Rheged Springer Spaniels

RHEGED | A 'Tail' of two Springers

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Tally & Muriel the Welshie with Bubbles the English Springer Spaniel

Some well respected Springer Spaniel experts were asked, what they thought were the main differences in looks & character between the Welsh & the English Springer Spaniel.  

Please scroll down this page to read their answers. It is well worth the read.   


We often get asked, "what is is the difference between the English Springer Spaniel & the Welsh Springer Spaniel"? Well ~ where to start? Apart from looking slightly different ~ ie: colour, size, head shape, movement & so on, they are completely different in some aspects of their temperaments. In our experience BOTH are extremely 'birdy', but the WSS tends to be just that little bit more so. Mind you, our ESS are from 'show/bench' bred lines so it stands to reason that they are not as bird orientated as the 'field' bred ESS. The WSS, & there seems to be just one type (something Welshie breeders are very proud of & strive to maintain), are mega 'birdy' & that is it! Not 'a little bit' or 'quite keen' ~ just flat out hunting crazy! In essence, it could be said that when we are showing the WSS, we are out there exhibiting a 'field bred' dog in the ring! Something not all judges appreciate or understand (boy, have we heard some weird comments from judges re the Welshies)!

Breed Comparisons ~ excellent chart explaining the differences
The ESS does tend to have a more laid back attitude to life & we have found that our WSS are more alert & 'on the ball' so to speak. They can be more highly strung & they seem to hear a car pulling up, something going bang in the distance, strangers voices, thunder, fireworks & so on a lot sooner & more often or earlier than our ESS. Mind you, that isn't to say the ESS haven't heard whatever 'it ' was ~ just that they seem to be less reactionary. The result? The WSS seems to spend a lot more time running to the gates & doors, being on guard & usually bark & send up false alarms far more often than the ESS (who will usually just open an eye & feign interest)! Generally, we have found the Welsh to be far more excitable than the ESS ~ although both breeds can go silly with excitement given half a chance! Both breeds, as far as we can tell, suffer from the same degree of 'separation anxiety' should they be left alone for a long time, & both breeds, like so many other breeds of dog, will become bored & destructive if left alone for long periods ~ & even more so should they not receive adequate exercise & mental stimulation.
A general love to please their owner/handler is something common to both breeds. The WSS is inclined to be more 'reserved' when meeting strangers, but once they know you you will have a friend for life ~ provided that they like & approve of you. The ESS are much more tolerant of new faces & places, which is probably why they are so valuable as service dogs ~ the WSS would hang back & would be no good at alerting the Police that someone is carrying drugs through a railway station for example! Not that the WSS couldn't smell contraband, they would just be more wary of the stranger carrying it & I would imagine that the Police just have not got the time required for the dog to get comfortable & make friends! 

When it comes to training, both types respond better to gentler methods, Gundogs, in general, are famous for bursting into tears if you are too harsh with them. Both breeds are ultra-sensitive & are bred to work WITH YOU, as opposed to many working/herding breeds & types of dogs that were bred to work FOR YOU. There is a huge difference between these work ethics if you stop & think about it.

Muriel the Welshie & Bubbles the English Springer are the best of mates

The WSS do seem to be more willing to learn & work for us it has to be said, but they can be easily distracted, or can spook ~ but ~ once they've got it ~ they NEVER seem to forget. The WSS seems to thrive on taking in new information. Having said that the ESS learn very quickly too ~ but seem to become bored easily & much quicker ~ although they do LOVE agility type sports! Working away from the handler is something all Spaniels do well ~ they are designed to work at the range of a shotgun & ahead of the hunter 'flushing'. Spaniels were never bred to work right at your side or in a heel position ~ but of course, they can be taught to do so with patience on the trainers part.

In regard to grooming, the WSS is by far the easier of the two breeds to deal with. Both breeds need constant attention in this department but the ESS is a full-time job! Welshies just need their regular baths, combing & brushing, but the ESS needs constant almost daily care if their beautiful coat is to remain their crowning glory! More details in regard to grooming can be found on our 'Grooming' page.

RHEGED | Springer Spaniel grooming page 

Both breeds require the same level of attention in regard to general doggy health matters ~ but this would apply to ALL dogs ~ & we can not stress enough that proper animal husbandry is very important!

RHEGED | General Springer care page

We have found that some WSS can be inclined to go on 'hunger strike' whilst young ~ & we have heard reports of this continuing into old age! This can be a real pain & there is nothing you can do about it except literally hand feed them (although we are sure they wouldn't starve themselves to death)! Other people, including the notable Springer experts below, have also noticed this 'trait' & have commented on it in national publications ~ to read about this issue & their other remarks please scroll down & continue reading ~ it is well worth the read.

Cheers ~ Nikki & Peter. 

(from some of the world's top Springer Spaniel breeders)

These opinions first appeared in "Dog World - Springer Special" ~ Sept 10th & Oct 8th, 2004  
(Reproduced from "Dog World", UK).

Among the many questions put to the breeders were:    
  • Q1 ~ What main differences are there in both character and looks (except colour) between the English Springer Spaniel and Welsh Springer Spaniel?
  • Q2 ~ Could more be done to keep your breed dual purpose? How come the Welsh Springer Spaniel seems to be more successful in that respect? 

  • A1 ~ "What a question!! At the risk of putting the cat amongst the pigeons, I will limit my comparison to the WSS & Show bred ESS, as I honestly feel there are less differences between these two than there are between a show bred & a working bred ESS ~ in both character and looks (excepting colour)!! 
    The first difference one notices in the overall appearance, the ESS being slightly higher on the leg, giving a racier outline. The head is also quite different, with fluting between the eyes in an ESS, the muzzle in an ESS being slightly broader than its Welsh cousin, & although the WSS breed standards call for the muzzle to be "fairly square", the ESS is deeper in flew. 
    The eye colour should be essentially the same in both breeds, although it is interesting to see that there is far less prevalence of light eyes in WSS, tending to be lighter more so in the presence of the flesh coloured nose. 
    The ears are different, the ESS having a more lobular ear, compared to the "vine leaf" shaped ears called for in the WSS. To enhance this appearance, the feathering on the WSS is far less evident than in the ESS. 
    The topline in both standards is essentially the same, the word "strong" in the ESS is the only difference if we take the breed standard to the letter, both calling for the loin to be slightly arched & well coupled. It is generally accepted however, that the "arch" in a WSS is more noticeable. 
    The movement of the two breeds should be somewhat different, however. The ESS standard calls for the forelegs to "swing straight forward from the shoulder, throwing the feet well forward" , & although the construction of the forequarters for both breeds is the same, the WSS does not have this front movement, & seems to have more "flexion" in front when moving.
    Essentially, the temperament of both breeds should be very similar ~ but there are in actuality, some differences. I would say that generally speaking (& I am fully aware that there will be many exceptions to this), the ESS is more laid back, & isn't as sensitive as the WSS. I have known many WSS that are more hyperactive than I am used to with the ESS, on the other hand, I have known many that are not! 
    I honestly feel that we become 'in-tune' with what we keep ourselves, & as such it is very difficult to comment on this. Even those exhibitors who have kept both breeds have started in the one breed prior to introducing the other, & they too would find it difficult to pinpoint the exact differences. They have become accustomed to what they had first ~ & the newcomer (whichever breed it is) is always going to be "different" to what they are used to. 
    There does seem to be a tendency for many WSS to go through a strange teenage phase of "hunger strikes" for no apparent reason ~ whereas if an ESS refuses its food it is usually a cause for concern as they are very often like walking dustbins"!!
  • A2 ~ "The simple answer is "no". As a breed, the ESS is split into two quite distinct types ~ the working type & show type. It never ceases to amaze me why the "workers" seem to have been bred smaller & smaller ~ yet the working Cocker's seem to have been bred larger ~ or at least taller & longer, some of them resembling under nourished Fields! 

    I think that today's lifestyle does not lend itself to a great number of people being able to work & show their dogs. It is not so much a question of the dogs' ability, but more so of the constraints on the owner of time, facilities & finances. Is the WSS more successful in this respect? This is a matter of opinion, as statistics from the 'Show Spaniels Field Day' will show almost twice as many show bred ESS have gained their qualifier as WSS.

    The number of WSS registered per year is only a tiny percentage of ESS. Having said that, until someone sits down to ascertain how many of those ESS were show bred ~ which I suspect is more in the region of the WSS figures, then we cannot accurately obtain success rates as a percentage of registrations".


  • A1 ~ "I can only comment on the dogs I have owned in both breeds & I speak only of the show bred English Springer. The English seem to be more laid back & quieter than the Welsh. When you walk with English they stay closer to you whereas the Welsh want to go off hunting regardless of where you are. I also feel that the Welsh are more aloof & do things only on their terms. The main difference in looks is the head & ears. The Welsh is shorter in flew & ear with a less defined stop. In body the make & shape are similar although the English is larger".
  • A2 ~ "The time has gone when all English Springers could be classed as dual purpose. Only a small number of exhibitors train & work their show dogs & no dogs bred from working stock are shown. The divide between the show & working Springer is vast. 
    Many show bred English could be trained to work as most retain some degree of natural ability but unfortunately the working English Springers could not be shown, as they simply do not fit the Standard laid down by the Kennel Club, many being hardly recognisable as the breed they are registered as. This makes the mixing of the working and show very difficult. I know only one kennel which has done this with any success. 

    Welsh Springers don't have this massive divide which makes it easier for them to mix brains & beauty".


  • A1 ~ "I really love both breeds, & have owned both over a long time. As regards character I would say that a Welsh tends to be slightly more highly strung & sensitive as well as being highly intelligent. The English will tend to do everything to please its master even when it may suffer itself. In looks, the English is the largest land Spaniel; the head type differs from the Welsh which is more refined & has slightly different planes with smaller ears. The overall balance differs too with the Welsh being lower to the ground & slightly longer in body".  
  • A2 ~ "Over the years both my late husband & I have worked our Springers, indeed several have gained their full champion status. First & foremost I think it is the keenness of the people who own the breed which determines the fact that seemingly more Welsh are dual purpose these days than English Springers.

    Without a doubt, the type of the working English Springer is quite different to that of the show Springer, while there is less of a difference between working & showing Welsh. In the Welsh Springer breed there is a small band of people who are keen to promote the dual purpose nature of the breed which is a good thing."


  • A1 ~ "The English & Welsh Springers are not as closely related as one may be led to believe considering the breed names. The English Springer's evolution is more closely linked to that of the Cocker & Field Spaniel than to the Welsh. Both breeds should have genuine, typical temperament being merry, active, biddable & cager to please. 
    We believe the Welsh Springer is slightly more "independent" than the English meaning they have a stronger will. Some also say that the Welsh can be more sensitive & perhaps also more active. However we think the difference in character varies more between individuals within the breed, than between the two breeds themselves. 
    The Welsh is a shade smaller than the English & a little lighter in build: still they should have enough bone to give an impression of strength. The English Springer is more up on his legs, being the tallest of the land spaniels. 
    The head shape differs between all spaniel breeds, head & expression represents an important part of breed type. The typical Welsh head is more tapered, cleaner, ears set higher with less feathering & they should have a different shape".
  • A2 ~ "We don't think so. The breed clubs does terrific amount of work to encourage breeders & exhibitors to work their dogs, & while the English Springer has split into separate lines, such as "working" & "show" English Springers, this is not the case with Welsh, he is truly an all purpose Springer. 

    Ninety per cent of all English Springers are bred from working lines counting for large numbers registered every year. Working ESS & Cocker's totally dominate the Spaniel field trials: competing successfully with the show type has virtually become impossible".

  • A1 ~ "This is difficult as the English Springer is very divided, ie a working type & show type but, as Ian Hampton kept telling me, "they are all ESS"! To keep it simple, let's keep to the show type & breed Standards which have many similarities.

    First, the English is the highest on the leg & raciest build of all British land Spaniels. Stands to reason that the Welsh is smaller all round but still retaining a compact & balanced picture. Both have faultless temperaments. Headwise, the WSS seems to have a more refined look with small vine shaped ears in comparison to the lobular ear of the ESS. 

    Another distinction is the slight arching of the loin in the Welsh compared to the straight topline in the English. 
    The most striking difference is in movement where the English Springer's gait is 'strictly his own' ~ an easy, swinging effortless action with the back feet following exactly the line of the front ones. No matter the difference, they are still two wonderful breeds".
  • A2 ~ "Dual-purpose? You have more chance of winning the Lottery than seeing a dual purpose champion again! I presume this is meant to be, keeping the working abilities of the breed ongoing.

    I would dispute that the Welsh seems to be more successful in this respect. Both breeds have their enthusiasts who run training classes etc. The 'Show Spaniels Field Day' is proving very popular with many show champion gaining their full title. I must stress that in field trial competition non can compare to the Field Trial English Springer. Today, the dogs whose energies cannot be channelled into working in the field are making their mark as sniffer dogs etc".


  • A1 ~ "I have owned many good English Springers but only ever one (1) Welsh, a dog. Today a lovely balanced animal, he has a much more dominant character, not nasty or pushy, wants to be the centre of attention & loves a cuddle. The English is not as 'mad' as the Welsh who are much more active.

    I think as workers the Welsh are more easily trained than the show English, I believe that the breeders have done more to keep the Welsh as a working/show animal than the English who have separated the breed into show & working types".

  • A2 ~ "As already mentioned, the English Springer is divided into two camps, show & working, with a few dedicated stalwarts trying hard to get good dual purpose dogs, but if the field trial breeders stopped breeding the tiny English that would make a difference. Pictures show that in the old days the English was one single breed.

    The Welsh breeders seem to have wanted & tried to keep their breed as one. The popularity of the English over the Welsh in days gone by may be something to do with types changes, & the pet market wanting smaller dogs".


  • A1 ~ Colin: "A part from size being a couple of inches smaller, the Welsh is more streamlined in build & has an athlete look about him. Another difference is in the head: the ears on a Welsh are definitely more suited for work, being smaller with little feathering. The skull shows brain room. 

    In character the Welsh seems calm & sensible, but never having lived with them, I do not know what they are like as companions".

  • A1 Carolyn: "Heads are a different shape, especially the depth of muzzle, stop and skull shape. Welsh have much smaller vine-shaped ears without the feathering. The English is slightly taller and racier in build and in character perhaps more exuberant".
  • A2 ~ Colin: "Yes, get rid of the show champion title, bring in bench qualification before a FT champion can use the title!

    But seriously, I think it is already too late to close the gap. Those on the working side are uninterested in having dogs to fit the Standard physically, & most show people do not have the facilities to work their dogs. A 'Hunting Bill' will probably make this question superfluous anyway before long". 

  • A2 ~ Carolyn: "The superior working ability of the Welsh as a whole is because the gene pool has never been split. If people buy a Welsh, they buy a Welsh with brains & looks. 

    An English is usually bought for brain or looks. There are only a few English owners even interested in both show & work, & no working people appear to know a breed Standard even exists. To keep English dual purpose sometimes means foregoing "show fashion".


  • A1 ~ "Not having any really close association with the Welsh Springer I feel the character would be best described by the owners. However, I do think that the English appear to be more laid back in their outlook on life & seem to take things more in their stride. 

    My first impressions of a Welsh is that it is a smaller dog although there is actually not so much difference (or shouldn't be) in height. They are a finer breed all through, but still have the substance, are quite different in topline with the rise over the loin, also the head & vine shaped ears are completely different from the English".

  • A2 ~ "As secretary of the Midland ESS Club for the past 13 years, I have been involved with the 'Show Spaniels Field Day' & looking at the statistics can't see how the Welsh can be looked on as a more dual purpose breed. 

    Of course we have the field trial English who will never be dual purpose, but of the show ones, in the 38 years since the Field Day started 104 English Springers have gained the show gundog working certificate as opposed to 59 Welsh so I believe the English can still be dual purpose".

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Nicola & Peter Jones
Berry Springs, NT, Australia
Email : [email protected]