Boykin Spaniel: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Boykin Spaniel smiling in the grass.

 BestSide / Getty Images

The Boykin Spaniel, once relegated solely to South Carolina (and in fact, the official dog of the state!), is growing in popularity nationwide as a breed that’s as loyal and lovable as it is intelligent and trainable. These affable dogs are easily identifiable by their luscious brown locks and honey-gold eyes, with webbed toes that make them excellent swimming partners. Originally bred in South Carolina to hunt and retrieve among the states many swamps and lakes, Boykin Spaniels have recently found themselves out of the swamp and in suburban backyards, edging ever closer to the ubiquity of their Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel peers. 

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting Group

Height: 15.5 to 18 inches (males); 14 to 16.5 inches (females)
Weight: 30 to 40 pounds (males); 25 to 35 pounds (females)
Coat and Color: Solid brown
Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Boykin Spaniel

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium-High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium-High
Energy Level Medium-High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium-High

History of the Boykin Spaniel

Deep in the heart of South Carolina are swamps, lakes, and other natural bodies of water where native birds run rampant. And for a long time, that’s pretty much the only place you’d find the Boykin Spaniel, too, a breed of dog that excels in sporting tasks like hunting, swimming, and water retrieving. In fact, the origins of the breed’s name can be traced to Boykin, South Carolina, a small town with a population of just 100 people.

As history tells it, in the year 1900 a man named Alexander White spotted a small brown dog outside a church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Not wanting to leave the dog alone, White, a dog lover, took him in and named him Dumpy. Soon, White realized that Dumpy was as eager a sporting dog as his retrievers, and could hold his own on hunting trips. Interested to see just how much Dumpy was capable of, White sent him to train with Whit Boykin, founder of Boykin, South Carolina, and an avid dog trainer. Boykin was so impressed with Dumpy that he started a cross-breeding program bringing together Dumpy’s DNA with a range of other Spaniels, including Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, and American Water Spaniels. And thus the Boykin Spaniel was born.

For decades, Boykin Spaniels remained relegated to Boykin itself, where they were celebrated for their boundless energy and enthusiasm, their sweet and friendly nature, and their affinity for hunting and retrieving. Some of the reason for that is that it took a long time to populate the brand new breed, but Boykins were also considered one of the town’s best kept secrets—one that they weren’t quite ready to share with the world.

As happens with most good things, news of the Boykin Spaniel, with their sweet natured personalities and admirable athletic prowess, spread far and wide. And while you can now find Boykins in all corners of the country—as well as on the American Kennel Club “All American” dog breed roster as of 2009—their South Carolina roots can’t be denied. In addition to being the official dog of the state, South Carolina also celebrates Boykin Spaniel Day every year on September 1. 

Boykin Spaniel Care

As you can imagine, a dog who’s been bred for sport isn’t going to be satisfied with just a short walk around the block. Boykin Spaniels are medium to high energy dogs who require plenty of exercise to keep them happy and healthy, which makes them excellent companions for dog parents who like to hike, swim, bike, and run. Many Boykins also enjoy mentally stimulating activities like nose work, agility, and obedience training.

Training Boykin Spaniels is relatively easy. The breed is smart, with plenty of capacity for picking up new tricks and skills. And because they love to both be with and please their caregivers, you’re unlikely to face a lot of resistance when training your Boykin. With treats and plenty of positive reinforcement you can train your Boykin Spaniel to be a wall-mannered dog in no time.

Grooming a Boykin Spaniel’s glossy coat is easy as well, since their fur is medium length and not prone to matting and tangles. Regular brushings and baths are encouraged, as is keeping on top of dental care. The fur on Boykins’ ears is long, so give ears a bit of extra attention with regular cleanings, and be sure to gently comb through and check for ticks after outdoor romps. 

Boykin Spaniel puppy running through field with tennis ball in mouth.
 BestSide / Getty Images
Boykin Spaniel sitting outside smiling up at camera.
Skeeze / Pixabay
Boykin Spaniel standing in stream all wet.
redsidephoto / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Distinct genetic illnesses may be found in any pure bred dog, and that includes the Boykin Spaniel. According to the Boykin Spaniel Club & Breeders Association of America, the health problems you should be most aware of when it comes to this breed include:

A responsible breeder will have the proper examinations and evaluations performed before breeding an individual dog to help mitigate the risks of these illnesses being passed on to puppies.

Diet and Nutrition

In terms of nutrition, Boykins, like most dogs, do their best on a high-quality, high-protein diet. To maintain their sleek and athletic frame, be careful not to overfeed. However, since Boykin Spaniels should be getting plenty of exercise, you can probably get away with being generous with treats. If you notice your Boykin gaining too much weight, talk to your veterinarian to come up with a balanced nutrition plan that fit their individual needs. 

Pros

  • Great with children

  • Excellent for athletic dog parents, and happy to tag along on bikes, hikes, and runs

  • Easy to train

Cons

  • Requires a lot of mental and physical stimulation, which isn’t ideal for certain caregivers

  • Limited and rare breed in the U.S.

  • Can gain weight fast if they’re not getting proper exercise

Where to Adopt or Buy a Boykin Spaniel

We always recommend looking at rescue first. Check out Boykin Spaniel Rescue, Inc. to find a Boykin Spaniel for adoption, and browse adoption sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet to see if you can find your perfect match among local rescue groups. If you are looking to buy a Boykin Spaniel, look to the Boykin Spaniel Society for advice on choosing the right Boykin breeder.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

There are so many good dogs out there! And if you love the Boykin Spaniel, you may be interested in these breeds as well:

With a little bit of research you should have no trouble picking out the right dog breed to add to your family.