The Breed

Boykin Spaniel History

Boy01The Boykin Spaniel breed was developed in the early 1900’s in the warm climate of the South Carolina low country. Hunting guides of the era needed a smaller flushing and retrieving dog to fit in the shallow-bottomed section boats used to maneuver through the region’s swamp hammocks.   It was also discovered that this brilliant little flushing spaniel could also serve as a top notch upland game dog that included in its repertoire of skills, the ability to work and retrieve wild turkey.

Lemuel Whitaker “Whit” Boykin, Sr. of the Boykin Mill community located near Camden, South Carolina is considered the forefather of the breed. A challenge between two avid hunters lead to the breed’s development.  With his colleague and hunting partner, Alexander Lawrence “Alec” White, Boykin nurtured the development of the breed into a gifted upland dog and waterfowl retriever.

The tourist trade of the era brought northerners to South Carolina to enjoy the mild winters. While the husbands enjoyed outdoor adventures with these sporting spaniels, wives and children became smitten with the devoted, loving nature of these little brown dogs and the popularity of the breed began to evolve.  However, it was not until 1977 that the breed’s first registry, The Boykin Spaniel Society (BSS), was established.  The breed later began to be registered with the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Foundation Stock Service in 1997.  In 2006, the Boykin Spaniel became eligible to participate in the AKC’s flushing spaniel hunt tests, and was granted full status as a sporting group breed in December of 2009.  The Boykin Spaniel is the AKC’s ninth flushing spaniel and its 163rd breed.



The breed continues to be referred to as “the little brown dog that doesn’t rock the boat” due to its size and ability to move readily in and out of small crafts while retrieving water fowl. The Boykin’s high drive, boundless energy, and willingness to please have solidified its reputation as a competitive flushing spaniel and overall sporting dog.  The breed’s affectionate demeanor has earned it a place in the family home as a trusted family companion. In 1985, the breed was declared the official state dog of it’s home state of South Carolina, establishing it forever in the state’s history.

Boykin Spaniel Breed Standard

cropstacked1General Appearance
The Boykin Spaniel was developed in the United States as an all-around hunting dog, with a neat compact body. The Boykin Spaniel is medium in size, with emphasis placed on his hunting abilities, characterized by flushing and retrieving, with moderate speed and agility. With his pendulous ears, intelligent expression, sturdy build and friendly wagging tail proclaim him part of the spaniel family.

Size, Proportion, Substance
The Boykin Spaniel is built to cover all types of ground conditions with agility and reasonable speed. He should appear as a dog for the endurance of a full day hunt with good but not too heavy bone. He should be kept to a medium size. He should be well-balanced and sound, showing the ability for the breed's intended function. He is solidly built, with moderate bone, and smooth firm muscles. A well balanced dog, somewhat longer than tall. When measured from the point of shoulder to the buttocks it is slightly longer than from the withers to the ground. The ideal height for dogs is 15 ½ - 18 inches at the withers; bitches 14 - 16 ½ inches at the withers. Faults: A dog that is either too long in body or too long in leg is not in keeping with the standard. Dogs that are large or heavy as well as those that are slight shall be equally penalized.

The head must be in proportion with the size of the dog. The Boykin's Expression is alert, self-confident, attractive and intelligent. His Eyes are varying shades of brown, set well apart, medium size and oval shaped, trusting, and should not be protruding or bulging. The Bokyin Spaniels' Ears are set slightly above or even with the line of the eye. The leather of the ear is thin and when pulled forward should almost reach the tip of the nose. The ears hang close to the cheeks and are flat. The Skull is medium length fairly broad, flat on top, slightly rounded at the sides and back. The occiput bone is inconspicuous. The stop is moderate. When viewed from the side the nasal bone and the top of the skull form two parallel lines. The Muzzle is approximately the same length as the skull, viewed from the top the width of the muzzle is approximately 1/2 the width of the skull. The distance from the tip of the nose to the occiput is about the same length as occiput to the base of the neck. The jaws are of sufficient length to allow the dog to carry game easily with no inclination of snipiness. His Nose is to be fully pigmented, dark liver in color with well opened nostrils. The Lips are close fitting and clean, without excess skin or flews. The Bite should be scissors or level but scissors is preferred. Overshot or undershot bites are serious faults and should be penalized.

Neck, Topline, Body
The Neck is moderately long, muscular, slightly arched at the crest and gradually blends into sloping shoulders. The Back is straight, strong and essentially level. Loins are short, strong with a slight tuck up. His Body is sturdily constructed but not too compact. The shoulders of the Boykin Spaniel are sloping. The Brisket is well developed but not barreled, extending to the elbow and not too broad or narrow as to interfere with movement. The croup slopes gently to the set of the tail, and the tail-set follows the natural line of the croup. Tail is docked to a length of 3-5 inches when fully mature. The tails carriage should be carried horizontally or slightly elevated and displays a characteristic lively, merry action, particularly when the dog is on game.

A clamped tail (indicating timidity or undependable temperament) is to be faulted as a tail carried at a right angle to the backline.

The Boykin Spaniels' shoulders are sloping, clean and muscular. His legs medium in length, straight and well boned but not too short as to handicap for field work or so heavy as too appear clumsy. The pasterns strong with no suggestions of weakness. The toes closely grouped, webbed and well padded. The feet are round, compact, well-arched, of medium size with thick pads. Dewclaws should be removed.

The Boykin Spaniel has well developed hips and thighs with the whole rear assembly showing strength and drive. The hock joint slightly rounded, should not be small or sharp in contour, moderately angulated. Legs from hock joint to foot pad moderate in length, strong and straight with good bone structure. His hocks are parallel.

The Boykin Spaniel has both an undercoat and an outer coat. The coat can range from flat to slightly wavy, with medium length, on the outer coat. The undercoat is short, and dense. The ears, chest, legs and belly are equipped with light fringe or feathering. His coat may be trimmed to have a well groomed appearance and to enhance the dog's natural lines. It is legitimate to trim about the head, throat, ears and feet to give a smart, functional appearance. A rough, curly or harsh coat or no undercoat is to be penalized.

The Boykin Spaniel color is solid - rich liver, brown or dark chocolate. A small amount of white on chest or toes is permitted. No other white markings are allowed.

The Boykin Spaniel moves effortlessly with good reach from well laid back shoulders at an angle that permits a long stride that is in balance with the rear quarters for strong driving power. Viewed from the rear the hocks should drive well under the body following on a line with the forelegs neither too widely or too closely spaced. As speed increases it is natural for the legs to fall to a center line of travel. Seen from the side it should exhibit a good, long forward stride.

The typical Boykin is friendly, a willing worker, intelligent and easy to train. The Boykin Spaniel thrives on human companionship and gets along well with other dogs and children. He shows great eagerness and energy for the hunt yet controllable in the field. Any sign of excessive aggression towards other dogs is not acceptable and should be penalized. Excessive shyness is to be equally penalized.

Approved February 9, 2007
Effective January 1, 2008

© The American Kennel Club, Inc.