The Boykin Spaniel is a medium-sized breed of dog, a Spaniel bred for hunting wild turkeys and ducks in the Wateree River Swamp of South Carolina, in the United States. It is the state dog of South Carolina, where it was discovered and further developed by hunters in the 1900s. 1 September is Boykin Spaniel Day in South Carolina.
The Boykin Spaniel is only slightly larger than the English Cocker Spaniel but much heavier through the body width. Height at the withers for males ranges from 15.5 - 17 ins (39.4 - 43.18 cm) and weight 30 - 40 lbs (13.6 - 18.2 kg). Females are smaller, 14 - 16.5 ins (35 - 41.91 cm) and 25 - 35 lbs (11.4 - 15.9 kg). Although against the true form and function of the breed, some field trial breeders are increasing their line's size to be competitive against other retriever breeds. Buyers should be aware of the size and weight in the puppy's pedigree before choosing a breeder if size is a factor in their choice of dog. Traditionally, its tail is docked at the age of three days, leaving 1/3 length. Eyes are engaging and bright. The color ranges from brilliant gold to a dark amber. Puppies will have milky bluish-gold to amber eyes until a few months old. The coat color comes in liver or chocolate (shades of brown.) This is a southern water spaniel bred to only adapt to the moderate climate of the southeastern USA. Coat length and density vary widely due to the variety of breeds that make up the recent background of this breed. Any coat type is acceptable, with some being almost curly like an American Water Spaniel to some with very straight fur like a Field Spaniel. Length is normally 1-2 inches throughout the body. A few bloodlines throw shorter, straight coats much like a Labrador. Feathering on the ears, chest, through the tuck-up and along the legs can be very little to moderate in density and length. Feathering may take on a sun-bleached golden to tawny color especially on the ears and should not be penalized. Groomed dogs should have a minimal of stripping or clipping, with slight shaping around the head and topline. Some individuals have a topknot like a Llewellin Setter. Field types are often shaved down and should not be penalized as long as it is of appropriate length to protect the skin. Improper shaving will result in some coats growing back in with excessive discoloration, fading or graying. White markings other than a mark on the chest, or a white mark on the chest that is more than 60% of the width of the chest, disqualify puppies from being registered with the Boykin Spaniel Society, although the American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club do not allow denial of registration for conformation reasons. White on the toes or chest is purely a cosmetic trait and will not affect the ability or health of the dog.
Hunting use The Boykin Spaniel is a versatile hunter, working as a retriever and upland hunter, flushing birds into flight. Pointing is not in character with the Boykin's hunting style. Their stamina in hot weather and eagerness make them good for dove hunts, but also for pheasant and other upland game. They can be used in driving deer or in tracking wounded game. Their small size makes them easy to carry in a canoe or other small boat, and they are described as "the dog that doesn't rock the boat." The Boykin was officially recognized by the AKC in 2009.
Temperament The Boykin Spaniel is a friendly, social dog that is considered a good family pet. It is easily trained and eager to work. It is good with, and extremely stable around, children and other dogs. They can sometimes be described as energetic with great endurance. They are extremely adaptable to different environments as long as they are given ample opportunity for social interaction and plenty of time to burn off excess energy reserves. They are not easily angered and tend to be eager to please and friendly, but they love attention.
Care As with all dogs, the Boykin Spaniels require daily exercise and regular grooming. Clipping the coat regularly is recommended especially if the dog is in the field, as the soft coat collects foxtails and briars. Spraying the dog with cooking spray is also recommended to help defend against tangles in the long fur.
The first Boykin Spaniel, or the precursor of today's breed, was reportedly a small, stray spaniel type dog that befriended a banker walking from his home to the First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina around 1905-1910. Alexander L. White (1860-1942) liked the little dog and took it home. After the dog showed some aptitude for retrieving, White sent the dog called "Dumpy" to his longtime friend and hunting partner Whit Boykin. L. Whitaker Boykin (1861–1932) experimented with crossbreeding different breeds, and the resulting dog is named after him. In Boykin's hands the little stray developed into a superb turkey dog and waterfowl retriever. This dog became the foundation stock for the Boykin spaniel. The dogs had to be small enough to ride in the small boats used by hunters in the swamps. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, and the American Water Spaniel may have been used in the development of the breed. The area in which the breed developed, around Camden, South Carolina, was a resort area, and the breed was noticed by visitors and so spread around the United States. The Boykin Spaniel Society was formed in 1977 and began maintaining a studbook in 1979. The BSS studbook has been "closed" since 1982, meaning that only dogs from BSS registered parents may be registered with the BSS. The Boykin Spaniel was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1985. UKC does not close its studbooks so dogs from the BSS or the AKC may be registered into the UKC studbook at any time. In the 1990s a group of fanciers formed the Boykin Spaniel Club And Breeders Association of America in order to achieve AKC recognition of the breed and to gain access to the AKC Spaniel Hunt Tests and AKC Spaniel Field Trials held throughout the nation. The BSCBAA was the first Boykin Spaniel organization to form and maintain a "Code of Ethics". In 2007 the Boykin Spaniel Club And Breeders Association of America was recognized by the AKC as the parent club for the breed. In 1997 the breed entered the American Kennel Club's Foundation Stock Service recording program. In January 2006 the breed became eligible to compete in AKC Spaniel Hunt tests for official AKC titles. In July 2006 the Boykin Spaniel was eligible to earn AKC titles in AKC agility, tracking, rally obedience, and regular obedience. On January 1, 2008 the Boykin Spaniel became part of the American Kennel Club's Miscellaneous Group. In the April 2009 board meeting, the AKC voted to move the Boykin Spaniel into the Sporting Group. In December 2009 the Boykin Spaniel officially became an AKC registered breed. The American Kennel Club studbook for the Boykin Spaniel is currently open. It is proposed to remain open until January 2015. During this time period all UKC and BSS registered dogs may be dual or triple registered to include the AKC registration. Even after the studbook is closed, the AKC parent club can request that it be reopened to allow more dogs to be registered at any time to expand the gene pool. At the same time, the Boykin Spaniel Society continued to pursue its vision of the breed. In a position statement, the Boykin Spaniel Society board of directors states that use of other registries by their members may foster breeding standards that "are inconsistent with the principles and objectives of the BSS", although members are not prohibited from triple or dual-registering their dogs. The Boykin Spaniel Society has a Code of Ethics for breeders, and sponsors field trial events and breed rescue. In addition to the BSS, the UKC, and the AKC registries, the attractive and good natured Boykin Spaniel is also recognized by a number of minor kennel clubs and other clubs and dog registry businesses, and promoted as a rare breed pet. Unfortunately, many well-known breeders have promoted the practice of having multiple litters each year. Over the decades this practice has snowballed into a quickly growing population of this breed and likely the cause of the reported health issues. The number of recorded litters in the BSS and UKC show that the Boykin Spaniel is quickly becoming one of the most common spaniel breeds in America.
Boykin Spaniels have a 37% chance of being born with hip dysplasia, according to 2006 statistics. Puppies can be checked by a local veterinarian for this problem at the age of 2 years old by an Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) x-ray or as young as 4 months old by a PennHIP exam. All breeding stock should receive either a passing PennHIP evaluation or an OFA certification prior to being bred. The breed also has a high incidence of eye problems and patella luxation. Debilitating seizures have also been reported within the breed. Skin and coat problems do exist and may be linked to thyroid or endocrine disorders. Cushings disease and hypothyroidism are known in the breed. Isolated incidences in individuals and litters for heart and elbow problems have been diagnosed. In early 2010 Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) was positively identified in the breed by the University of MN in conjunction with the AKC health group and registered in the OFA database. On pressure from their membership, the BSS conducted a study which resulted in 56% of the study Boykins to have one or 2 copies of the gene that causes EIC. This is a shockingly high level; the highest of any breed currently being tested for the disease. DNA testing of this autosomal recessive disease can absolutely identify carriers (one copy of the gene) and affected (2 copies of the gene) individuals. The UMN has identified one-copy/carriers to also exhibit the possible life-threatening symptoms of the disease. Multiple bloodlines tracing back to many commonly used foundation dogs may be involved and further widespread testing is being performed by the college. The BSS and BSCBAA Code of Ethics for member breeders mandates that dogs to be bred should be tested for hips, hereditary eye disease, and heart/cardiac (specifically pulmunary stenosis), as well as for other diseases that may have a genetic component such as allergies, elbow dysplasia, and patella luxation. The join venture of the AKC and OFA is called the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) database. For a CHIC number the dogs must have an annual CERF test for eyes, an OFA test for patellar luxation, and a test for hip dysplasia. Owners must agree to publicly publish the results in the OFA or CERF databases. Optional tests are a heart test and an elbow dysplasia test. Obtaining a CHIC certification does not mean a dog has passed their evaluations; it is merely an indication that the owner checked for the health diseases in the Boykin Spaniel. Testing and conscientious breeding can reduce the incidence of these problems, and puppy buyers should request results of these tests. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals evaluated 157 breeds of dog between January 1974 through to December 2009. The Boykin Spaniel ranked thirteenth worst for hip dysplasia with 34.8% of dogs affected. Update: As of December 2011, the Boykin Spaniel ranked #14 with 2890 evaluations submitted to OFA and 33.7 percent evaluated by OFA as dysplastic. The BSCBAA is part of the AKC Canine Health Foundation. As a part of the program, the parent club is allocated money on a yearly basis to direct to grants of their choice. The AKC CHF hosts free online podcasts, has donated millions of dollars to research grants and veterinary scholarships, and offers nationwide representation for clinics and events to benefit all dog breeds. The BSCBAA participates in the Purina Pro Club. The Boykin Spaniel Foundation (BSF), a 501(c)(3) entity and wholly owned subsidiary of the Boykin Spaniel Society founded in 2008. They have promoted club participation in the Purina Pro Club for many years and have banked the AKC CHF matching funding to over $10,000.00 total DAF funds by 2009. The AKC CHF and Purina Pro Club developed this program to help all breeds of dogs and allow the breed clubs to self-govern their DAF. This step of the BSF working in conjunction with the AKC CHF and Purina Pro Club is a welcome to those who see health as a priority. Most of the BSF funds are raised by taxing BSS litter registrations and from reducing their support of the BSR (Boykin Spaniel Rescue) in 2009. The BSF sponsors eye and heart clinics at its National Upland Field Trial and National Field Trial in January and March of each year. Clinics are limited only twice a year and only available in South Carolina. The clinics are provided at no charge to BSS members, with a limit of one BSS registered Boykin Spaniel per family. The BSF also has a program that provides a one time reimbursement of $75 to its members (membership must be current & dog must be BSS registered) to defray the cost of radiographs and subsequent evaluation by the OFA to BSS registered dogs only. The BSS notifies the member when his or her dog reaches eligibility age (24 months) and encourages participation in the program with the long term goal of improving genetics within the breed. The hip program has been funded since 2006 but is subject to cancellation each year at the recommendation of the BSF.