The packable, cocoa-colored puppy from the American South is a waterfowl’s dream and an uplander’s best friend all rolled into one. Get to know the Boykin Spaniel.
The Boykin Spaniel is one of the All-American breeds and is a lesser-known, versatile hunting dog. But it cannot be overlooked for people looking for a spirited and fun companion. The boykin can cover lakes and rivers for waterfowl in the morning, then go hunting in the highlands in the afternoon, and roll up the chimney at home in the evening.
The boykin spaniel was developed in South Carolina in the early 20th century and has an interesting history of origins. A small brown stray dog accompanied a guy to church and it turned out to be a bird dog with no light for quail, wild turkey, and waterfowl.
A hunting trainer named Whit Boykin picked up the dog and created a basic hunting line through crossbreeding Chesapeake Bay Retriever, English cocker spaniels and Irish water spaniels.
This mix created a tough, fun, happy little creature they called the Boykin Spaniel. Let’s examine the details.
Meet the Boykin Spaniel
The Boykin Spaniel is a medium-sized breed that stands between 14 and 20 inches at the shoulder. Their weight varies between 25 and 40 pounds, with the males tending to be on the larger side.
Their fur is always chocolate brown and ranges from a lighter liver to a very dark brown. However, the coat can vary in texture from full and curly to a sleek, shorter coat with feathered ears and legs.
One of the most noticeable features of Boykins are the often lighter eyes that contrast sharply with their brown coats. Their looks can rival that of a functioning cocker spaniel, but they tend to be larger, maneuverable, and more robust thanks to their bodies.
When it comes to temperament, Boykins are typical bird dogs in energy and enthusiasm for life. They are also very trainable, intelligent, and fun to work with.
Like many spaniels, Boykins tend to be more sensitive and they may require a more skilled hand than some of the denser retrievers. On the flip side, you can’t ask for a more dedicated student when an owner is willing to invest time in a dog’s development.
Hunt the Boykin Spaniel
Photo credit: Cade Landers, Shutterstock
If your aim is to hunt any bird, don’t count the boykin spaniel out. It is truly a versatile hunter from the field to the water.
As a hound, they are a flusher, but are prone to what hunters might call a “hesitant flush,” which can almost resemble a dot on a finely tuned dog. The hesitant flush allows the shooter to position himself in front of the flush for the shot.
The boykin will not cover a field for great distances like a pointer. Instead, it “quarters” its way naturally through a field and looks for scents or birds.
Billing up to flush breeds is genetically determined up to a certain point. You will see young puppies naturally quarter around the world from left to right, searching for scents. It is up to us to refine this innate behavior.
In addition to her roosting and flushing skills on land, the Boykin is an exceptional swimmer. Belt paws and a powerful, compact design combine with an excellent retrieval instinct that can easily be improved through training.
Boykins may be smaller than the average retriever, but they are tough and tenacious. With the right training, they can bring back any bird, from pigeons to larger geese.
When choosing a Boykin breeder, it is imperative to request DNA tests that confirm health. A smaller breeding pool has created some genetic health problems that need to be investigated. These include hip and elbow dysplasia, knee subluxation, eye problems, and exercise-related collapse.
Fortunately that Boykin Spaniel Society has done a lot of work to genetically protect the breed. And it’s important to be aware of these issues before buying, as there are great breeders out there with healthy puppies.
Final thoughts, from a Boykin Spaniel owner
My puppy Bob on a fishing trip; Photo credit: Nicole Qualtieri
Adding a boykin spaniel to my family of living things was one of the best decisions I have made. Personally, a Boykin’s size, temperament, and hunting skills go well with my lifestyle.
I’m not hunting my boykin yet. He is approximately 4 months old at the time of writing. But he already shows the instinct to quarter a field, swim, absorb and regain bird scents.
What’s even more exciting is that he’s incredibly fun and easy to train, albeit sometimes wantonly. He’s got a fun way of moving around the world and prefers to be on my lap when he’s not out and about.
Is a Boykin Spaniel for Everyone? I do not believe that. The intensity of the breed lends itself to hunting rather than couch potato life. But if you’re looking for a goofy, active buddy to accompany you on all kinds of hunting adventures, this is certainly a breed to consider.
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