To the Jaundiced Eye

If people aren’t trained to really look at a dog, they generally take note only of the big things: Color, size, drop or prick ears,  muzzle (brachycephalic versus everything else), and maybe whether the tail is curled versus one that is straight.

If enough of these things appear to be the same between two breeds, it’s common for John Q Public to confuse the two, and a prime example is the American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel.

Owners and students of these two breeds know the differences, of course, but what the average person sees is that both breeds are brown, have drop ears, similar muzzles, and are about the same size.

Something like eye color may be a nuance too far, so to speak, for a novice to notice, but it is a significant difference to the extent that a certain eye color is a DQ in one breed, but not the other. That said, even fanciers may take pause when it comes to recognizing acceptable eye color in these two breeds.


Because in the Boykin Spaniel (seen at the top), eye color can range “from yellow and amber to varying shades of brown,” but in the American Water Spaniel, yellow eyes are disqualification.

Mind you, in the AWS (seen below), eye color can range from a light yellowish brown to brown, hazel or of dark tone to harmonize with the coat. The standard defines this further by indicating that yellow eyes like that of lemon are a disqualification, and shouldn’t be confused with a light yellowish brown.


Boykin Spaniel, American Water Spaniel, eyes, color


There is no substitute for looking at many different dogs of each breed to learn about the glorious range of colors found in them, and what a pleasurable way to gain knowledge. If the breed is rare or uncommon, however, it can be a struggle for, say, a show judge to gain practical knowledge, which is why Judges Education seminars are so valuable. It isn’t always convenient for someone to volunteer their dog for this kind of “show and tell,” but it’s an educational service to the breed’s future, and we encourage fanciers to take part when possible.

As for our post title, it’s a bit of a pun. Jaundice in a humans is a yellowish pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels, while to look upon something in a cynical way is to see it with a “jaundiced eye.”

Images: Boykin Spaniel and American Water Spaniel/Shutterstock stock photos;


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