What were Cocker Spaniels Bred For?

July 4, 2022

Although it will come as a surprise to learn Cocker Spaniels were originally bred as hunting dogs.

Anyone who has a Cocker Spaniel will struggle to look at their dog and think they could have been a hunter. How could these affectionate, loving dogs hurt anything?

In fact, these sporting dogs were quite effective hunting dogs and many of their traits work to enhance their abilities. From those cute long ears to their webbed feet, or their incredibly sensitive noses were all developed with this purpose in mind.

Their prey was small birds which they were very capable of capturing given their nimble bodies and quick reflexes. Which could easily get under hedges and through brambles to flush birds out into the open.

Why Were Cocker Spaniels Used as Hunting Dogs?

There are many reasons that Cocker Spaniels made excellent hunting dogs.

First they have excellent personalities and a joy to be around all day out. They are also very keen to please their owners, a trait which makes Cocker Spaniels brilliant working dogs.

No matter the task, a Cocker always gives 100% effort!

Along with their personal traits Cocker Spaniels also developed many physical features which improved their abilities.

These traits include webbed feet to help propel the dog through water to catch ducks or other birds which can swim.

Those long ears also serve a purpose. Once a Cocker Spaniel finds a scent and begins to follow it with their head to the ground the ears fall to the side of their head focusing the scent towards that very effective nose.

Their nose is also very sensitive. Anyone who has a Cocker Spaniel will tell you that the moment you begin preparing a meal your dog will appear in a instant.

What Did Cocker Spaniels Hunt?

Cocker Spaniels were originally bred to hunt birds. This is actually where their name comes from. Cockers were particularly adept at hunting a bird called the Eurasian woodcock.

Aside from tracking down woodcocks Cocker Spaniels would be used to hunt down all manner of small birds such as ducks, geese, or pheasants.

Are Cocker Spaniels Still Used as Hunting Dogs Today?

Yes, Cocker Spaniels are still used as hunting dogs today. While these sporting dogs are most commonly seen in homes as companions they are still very popular with those who hunt birds.

Were American Cocker Spaniels and English Both Hunting Dogs?

The English Cocker Spaniel was the main type of Cocker used for this purpose. An American Cocker Spaniel was more popular as a companion dog.

There are other spaniel breeds which have been used for this purpose such as Springer Spaniels. Also, many other dog breeds have also been used as working dogs.

Do All Cocker Spaniels Still Have a High Prey Drive?

Cocker Spaniels have a high prey drive. This is from their history as hunting dogs.

In a more domestic setting you may find your Cocker chasing down a toy or going getting into this a hunting dog mode as they search methodically for that toy or treat.


The main purpose of Cocker Spaniel was to hunt birds. They were this well known for it its even where their name comes from!

Cocker Spaniels excelled at this given their amenable nature, loving personalities, and wide range of physical traits that making them effective at flushing out and retrieving game.

English Cocker Spaniels were the most popular dog breed for this purpose but there are

Nowadays this dog breed is more commonly seen cuddling up on the sofa or looking up at you with those big eyes expecting a treat. Modern Cocker Spaniels are quite a bit different from their predecessors.

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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