The Boykin Spaniel and The American Water Spaniel: Differences

You are not alone if you have trouble identifying certain breeds that seem similar to each other until their differences are pointed out.  Recently, we offered tips on how to tell an English Cocker Spaniel from an American Cocker Spaniel, and now we’ll attempt to the same with the fabulous American Water Spaniel, and the fantastic Boykin Spaniel.  Be sure to study the photograph, the AWS is at the left, the Boykin Spaniel at the right.

Both are gun dogs with All American origins. Both are State Dogs, the American Water Spaniel the state dog for Wisconsin, the Boykin the State Dog for South Carolina. Both are friendly, happy dogs, and both are great with kids.

The American Water Spaniel is solid liver, brown or dark chocolate, while the Boykin Spaniel is solid colored in rich liver, brown or dark chocolate. Not a lot of help to a novice. In fact, if you were to utilize the AKC’s Compare Breeds option, you’d be hard pressed to find any differences.

But there are differences and the most visible one is the coat. The American Water Spaniel always has either marcel (uniform waves) to a curly, thick coat that sustains the dog in the cold Wisconsin winters and frigid water. Because we are big fans of mnemonic devices (techniques that help a person remember something, and yes, sometimes they’re silly), we’ll share ours. If you can remember that many American Girl Dolls have wavy or curly hair, you’ll remember that the American Water Spaniel has wavy or curly hair.

The Boykin Spaniel, on the other hand, has a coat that can range from flat and slightly wavy to curly hair, and sometimes it can look fluffy because of the feathering on the belly, chest, ears, feet, and legs.

Another quick way to differentiate between the two breeds is to simply look at their tails. Boykin Tail is docked at an early age to a length of 3 to 5 inches when fully mature, while the American Water Spaniel has a rocker-shaped tail that’s tapered, arched and a bit feathered.

There are those who say that American Water Spaniels tend to have pronounced brows that give them an expressive look bordering on opinionated. Boykin Spaniels may not have the eyebrows, but they have piercing eyes.

As we own neither breed, we welcome the input of owners of either, and especially, we’d like to get feedback on the differences in the breeds’ hunting styles.

9 thoughts on “The Boykin Spaniel and The American Water Spaniel: Differences”

  1. AWS can have a marcel coat all the way to curly. They also will eat any and everything.

    • Lyndsay, thank for for “fleshing out” the article with an important insight. We’re happy to have these comments to better educate our readers!

  2. Great article. I judge both breeds and the differences in each are paramount and important know.

    • Many thanks for leaving your comment, Barbara, particularly given that you judge both breeds. It’s tough from our end to write such a piece since it feels like we’re giving short shrift to both breeds by not delving into the other important difference between them. That said, we also want to offer a “cliff note” version for novices and even experienced folks outside the Sporting group to be able to make a quick identification, and that means cutting to the proverbial chase. Thank you again!

  3. THank you so much for the important differences between these two breeds! I teach 4-H and one of our jobs are to help the members learn how to tell breeds apart. I have struggled with these two for a while, but you made it so easy!! I will be passing along this knowledge to some very grateful kids!

    • Mikki, thank YOU so much for a kind note. We sometimes wonder if anyone out there is listening, so notes like yours encourage us to keep on keeping on. We’re grateful!

    • You’re right, Ashley, and we’ve amended the post.

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