The smallest member of the sporting group, the cocker should be compact and sturdy. Its gait is ground-covering, strong and effortless. The coat is silky, flat or slightly wavy, not overly long. Excessive coat can hinder the dog in the field. The head and expression are hallmarks of the breed; the expression is soft and appealing. Though seldom used for its original purpose, the cocker should still be able to spend a day in the field and should be balanced and athletic. It is true, however, that most cockers now have too much coat for field work.
This breed is known as the "merry" cocker, and the name is most fitting. It is playful, cheerful, amiable, sweet, sensitive, willing to please and responsive to its family's wishes. It is not known for retaining its hunting instincts, but it is inquisitive and will appreciate a country outing. It is equally at home in the city and will happily walk on leash for its exercise needs. Some bark a lot; some are overly submissive.
The American version of the cocker spaniel is derived from the English cocker spaniel. In the late 1800s, many English cockers were brought to America, but American hunters preferred a slightly smaller dog to hunt quail and other small game birds. Just how this smaller cocker was developed is not entirely clear; some credit the dog Obo 2nd, born around 1880, as the first true American cocker. But other evidence points to crosses of the English cocker with even smaller toy spaniels (that nonetheless arose from the same ancestral stock). Initially the English and American cocker spaniels were considered varieties of the same breed, but they were officially separated by the AKC in 1935. Although cockers were already popular, after the separation the American cocker surged in popularity and has remained one of the most popular breeds of all time in America. In fact, it was the most popular breed for many years. So popular was it that it was eventually divided into three color varieties: black, particolor and ASCOB, which stands for "any solid color other than black." Only recently has its popularity spread to England, where it was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1968, and it has gained admirers steadily since.
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