Russia’s First Cocker Spaniel

Nikolai Nikolaevich was an avid hunter known for his packs of superb hunting Borzoi. It was said the the dogs would chase down a wolf after which Nikolaevich himself would kill the animal with his bare hands. Others said it was a pity that his courage didn’t translate well into the ability to command an army. Ouch! This grandson of Nicholas I of Russia was commander in chief of the Russian armies on the main front in the first year of WWI,  and later, commander-in-chief in the Caucasus.

Still, we have Nikolaevich to thank for the presence of spaniels in Russia. In fact, the history of spaniels in Russia began when an English Cocker Spaniel named “Dash” was brought to Russia expressly for Nikolaevich. Dash was shown at the first Dog Show of the Neva Hunt club in 1885, and in St. Petersburg at the first Show of the “Lovers of Purebred Dogs Organization” in 1888. It was through these shows that the Spaniel was introduced to Russians which lead to enough interest to cause other spaniels breeds to be imported. In the early 20th century, selective breeding began with the intention of producing Spaniels with longer legs, possibly to deal with snow depths, and by 1930, Moscow, Sverdlovsk, and Leningrad were teaming with a diversity of spaniels. There’s little doubt that these dogs lay the groundwork for the Russian Spaniel to come.

Cocker Spaniel and Woodcock by Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819-1905)

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