Boykin Spaniel

You may have heard of ‘the dog that doesn’t rock the boat’ – this is one of the many affectionate terms that the Boykin Spaniel has gained, along with ‘Swap Poodle’ and ‘Little Brown Dog’.

Bred in South Carolina to hunt wild turkeys and retrieve fouls from the water, this rugged canine was built for capability and compactness – with boat travel in mind for hunting.

South Carolinians pride themselves on this homegrown dog, and even have a national day dedicated to them, celebrating annually on September 1!

Brief History

It’s believed that the Boykin dates back to 1900s Spartanburg, South Carolina – although details remain sketchy. History tells us that a stray spaniel befriended a banker walking home from church, who took pity on the pup and took him home. Forming a close bond, he renamed the dog ‘Dumpy’. He soon realized that this was a sprightly breed with a sharp retrieval instinct, capable of flushing out prey and retrieving it with precision.

With this realization, his beloved Dumpy was sent to friend and fellow hunter – Lemuel Whitaker Boykin, who lived in Camden, South Carolina. Used as foundation stock, Lemuel bred the dog with other breeds, until a successful match was found; today this is known as the Boykin Spaniel in his honor.

With a vast outdoor space enjoyed by the local hunting community, the Boykin Spaniel was the perfect dog for South Carolinians, who admire its agility and hunting capability.

The state became home to the Boykin Spaniel Society in 1977, and remains active to this day, with branches opening all over the world. This breed was also accepted into the prestigious American Kennel Club in 2009.

Physical Features

This beautiful dog is known for its long coat and buoyant personality. Medium in size, it shares many features inherent to the Spaniel family including; long feathery drooping ears and a sturdy yet compact build.

Built for the water, this dog unusually, also has web-toes for swimming. Its rich ample coat, sometimes with a slight wave, can be seen in; chocolate, brown and liver and can withstand many terrains, including water. It is known for its friendly wagging tail!

Average Height:

15.5-16.5 inches

Average Weight:

24-40 pounds

Life Expectancy:

10-15 years


Above all, the Boykin Spaniel is a friendly and affectionate dog, that is great with families of all sizes. Their sensibility, sociability and die-hard loyalty makes them wonderful family pets, especially around younger members. That said, their natural hunting instinct means that they should not be placed in homes with small family pets such as cats, birds and hamsters.

Boykin Spaniel

This is also a highly energetic dog that thrives on companionship. Being intelligent too, it demands plenty of mental and social stimulation, as well as exercise. This will help maintain its positive energy; since those that are left home alone for long periods are prone to anti-social behavior. Speaking of home environments, this is not a dog well suited to apartment living.

Puppy classes are advised along with socialization, to help bring out its best traits. Being eager to please makes them easy to train and they are very adaptable to different environments.

Special Needs

Best suited to owners that can dedicate lots of time and outdoor exercise, the Boykin’s overriding need is for an active lifestyle. As such, owners should be able to dedicate enough time to take it for walks several times a day.

Possible Health Concerns

Although a generally healthy breed, it is advisable to seek a responsible breeder to ensure a full family history.  This will help screen certain conditions that Boykin’s are prone to, including; hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts and a muscle weakness known as ‘exercise-induced collapse’.

As an outdoor dog, particularly known for jumping in rivers and lakes, do check its ears regularly for signs of infection. They are also susceptible to skin infections, so regularly checking their body is important.


Frequent and daily exercise is a must for this sprightly breed. However, their love of physical activity bodes well for sports and competition, including; obedience, agility and field events of all kinds.

Despite their boundless energy, they are equally as happy at home with their owner.


A high-quality diet is advised for this breed, which can be commercial or home produced. This can include meats such as lamb or chicken, they are also partial to cottage cheese and yoghurt!

However, Boykin’s are susceptible to weight gain, and should be limited to 1.5 to 2.5 cups of food daily. Treats are good for training, but should be managed.


The Boykin is a relatively easy to care for dog, with low needs.

Its wavy medium-length coat is easy to maintain with weekly brushing to remove dirt and dead hair. However, since this is a dog that loves to dip in and out of waters, it may need bathing more regularly than once a month, to keep it smelling fresh.

As discussed, their ears should be given special attention. Check them at least once a week for signs of infection and clean them at the same time with a soft gauze and special ear-cleaning solution, as recommended by your veterinarian.

Trim their nails regularly, at least every other week, or whenever you can hear their clipping on the floor.

Daily teeth brushing is also recommend.

Not just a favorite in South Carolina, the Boykin Spaniel has a growing fan base, with their stunning looks, loyal personality and unwavering companionship.

Friendly by nature and easy to train, it still benefits from exposure to social situations from a young age as well as puppy training.

Ideal for those with an active lifestyle and plenty of outdoor space, this is a dog with boundless energy that loves nothing more than running, swimming and chasing, as part of its natural hunting intuition.

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