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The English cocker -- also known as the English cocker spaniel -- was bred as a hunting dog. Those with bench lines are show dogs, whereas those with field lines are working dogs.
English cockers are among the oldest spaniel breeds in the world. They were first bred as a general spaniel type -- used for flushing and retrieving game during gun hunting -- but eventually split off into seven different spaniel breeds. These were the cocker, the English springer, the Clumber, the Sussex, the Welsh springer, the field and the Irish water. In 1892 the cocker spaniel was recognized as an individual breed by the English Kennel Club, and in 1946 the American and English cocker spaniels were classed as separate breeds by the American Kennel Club.
Since bench English cocker spaniels are bred for the show ring, breeders pay more attention to their conformation and appearance than field varieties. According to AKC breed standards, bench English cockers should stand between 15 and 17 inches and weigh between 26 to 34 pounds, with females slightly smaller than males. They should be compact and solidly built, without looking too coarse or chunky. A smooth and muscular topline is desirable, with an appearance of strength, but not heaviness.
Since field English cocker spaniels are working dogs, they have substantially shorter coats than bench varieties. Bench English cockers should have short hair on their heads, but medium-length over the rest of their bodies. The texture should be silky, and it can either lie flat or be slightly wavy. Their coats can either be solid or parti-colored. Those with parti-color coats should be marked, ticked or roaned, in a combination of white with black, liver or shades of red. Solid colored dogs can be black liver or red. Black and tan or liver and tan are also acceptable colors.
Bench English cockers tend to be slightly more relaxed and less energetic than their working counterparts and should be neither sluggish nor hyperactive, according to the AKC. However, they've still got a lot of stamina and need long daily walks to keep them fit and entertained. They're generally happy and affectionate dogs, who can make great family pets, as long as they receive adequate training through positive reinforcement. They're faithful to their owners but need plenty of early socialization so they're not wary of strangers.