American vs English Cocker Spaniel: A Detailed Comparison

July 17, 2022

While both are Cocker Spaniels there are quite a few differences between the American and English Cocker Spaniel.

These two types of Cocker Spaniel are often mixed up by potential pet parents and dog enthusiasts alike, or even just labelled as a 'Cocker Spaniel' rather than English or American.

Confusing the two of these dogs is a forgivable mistake. However, once you know what to look out for it is very easy to identify the breed at a glance.

From the size of their nose to the reasons they were bred originally. There are many ways in which these two separate breeds differ.

In this article, we will unpack what their shared history looks like and what differences these two breeds have.

If you were unsure which of these dog breeds you wanted as a family pet then keep reading and I'm sure you will have a favourite.

Are American and English Cocker Spaniels Good Pets?

Yes, no matter if you have an English Cocker Spaniel or an American one you are certain to have an outstanding family dog.

Both breeds bring a kind and gentle nature. They are also very amenable and always keen to please their owner. As a long-time Cocker Spaniel owner, I may be a little biased but Cocker Spaniels have a deep love and affection for their family.

No matter if you want to cuddle, play, or go for a walk your Cocker just wants to be next to you regardless of the situation.

What more could you want from a pet?


Their history is the first place these Cocker Spaniel breeds begin to diverge.

Until 1936 they were actually considered to be the same breed. Then the AKC recognised the English Cocker Spaniel as its own breed a decade later making the English variation a separate type of Cocker Spaniel completely.

The American Cocker Spaniel didn't achieve this status until much later in 1970.

Let's take a look at how each of these breeds has been used since then. There are some key distinctions worth noting.

English Cocker Spaniel History

The English Cocker Spaniel was actually used commonly as a hunting dog. This is actually where the name Cocker Spaniel is derived from as they were particularly effective at hunting a bird called a Woodcock.

With the increasing popularity of this breed and more people having them as domestic pets, the time came again for another strain of English Cocker Spaniels to be recognised.

This was the working Cocker Spaniel. A type of Cocker which was more suited to their original purpose. These dogs were more energetic and are still known as excellent hunting dogs to this day. Working Cockers are always from the English side.

These days it is more common to see English Cocker Spaniels as companion dogs.

American Cocker Spaniel History

The Ameican Cocker was not so predominantly used for hunting and was more seen as a companion dog. This breed was actually very successful in this role too managing to rack up 18 years as the most popular dog breed in America during the 40s, 50s, and 80s.

Over the years the American Cocker has also been seen owned by many high-profile people. Including a few American Presidents such as Nixon and Truman.

It is fair to say that the American Cocker Spaniel has earned its reputation as a brilliant companion dog with such a rich history.

Physical Differences

There are quite a few physical differences between the English and American Cocker Spaniel. Knowing what to look out for makes it really easy to identify the dog's breed.

Both have long ears which are characteristic of the breed and have long wavy coats, although the colours they are available in do differ.

Size and Weight

Size is another area where these Cocker Spaniels are different. The English Cocker Spaniel is a larger dog than its American cousins.

English Cocker Spaniel weighs 12-16kg while the American Cocker's weight range is only 7-14kg. Naturally, with the weight differences, they are a bit dissimilar in height too. The American Cocker Spaniel is around 2-4cm shorter on average.

Grooming Styles

The American Cocker Spaniel has been bred to feature more luxurious coats and fancier styles. While the English version of the Cocker Spaniel has many grooming styles many owners gravitate towards a traditional cut or the puppy cut for their practical appeal.

An American Cocker can often be seen by its thicker, longer hair and fancier coats.

Head Shape

An American Cocker Spaniel's head is a little smaller and its nose and have a shorter muzzle with a neck that will allow the dog to carry prey.

The English Cocker Spaniel has a flatter skull while the American Cocker can be identified by its rounder head.

Facial Features

The American Cocker Spaniel's eyes are a bit closer together than the English one. American Cockers also have rounder eyes while the English have more oval shaped.

You will also notice that their jawline is quite a bit shorter, and their ears are a bit smaller.


No matter if you have an English or American Cocker Spaniel one thing you can all but guarantee is that they will have a loving and affectionate nature. These traits are distinctive of all Cocker Spaniels and one of my favourite things about these dogs.

There are a few traits you will more commonly see in each of these breeds though.

American Cocker Spaniels Personality

With a history of being bred as a companion dog, the American Cocker builds deep bonds with his family.

This type of Cocker is more commonly seen looking for a cuddle. And is always keen to please their owner.

English Cocker Spaniels Personality

While the traits above that were attached to the American Cocker they also apply to their English cousins.

English Cockers are very affectionate, kind-natured and very social dogs. Where they differ is with a higher energy level and prey drive which makes the Englis Cocker the more energetic and active of the two.

Coat Colours

Both the American Cocker Spaniel and English are available in a wide range of coat colours.

There are a few colours which are unique to each of these breeds such as silver and buff for the American Cocker and orange and lemon coats for the English.

Overall the English Cocker Spaniel does have a wider range of coat colours.

Here is a full list of the colours each comes in:

American Cocker Spaniel Colours

  • Black
  • Black & white
  • Black and tan
  • Black, white & tan
  • Brown
  • Brown & white
  • Brown & tan
  • Brown roan
  • Buff & white
  • Red
  • Red & white
  • Silver

English Cocker Spaniel Colours

  • Golden
  • Black
  • Black & white
  • Black, white & tan
  • Black & tan
  • Blue roan
  • Blue roan & tan
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate roan
  • Chocolate roan & tan
  • Chocolate & tan
  • Orange & white
  • Orange roan
  • Lemon roan
  • Red
  • Red roan


Intelligence is another area where the American and English Cocker Spaniel perform differently. While the Cocker Spaniel is a smart dog there were some differences in how smart both the American and English variations are.

The best measurement I've seen for this is from canine psychologist Stanley Coren's dog intelligence rankings. In short, he measured dog intelligence by looking at how long it took for a dog to learn a new command and how many times this command had to be repeated before the dog would carry out the command.

On Coren's list, both types of Cocker Spaniel scored very well sitting in 18th and 20th on the list. The English Cocker Spaniel took the higher spot though making it the smarter dog.

While 18th and 20th might not sound that impressive it would be worth noting that it was measured out of 79 dog breeds making it quite an achievement for this sporting dog.


Given their high intelligence rankings as just discussed it will not come as a surprise that Cocker Spaniels are highly trainable. No matter if you have an English or American Cocker Spaniel basic house training will be a breeze.

Also if you want to teach your dog new tricks or specific behaviours you will have no trouble at all.

Especially if food is involved!

It is worth noting that the gentle nature that both American and English Cocker Spaniel have does mean they don't respond well to harsh treatment. The best way to train this dog is with positive reinforcement.

Grooming Needs

Both Cocker Spaniels have double coats and will require regular grooming to maintain their beautiful coat. This will be in the form of regular brushing to manage shedding and avoid tangles and matted hair along with visiting a professional dog groomer every two months for a proper haircut.

The American Cocker Spaniel does take a bit more work to keep its coat in good condition as it is a bit fuller and often seen a bit longer.

An English Cocker is more often seen with a shorter coat but there are some higher maintenance options there too, although these are quite uncommon. At least from my experience.


How popular each type of Cocker Spaniel depends on where you are. After some research into the topic, there does appear to be a difference in opinion as to which Cocker Spaniel people love the most.

Let's start in the UK. The Kennel Club has a pdf showing the number of Cocker Spaniels registered in the UK through 2021 and 2022. The data shows very clearly that the English Cocker Spaniel is far more popular in the UK.

I suppose this should not come as much of a surprise since the breed originated over here.

Here are the stats Cockers registered in the UK:

English Cocker Spaniel

  • 2021: 38,910
  • 2020: 25,565

American Cocker Spaniel

  • 2021: 251
  • 2020: 204

The story is a little different in the USA. Using data from the American Kennel Club on the most popular dog breeds in 2021 and 2020 we can see the Cocker Spaniels rank higher than English Cocker Spaniels.

There could be a few reasons for this. Firstly it may be possible that new owners are registering puppies as a 'Cocker Spaniel' without the English or American part of their name.

Or it may be the case that American Cocker Spaniels are just more prevalent in the United States. As in the USA, an American Cocker Spaniel is often just referred to as a Cocker Spaniel.

USA Cocker Popularity Stats:

English Cocker Spaniel

  • 2021: 43rd
  • 2020: 47th

American Cocker Spaniel

  • 2021: 29th
  • 2020: 30th

The AKC breed popularity list was measured out of all 195 dog breeds so these positions are not as bad as they may appear.

Exercise Needs

Both Cocker Spaniels need daily exercise to stay in good health. Their specific needs are a little different though. Exercise can come in more than one form here with physical and mental both being important considerations.

As English Cocker Spaniels as a bit larger and have a history of being used as hunting dogs their needs are a bit higher. Around an hour a day should be enough. Remember to vary it up a little though for mental stimulation.

Since they were bred to be companion dogs more than hunting game American Cocker Spaniels their needs for exercise are a bit lower. This type of Cocker is also a bit smaller. An American Cocker will need at least 45 minutes a day.

If you would like a more in-depth guide to how much exercise your Cocker Spaniel needs check out our article on it.


Cocker Spaniels are quite well known for their health problems.

But are there any specific conditions that impact An English Cocker more than an American Cocker? Not really.

While that is good news for a potential pup parent it is still worth talking about the health conditions in which both types of Cocker Spaniel are prone to be afflicted by.

One of the main areas that the Cocker Spaniel breed can be affected is with its eyes. Cockers are affected by many eye conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, and cherry eye. In many of these conditions, it has been found to be more predominant in Cockers than in many other dog breeds.

Another health problem prevalent in both American and English Cocker Spaniels is ear infections. Like eye problems, ear infections are very common in Cocker Spaniels.

This is a problem with the design of their ears as it creates a moist and humid environment ideal for bacteria growth.

Good breeding practices can screen quite a bit of this out. Particularly with the eyes problems. This is why we recommend taking your time to do your due diligence whenever getting a new puppy. No matter if it is an American Cocker or an English one.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that English Cockers do live longer on average with a range of 12 to 14 years life expectancy vs the American Cockers 10 to 14 years.


And there you have it.

A promised at the start if you have made it this far you now know everything you need to about the differences between English Cocker Spaniels and American Cocker Spaniels.

Both of these beautiful dogs made excellent additions to any family. They do have their own unique traits which may factor into your preference such as the higher activity levels of the English Cocker or the mellower American Cocker.

Personally, I do lean towards the English Cocker Spaniel... But I may be a little biased seeing as that is what I have.

Which one is your favourite Cocker?

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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