It's not recognised by the Kennel Club - but the sprocker spaniel is fast becoming a favourite

A friend was torn between gundog choices.  Should he go for an English springer, or an equally speedy but rather smaller cocker? In the end he compromised. He bought a sprocker spaniel, combining, he anticipated, the best of both breeds.

Sprockers becoming increasingly sought-after

In recent years, sprockers — intended crosses between English springers and cockers — have become increasingly popular and it’s easy to understand why. Trialling springers have evolved into very quick but often unattractive dogs that lack the substance that was once the hallmark of the breed. Cockers have improved out of all recognition compared with the dogs of 30 years ago, but many modern working cockers come from similar lines due to dominant sires, causing concerns about lack of genetic diversity.

Cockers and springers share the same ancestry, for both are descended from the land spaniel. It was once possible to breed both cockers and springers from the same litter, as the bigger animals were called springers, the smaller ones cockers. The dividing line was a height of 21in at the shoulder. Selective breeding, and mating similar dogs with each other, resulted in the two breeds we know today.

sprocker spaniels

Sprockers have the same variety of coat colours as cockers

The sprocker is not a mongrel or cross-breed

While purists may disapprove of the crossing of two breeds, it’s really no more than turning the clock back. Lynda Elliott, sprocker enthusiast and owner, believes people need to understand that the sprocker is not a mongrel, a cross-breed or a designer dog. It is 100% spaniel. She commented: “I believe the sprocker is taking us back to what the springers and cockers were like back in the 1970s and early 1980s. Strong hunting dogs with a biddable nature.”

Easy to train, loyal and eager

She continued: “I’m convinced that the sprocker is the ideal first spaniel for a novice. They tend not to be as highly strung as the springer nor as stubborn as the cocker, but they have retained that important drive that enables them to hunt all day and still have energy for duck at night. In my experience, they are easy to train, loyal and eager to work. They are also handsome dogs and come in the same variety of colours as the cocker.”

Another sprocker enthusiast who works on a commercial shoot advised: “I got my first sprocker because I was looking for an old-fashioned English springer spaniel, but found it almost impossible to find one without lots of red ink in the pedigree, which I didn’t want,” he explained. “So I gambled on a sprocker and haven’t been disappointed. I now have five and find them healthier and hardier compared with their pedigree counterparts.”

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Kennel Club ban

However the Kennel Club doesn’t recognise the sprocker as an official breed, so it’s barred from entering any tests or trials held under KC rules. This infuriates many owners, convinced that their dogs could hold their own against springers or cockers in competition.

sprocker spaniel

Awareness of sprockers is rising

Lynda says sprockers need recognition: “Awareness of sprockers is rising daily and the desire for recognition is gathering momentum at a considerable rate,” she said. “We don’t want to see the sprocker recognised as a breed, we simply want it to be acknowledged as a spaniel so it falls under the umbrella of AV (any variety) spaniel so it can compete against other spaniels.”

Alas, this is about as likely as the KC allowing Labradoodles to have a class of their own at Crufts. Because sprockers are not an official breed, the KC receives no revenue from registrations, so there’s no incentive for what would be a major rule change. In addition owners of English springers or cockers might not be too happy about their dogs being beaten by non- pedigree spaniels.

There is now a Facebook page called Recognise the Sprocker Spaniel (RTSS) which has over 7,500 members at the writing. Sprocker Assist and Rescue (SAR) was created dedicated solely to sprockers. There is also a website, Sprocker Spaniel. 

Sprockers now almost certainly outnumber all our minority breeds of spaniels combined. The sprocker has attracted an enthusiastic following — and, whether the Kennel Club likes it or not, it’s a spaniel that’s here to stay.