Boykin Spaniel

Reviewed by: BD Editors

A Boykin spaniel waits patiently for its owner to tell it which direction to search for game.
A Boykin Spaniel

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Carnivora
Family Canidae
Genus Canis
Species Canis familiaris
Niche Domestic
Height 14-17 in (36-42 cm)
Weight 25-40 lbs (11-18 kg)
Lifespan 10-15 years
Social Structure Domesticated
Conservation Status Least Concern
Preferred Habitat Domesticated
Average Litter Size 5-7 puppies
Main Prey Species Dog Food
Predators None

The Basics

The Boykin spaniel is a breed of domestic dog that specializes as a hunting companion. Bred for their ability to flush out game animals and retrieve them, the Boykin spaniel has an excellent nose, swimming ability, and is an easy breed to train. The breed first originated in South Carolina, where it is still commonly used as a hunting dog. In fact, this breed is the State Dog of South Carolina!

Boykin spaniels are typically brown with a curly coat. They are a mix of several different spaniel breeds including the Springer spaniel, Cocker spaniel, American Water spaniel, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. However, since the breed was developed in the early 1900s, genetics was not a major concern. As such, about 10% of Boykin spaniels now suffer from a fatal genetic defect that causes Exercise Induced Collapse syndrome. This condition is caused by the lack of a functional protein needed for sustained exertion.

Boykin spaniels were bred as a hunting dog, and have very similar features to many other hunting dogs.
See the Boykin Spaniel compared to other hunting dog breeds

Boykin spaniels generally have a mellow and friendly disposition, and they make excellent family dogs. They can be very energetic and are easily trainable, making them perfect hunting companions. Plus, with their slightly webbed toes, Boykins make excellent water dogs! However, the species is not known for being hypoallergenic and may shed fairly regularly.

Interesting Insights from the Boykin Spaniel!

Though the Boykin spaniel makes an excellent companion, it is also a great way to talk about several very important biological concepts. Let’s see how Man’s Best Friend can also help us learn some biology!

Hunting Companions

Dogs are obviously human’s most familiar hunting companion. Dogs can be trained to chase, corner, and even kill certain game species. Others, like the Boykin spaniel, make excellent retrievers. After only a little training, most puppies will readily learn to fetch almost anything and can be desensitized to the noise of a gun. But, humans have also learned to work with a wide variety of other animals as hunting companions.

A Boykin spaniel is seen retrieving a dead pheasant, a behavior that is easily trainable in this breed.
A boykin spaniel retrieves a downed pheasant

For instance, did you know that people have trained ducks to hunt fish? In certain parts of Southeast Asia, fishermen have developed a special relationship with the ducks that follow their boats. The ducks follow the fisherman and often try to eat the fish in his net. But, the fisherman does not let the ducks have these smaller fish. Frustrated, the ducks go searching for larger fish. Larger fish are harder to swallow, and the ducks must return to the surface. When they do, the fisherman scoops them up and pulls the large fish out of their mouth. Then – to encourage the behavior – the fisherman rewards the duck with several smaller fish. This treat is enough that the ducks continue following the fisherman and continue catching large fish for him.

Training Complex Behaviors

The Boykin spaniel is incredibly smart, and complex behaviors come naturally to this species. For example, think about all the individual behaviors that a hunting dog must engage in to be successful. First, they must smell out any game animals in the area. Then, they must flush those animals out so they can be shot. After learning to ignore the gunshot, the dog must then go find the downed animal and avoid its natural instinct to eat the prey. Lastly, the dog must bring the game animal to the hunter and turn it over – a trick that some dogs never learn.

A Boykin spaniel puppy is cowardly and gentle at first, but will develop into a very energetic and loving dog.
A Boykin Spaniel puppy

In order to train a Boykin spaniel to do these tricks, it is best to teach each behavior individually. For instance, you can start with a smelling game where you teach the dog to find a certain scent. Hide several different scents under cups and reward the dog with a treat when it tips over the right cup. Then, you can move the game to a field to teach the behavior in a larger setting. As for retrieving, the same concept applies. Teach a dog to first chase a thrown toy, and reward it when the toy is returned. Most Boykin spaniels are highly food and praise motivated, so there is no need for any punishment or negativity in the training regime.

Cite This Article

MLAAPAChicago Editors. "Boykin Spaniel." Biology Dictionary,, 26 Jul. 2020, Editors. (2020, July 26). Boykin Spaniel. Retrieved from Editors. "Boykin Spaniel." Biology Dictionary., July 26, 2020.

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