The Boykin Spaniel was bred from a need to hunt wild birds in the swamps of South Carolina. Its medium size, energetic nature, and swimming ability were perfectly suited to hunters who wanted a dog they could easily lift into the boat with the retrieved bird. Now, the Boykin’s friendly and lovable disposition makes it an ideal addition to any family. Requiring brushing and other occasional maintenance, the Boykin is both intelligent and eager, making it easy to train. Be sure to keep your Boykin active, however, as it needs exercise and mental stimulation to keep it from developing destructive habits.
The tale of the Boykin Spaniel begins in the early 1900s in the United States. Hunters in South Carolina had been looking for a dog who could retrieve upland and water fowl. One day, Alexander White of Spartanburg spotted a small brown dog, a stray that had been wandering around the church. The dog was short and had a rather thick build, which earned him the name Dumpy. Mr. White gave the dog to his friend, L. Whitaker Boykin who lived in Camden. It wasn’t long before another dog of similar appearance was found, and mated to Dumpy. Originally thought to be a crossbreed from such breeds as the American Water Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and Pointer, the little brown dog was bred on Boykin’s Pine Grove plantation over many years. Whit Boykin wanted a special breed of hunting dog that could hunt wild turkeys and ducks throughout the Wateree River swamp. The ideal dog would be small enough to lift into a boat with the retrieved bird, have a joyful temperament, maneuver through water and swamps, and be a loyal family dog. “Mr. Boykin’s Spaniels” were popular in South Carolina before World War II, and gained even more popularity outside the state after the war. Increased demand for the breed lowered breeding standards, and the physical condition of the breed suffered. In 1977, relatives of Boykin conferred with Dr. Peter McKoy, a local veterinarian, and founded The Boykin Spaniel Society to ensure the breeding standards were upheld. As a dog that was bred by South Carolinians for South Carolinians, it seems natural that in 1985, the Boykin Spaniel was declared the state dog of South Carolina. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2009.
A Boykin Spaniel is a medium sized compact dog built to run across rough terrain and swim in any type of condition. He is sturdy, but not too heavy, with sloping shoulders, a well-developed chest, and a strong and straight back that is level, save for a slight arch above the loins. The spaniel-type head is proportionately balanced to his body, and is flat on top, slightly rounded on the sides, and fairly broad. The teeth are straight, meeting in a scissors or even bite. Eyes are set well apart and sparkle in shades of yellow to amber to brown, with darker shades of yellow often preferred. Large ears that can reach the tip of the nose are covered in long, wavy hair, the same waterproof coat that covers the Boykin’s entire body. While the breed hallmark is a solid brown coat, it can also be the reddish-brown liver color, or a chocolate brown with a small, white spot located on the chest. Hairs can be flat or curly, and often feather on the ears, chest, legs, feet, and belly. The Boykin’s paws are uniquely suited for swimming with webbed toes. Often, the tails of Boykins are docked.
To prevent the long hair from matting, brushing is a necessity for the wavy coat of the Boykin. Routine brushing should be done once to twice weekly, especially in the spring months when shedding occurs. With an occasional bath, your Spaniel will stay clean and not smell. However, if you notice a smell coming from your Boykin’s ears, it indicates an ear infection. Cleaning your Spaniel’s ears weekly with a good ear cleaner can help cut down on the chances of an infection, especially when performed after any swimming, water activities, or bathing. Be sure to keep the nails trimmed to prevent any cracking or splitting, and brush your Spaniel’s teeth twice a week. Boykin’s are an active breed that need lots of daily exercise, otherwise it can exhibit destructive behaviors. Although it has been bred as an outdoor dog, the Boykin can live quite happily in an apartment, so long as you provide adequate exercise to prevent boredom. Due to the possibility of skin allergies in your Boykin, be sure to feed a high quality food for medium-sized dogs. On average, Boykin’s can eat about two cups of food daily.