The Boykin Spaniel is much more than a smaller version of the American Water Spaniel. Boykins star as almost mystical, mind-reading companions in “Sweetwater Creek” by Anne River Siddons (HarperCollins, 2000.) This is a distinct hunting dog breed of the American southeast. Many people have never heard of this breed, even in America, because breeders kept quality high and quantity low. But this is one breed that Americans may be seeing a lot more of in years to come.
The Boykin gets it unusual name from its most influential breeder, W. L. Boykin (1861 – 1932), who bred dogs in South Carolina. His daughter took up dog breeding after he passed away. By the late 1800s, Carolinians needed a dog that was not only good looking and obedient, but a great all-around hunter in watery terrain that could fit inside the slim boats duck hunters used.
But Boykin did not breed the first officially recognized Boykin. Nature trumped breeders by producing a stray stud dog christened Dumpy by Boykin’s friend, Alexander L. White. Boykin became so enamoured of Dumpy that he crossed many of his retriever mixes with him and produced dogs similar to the modern Boykin.
According to the Boykin Spaniel Society, breeds known to have gone into the cretin include the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and American Water Spaniel.
Boykin breeder wanted good hunting and companion dogs more than they wanted show dogs. This is one reason why the American Kennel Club did not officially recognize the breed until 2009, although they were allowed to show in classes restricted to breeds that had a good possibility of becoming AKC recognized in a few years.
Comparison to the American Water Spaniel
Boykins look very much like American Water Spaniels. They have the same dark gold-flecked brown coloring, long curl-covered ears and bright golden eyes. They also share high energy and an eagerness to please their people. Both American Water Spaniels and Boykins are allowed to have small white patches on their toes or chest. Both are official state dogs. The Boykin is the state dog of South Carolina and the American Water Spaniel is the state dog of Wisconsin.
American Water Spaniels average 25 – 45 pounds while Boykins only get to 20 to 40 pounds. Although the degree of curl in the coat differs with each dog, on the whole the Boykin has more wavy curls instead of tight curls. American Water Spaniels are also stockier.
Both breeds are similar in temperament, although Boykin fans insist that their breed is more easily transition from the high energy hunting field to the low energy household. But both breeds need plenty of exercise in order to be trainable.
“Sweetwater Creek.” Anne River Siddons. HarperCollins, 2000.
The Boykin Spaniel Society. “The Boykin Spaniel.” Mike Creel. http://www.boykinspaniel.org/boykin.html
Dog Breed Info. “Boykin Spaniel.” http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/boykinspaniel.htm
Boykin Rescue. “Boykin Spaniel FAQ.” http://www.boykinrescue.org/bsr/aboutBoykins/boykinFAQ.php