this breed will help you bring home the turkey or duck for dinner!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Sporting
Height:1 foot, 2 inches to 1 foot 6 inches tall
Weight:Between 25 and 40 pounds
Life Span:10 to 12 years

The story of the Boykin Spaniel is endearing and could have been a movie! Between 1905 and 1910, a stray spaniel gave a liking to a banker named Alexander White, who was walking to church one day in Spartanburg, South Carolina. White took the dog home and named it Dumpy, who showed great signs of retrieving when White interacted with him. White then took the dog to his hunting partner, Lemuel Boykin of Camden, South Carolina, who then began cross breeding, and gave the breed his last name.

Dumpy was led by Boykin and turned into a natural when it came to retrieving turkey or water fowl. It is believed that the Boykin Spaniel may have one or more of other kinds of spaniels mixed into its genes. The Springer Spaniel, American Water Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and the Cocker Spaniel are thought to have been used to create the Boykin version.

This breed has characteristics such as only having one color; brown, though the hue will vary a little bit. They have “feather” type ears because of the extra fur, which hangs low, but adds to their beauty. Web toed versions of this dog do exist, which helps them swim extremely fast in swampy areas and lakes, not to mention that they glide effortlessly when hunting water fowl or turkey.

Generally healthy, the Boykin Spaniel must be exercised a lot as they have a high energy level and are very intense. They love to play but do get mouthy sometimes, which can be tamed with proper training and guidance. As for their feeding schedule, they should be fed two cups of dry food per day, with one cup in the morning and one in the evening. As for grooming, they should be brushed once a week or so, to keep fur to a minimum on your couch! They will also need seasonal trims.

This breed can make a good guard dog as well, because they generally only bark when they are on alert for something that does not seem right. They are smart and easy to train, so they have the capacity to alert their owner to danger, or dinner if they are out hunting in the swamp! This breed would be wonderful in most any home!

Main Highlights
  • One of the most kid-friendly dog breeds around. They are very playful and have lots of energy to run around with the kids, but also guard and love them.
  • Easy to train! These dogs pick up commands and tricks really quickly, because of their intelligence level. Sit? Speak? Roll over? They can do it all!
  • They will bring home the dinner! Originally bred as a sporting dog, this breed will come home with a fresh turkey or duck to serve the family! Their keen sense and effortless moves help them snatch up any water fowl while hunting!
  • A stray spaniel was taken in by a man who was coming home from church, who then had the dog bred into what we know as the Boykin Spaniel today!
  • This breed does shed a lot, so brushing needs to happen quite regularly. They happen to get quite furry around the ears, on the chest, and on the tail areas.
  • They can tolerate most anything! They do well being alone for long periods, but not all day. They can tolerate hot and cold weather without issue, but do prefer the warmer temperatures.
  • They love other animals! This breed will fit in great with the pets you already own. They fit right in with other dogs and cats, and are quite friendly towards them, but can be a little sensitive if their feelings are hurt.
Breed History

In the early 1900s, a man named Alexander White of South Carolina, was walking to church and found a stray spaniel that took a liking to him. After church, Mr. White took the dog home to take care of it, where he quickly found out that it was a great retrieving dog. He named the spaniel Dumpy, and decided to show his hunting partner, Lemuel Boykin what Dumpy could do. Boykin then took the dog and decided to cross breed it with other spaniels.

Boykin tried to cross breed Dumpy with the Springer Spaniel, American Water Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and the Cocker Spaniel to name a few. He eventually came up with the mix we know and love today. He designed it to be small enough so that it can fit in boats with their owner in order to hunt water fowl and other animals in the swamps or lakes.

Lemuel Boykin lived in Camden, South Carolina, a resort town, where the travelers and those that lived there, began to notice the breed and spread the word around when they got home, which is how the breed’s popularity began. In the following decades, the breed had clubs in their honor such as the Boykin Spaniel Society, which was created in 1977, and the Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association of America, which formed in the 1990s. The United Kennel Club gave the breed recognition in 1985 and the American Kennel Club followed in 2009. Since being accepted into the AKC, this breed is one of the most common of all spaniels in the United States.


Generally, the Boykin Spaniel stands from 1 foot, 2 inches to 1 foot, 6 inches at the shoulder and generally weigh from 25 to 40 pounds. On average, the males of this breed are taller than the females and weigh the most by 5 to 10 pounds. Because of several spaniel breeds being used to create this version, the dog can be small like the American Cocker Spaniel, or be as big as a short Labrador Retriever.

Personality and Character

The Boykin Spaniel has a sparkling personality and character because they have big hearts, and are confident and smart! They are hard workers while out hunting in the field or swamp, making hunting seem effortless.

Not only do you always see their tail wagging in happiness, you will also see them bonding with other household pets and children, as they love attention and being part of a family. This breed loves to please their family, and is generally not quick to anger or annoy. Rarely, a fight would occur with another spaniel type, which is generally a territory or dominance issue. Confident and beautiful, this spaniel has all of the characteristics of a great family companion.

Health and Potential Problems

A healthy Boykin Spaniel can live upwards of 12 years if taken care of and fed properly. This breed has a ton of energy and loves to be active, so certain health issues can arise for any reason, be it DNA or weather, or aging. Here are some health issues to look out for with your beautiful dog during its life.

  • Hip dysplasia is extremely common in all dogs, but this breed has a 37% chance of being born with it. Many times, your dog can begin to be checked for this starting at the age of 4 months old with what is called a Penn HIP exam. Generally, this breed will be checked by the age of 2 for this issue, which includes getting x-rays. Medication can be dispensed by the vet.
  • Cataracts, which occurs in the lens of the eye, causes cloudiness and therefore will give your dog blurry vision. When they become thicker, the dog can go blind if surgery is not an option. Most times, genetics are the cause of this but injury, age, and other diseases can inhibit this type of degeneration.
  • Patellar luxation is a fancy term for the dislocation of the dog’s kneecap. If this is the case for your dog, check for signs like limping, lack of use of the leg, and lack of movement. Dogs do not always feel the pain when the kneecap dislocates, so there might not be crying or whimpering. Most times, the vet can pop the kneecap back into place.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism, also called Cushing’s Disease, can occur when the cortisone levels are too high in the blood stream. This will then be followed by hypertension and gastrointestinal disorders. One of the most common causes is a tumor on the pituitary gland, which controls the production of hormones in the body. This is one of the top endocrine disorders that dogs face.
  • Hypothyroidism in dogs happens when there is little to no hormones produced by the thyroid gland itself. Dogs can be put on medication to make up for the lack of production, which the dog will have to take for life. Hypothyroidism mostly occurs after the age of 4 years, and symptoms include lethargy, hair loss, skin infections, weight gain, seizures, and more.
  • Ear infections are common in this breed because they love to be active outdoors, where they pick up germs and bacteria. Symptoms include scratching and rubbing the ears, a smell and redness. Ear mites, bacteria and yeast are the most common causes of these infections and they can be cured by going to the vet, who will prescribe medication. Also, check your dog’s ears as part of your regular routine to prevent further infections.
Care Features

In order to care for your Boykin Spaniel, you should make sure it get a ton of exercise to burn off energy. They are adaptive to all weather so they can be outdoors in a field or lake, or playing in the snow! These lovable dogs will gladly jump in a boat to go hunting water fowl, or they will be happy playing with all of the kids in the backyard.

Having a big backyard or fenced in area where they can run around will help them stay active. This breed also loves going for walks, or running on the beach, or even playing Frisbee! Finding a nearby dog park can be heaven for them since they love interacting and socializing with other people and pets. Plus, they would have the equipment to use to exercise or train.

Often, if there are other animals in the household, it would be them who has an issue with the dog. This breed gets along great with other animals, so be sure your other household pets are comfortable and know how to behave if bringing in a new pet.

They handle being alone pretty well, but do love to be around family and other animals. They are also good guard dogs, as they generally only bark when they are alert and sense something is not right. If something is wrong, they will let you know! Also, this breed is generally not known for digging up the yard or trying to escape, but if they get bored, they might chew up something on occasion, which is common in many dogs, and can be a form of anxiety.

Feeding Schedule

The feeding schedule would include one cup of dry dog food in the morning and one cup of dry dog food at night, with occasional treats if his weight is healthy. Be sure the dog food is high in protein because they need the extra nutrition for when they are active.

Choosing the right dog food is important as many dogs can be allergic to one ingredient or another. A veterinarian can help you decide what brand is best for your dog. Be sure to provide plenty of water throughout the day for them, especially in warmer weather. If your dog is not lactose intolerant, there are various kinds of treats on the market like doggy ice cream, which many dogs love as a cool treat!

Coat, Color and Grooming

Since many types of spaniels were used to create the Boykin, some coats can be longer than others, but still require regular grooming to prevent ticks and burrs attaching to their coat. Getting their coat trimmed is an option for warmer weather. Each week, the dog’s ears, skin, mouth and other areas should be checked for infection prevention. The dog should be bathed regularly, every few weeks, if it is outside hunting a lot, and the nails should be trimmed as needed, but once a month should work.

This breed only has a thick, soft coat that only comes in one color: brown. The hue can change from a lighter chocolate color to a dark brown. The fur on the dog’s body will be more hairier on the ears, tail, and in the chest area. Occasionally, you will see this kind of spaniel with a white spot somewhere, but it is not common.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

This breed of spaniel gets along perfectly with children and other animals in the house. As always, small children should be supervised around dogs to prevent being knocked over, but this spaniel is gentle and loves to play and run around with children! They get along really well with other animals in the house like dogs, cats, birds or rodents and are not known to nip, bite, or attack at others. They are gentle, like to be part of the pack, and have lots of fun outdoors.

In essence, the Boykin Spaniel is a great family dog, hunting companion, and all around friend! They love to tag along to the lake or swamp and catch you a nice turkey or duck to cook for dinner! This breed is beautiful, smart, easy to train, and easy to love, and will be a constant companion who protects you throughout their life. The Boykin Spaniel can see some health issues, which can be treated and generally won’t break the bank when they need to see a vet.

They require a lot of exercise, so having a big yard or open area for them to run and play will allow them to thrive and burn off energy. Overall, this breed of spaniel would make a welcoming addition to any home that has the energy, love, and attention to give to this beautiful breed.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.