Whilst the springer spaniel is a hugely popular dog type and they’re among the most popular dogs in the UK, not everyone knows that the springer spaniel comes in two different variants – the Welsh springer spaniel and the English springer spaniel respectively.
Even if you own spaniels yourself and are familiar with many of the different spaniel breeds, you have to be fairly well informed about springers specifically in order to know how to tell the two types apart if you see them out and about.
The vast majority of springer spaniels in the UK as a whole are English springers – they are the 15th most popular dog breed overall, compared to the much lower 128th place ranking of the Welsh springer. However, Welsh springer spaniels also have a strong following all of their own, and they are of course particularly popular in their home country of Wales.
If you are wondering about how closely related the Welsh and English springer spaniels are, how they differ, and what they have in common, wonder no more. In this article, we will explain the difference between the Welsh springer spaniel and the English springer spaniel in detail.
Current thinking is that all spaniel breeds can be traced back to Spain for their oldest origins, and this holds true for both Welsh and English springers.
However, aside from this common historical ancestry, the Welsh and English springer breeds were each developed completely separately from at least the start of the 20th century onwards in formal terms, and in reality, from quite some time before.
Up until 1902, Welsh springers were grouped in with English springers for Kennel Club registration and showing, but the popularity of the Welsh variant and its notable differences from their English cousins merited recognition of the Welsh breed in its own right.
In terms of the appearance of dogs of the two respective breeds, a quick glance shows them to have a lot in common – but they also have a number of notable differences too.
English springer spaniels stand up to 51cm tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 25kg, whilst Welsh springers are shorter and lighter in weight, reaching heights of up to 48cm and weighing up to 20kg.
Welsh springers have a proportionally longer body length than English springers, as well as being lighter in build and not quite as tall. The head of the Welsh springer is described as being finer than that of English springers, and English springers are rather leggier, being as they are the tallest of all of the native British land spaniel breeds.
In terms of the coats of the two respective breeds, English springers have a straight, soft coat with moderate feathering, whilst Welsh springers have a flat, dense and silky coat with moderate feathering on their legs but lighter feathering on their ears.
It is the coat colour that is perhaps the main difference between the two breeds, however – English springer spaniels can be found in a variety of shades, being black and white or liver and white, or either of these variants with some tan markings too.
Welsh springers, on the other hand, come in one colour only – red and white. The shade of the red areas of the coat is very distinctive from the English springer’s liver, being bright, rich, and much lighter.
The average longevity of the English springer is 10-15 years, while for the Welsh springer, it is 12-15 years. Both breeds have been identified to have certain risk factors for hereditary health conditions. Whilst one of these is unique to the Welsh springer (glaucoma goniodysgenesis), the other three known potential issues in the Welsh breed (being primary epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and ear problems respectively) can also be found within the English breed – as well as a few other issues too that aren’t found in the Welsh variant.
This is reflected in the slightly higher average lifespan of the Welsh springer compared to their English cousins, which is interesting when you consider that the number of Welsh springers within the wider gene pool is much lower than that of the English springer.
How to tell the English springer spaniel and Welsh springer spaniel apart
If you are looking for a cheat sheet or simple at-a-glance list of physical differences between the Welsh and English springer, here are the core takeaways:
- English springers are slightly taller and heavier built than Welsh springers.
- Welsh springers have a slightly longer body in relation to their height than English springers.
- Welsh springers can only be seen in bright red and white – English springers don’t come in this colour, instead being black and white or liver and white, potentially with some tan.
- Welsh springers have a finer head than English springers.
- Feathering on the ears of Welsh springers is usually lighter than on English springers.