Boykin Spaniel: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Boykin Spaniel smiling in the grass.

 BestSide / Getty Images

The Boykin Spaniel is a medium-sized sporting dog breed native to South Carolina with floppy ears, a sturdy body, and liver brown fur on its wavy, waterproof double coat. Once relegated solely to its home state (and in fact, the official dog of South Carolina), the Boykin Spaniel 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, and their webbed toes make them excellent swimming partners. Originally bred in South Carolina to hunt and retrieve waterfowl among the state's 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

Height: 16 to 18 inches (males); 14 to 16 inches (females)
Weight: 30 to 40 pounds (males); 25 to 35 pounds (females)
Coat: Waterproof double coat with wavy topcoat

Coat Color: Solid liver brown
Life Span: 14 to 16 years

Temperament: Intelligent, friendly, bright, active, loyal

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: South Carolina

Characteristics of the Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel has an energetic personality and lots of love to give. Because of its background in hunting, this breed is best suited for owners that can spend plenty of time with their dog and bring it along for outdoor activities. A loyal companion with an affectionate temperament, Boykin Spaniels are a great choice for active families with children. They typically do well with other dogs and pets like cats (especially when socialized from a young age). These highly trainable dogs are eager to learn, making excellent hunting partners and favorable pets for those who can provide the proper care.

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, native birds run rampant in swamps, lakes, and other natural bodies of water. For a long time, it was also the only place you’d find the Boykin Spaniel. This breed excels in sporting tasks like hunting, swimming, and water retrieving. The origins of its name can be traced to Boykin, South Carolina, a small town with a population of fewer than 200 people.

The Boykin Spaniel's history starts in the year 1900 outside of a church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, when a man named Alexander White spotted a small brown dog alone. White took him in and named him Dumpy, soon realizing that Dumpy was as eager a sporting dog as his retrievers.

Interested to see what Dumpy was capable of, White sent him to train with Whit Boykin, both the town's founder and an avid dog trainer. Boykin was so impressed that he started a cross-breeding program with Dumpy and a range of other Spaniels, including Cocker Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels, and American Water Spaniels. 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. It took a long time to populate the new breed, but these dogs were also considered one of the town’s best-kept secrets—one that they weren’t quite ready to share with the world.

News of the Boykin Spaniel eventually spread thanks to their sweet-natured personalities and athleticism. While Boykins are now popular across the country, their origin was commemorated by being named the South Carolina state dog in the 1980s. This breed was added to the AKC's "All-American" dog roster in 2009, and the state celebrates Boykin Spaniel day each year on September 1.

Boykin Spaniel Care

Boykin Spaniels are known for being easy to train, which is one of many reasons they've become popular family dogs. When it comes to exercise, however, this breed needs an owner with plenty of time to dedicate to its wellbeing. Boykin Spaniels also require standard grooming to maintain their soft, medium-length coats.


Most sporting breeds won't be satisfied with a short walk around the block each day. Boykin Spaniels are high-energy dogs that need one to two hours of daily exercise to stay 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 sports, and obedience training.


With medium-length fur that's not prone to matting or tangles, grooming your Boykin Spaniel is relatively simple. Regular brushings and baths are encouraged, as is keeping up with dental care. The fur on this breed's ears is long, so give the ears a bit of extra attention with regular cleanings. Remember to gently comb through your dog's fur and check for ticks after outdoor romps. 


Boykin Spaniels have a knack for learning. This breed is smart with a great capacity for picking up new tricks and skills. Because they love to 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 this dog to be a well-mannered companion from the age of eight weeks.

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

Genetic illnesses may be found in any purebred dog, and this includes the Boykin Spaniel. Responsible breeders will have medical evaluations performed before breeding their dogs to reduce the risk of passing diseases on to puppies. According to the Boykin Spaniel Club & Breeders Association of America, the health problems you should be most aware of include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: Dysplasia is a condition that affects your dog's joints, caused by a malformation as they age.
  • Luxating Patella: This condition causes your dog's knee to slip out of place, which can lead to other issues with cartilage, ligaments, and inflammation.
  • Exercise-Induced Collapse Syndrome: Somewhat common in sporting breeds, exercised-induced collapse is a condition that makes your dog lose full control of its muscles and become weak, eventually collapsing, after short periods of exercise.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly: Named for the Collie breed, this disease affects many types of dogs. It impairs the development of the eyes and can lead to blindness.

Diet and Nutrition

Like most dogs, Boykins do their best on a high-quality, high-protein diet. To maintain its ideal sleek and athletic frame, be careful not to overfeed your dog. However, since Boykin Spaniels should be getting plenty of exercise, owners that keep up with their dog's activity needs can usually feed them a few extra treats.

These dogs should eat two meals per day. If you notice your Boykin gaining too much weight, talk to your veterinarian to come up with a balanced nutrition plan that fits your dog's individual needs. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Boykin Spaniel

The high energy level of Boykin Spaniels also means that not all owners are prepared to raise these dogs when they first adopt them, so like many others, this breed can end up in shelters. Seek breed-specific rescues and visit your local shelter to adopt a Boykin Spaniel in need of a forever home.

If you're planning to adopt a puppy, ensure the breeder you choose willingly provides the medical history of the litter's parents. Boykin Spaniel puppies typically cost between $700 and $1,500 from breeders, though prices may be higher depending on pedigree and availability.

To find your next companion, check out these resources for Boykin Spaniel rescues and AKC breeders:

Boykin Spaniel Overview

  • Great with children

  • Perfect companion for active families and hunters

  • Easy to train

  • Requires excessive mental and physical stimulation

  • Needs regular brushing to maintain coat

  • Can become destructive when bored

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in adopting a Boykin Spaniel, you may love these similar breeds:

There are plenty of different dog breeds that can become your new best friend. With a little research, you can find the perfect fit to join your family!

  • Are Boykin Spaniels Good House Dogs?

    Thanks to their easily trainable nature, Boykin Spaniels can become great family dogs that learn the rules of the house quickly. However, this breed also has a high energy drive—if it's not exercised properly every day, it can become destructive when bored.

  • Do Boykin Spaniels Shed a Lot?

    Boykin Spaniels have medium-to-high-shedding coats, and they require regular brushing to keep stray fur under control. Thankfully, their soft fur does not become tangled easily, and their grooming needs are otherwise simple.

  • Can Boykin Spaniels Be Left Alone?

    This breed becomes attached to its family easily (which is a major benefit for many owners), but this also means that they aren't the best dog to leave alone consistently. They're prone to develop separation anxiety when they feel lonely, which can lead to bad habits like barking or chewing household items.