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All Dog Breeds >>History of American Water Spaniel

The American Water Spaniel originated around the mid-19th century but its true origin is a mystery. Most experts have come to accept that it was likely developed in the Fox River and Wolf River valleys of Wisconsin, and most AWS owners and breeders are still located in the Great Lakes region. There is no documentation as to the specific breeds that were used to develop the AWS. Doc Pfeifer of New London, Wisconsin, the man credited with obtaining recognition for the breed in the 1920s, believed that the AWS was developed by crossing the (now extinct) English Water Spaniel and the Field Spaniel. Others have disputed this claim and it is currently accepted that the breeds involved in the development of the American Water Spaniel include the Curly Coated Retriever, Irish Water Spaniel, English Water Spaniel, Flat Coated Retriever, Field Spaniel, Tweed Water Spaniel, and possibly the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The American Water Spaniel was likely one of the primary contributing breeds to the Boykin Spaniel. The American Water Spaniel was developed as a hunting dog in the market hunting days of America's history. Hunters needed a dog that could function on land as well as in the marsh, that could easily fit into a canoe or skiff without taking up much room, and could work out of a boat. The AWS fit the bill, and most breed historians note that Midwest market hunters made wide use of this dog. The AWS was not formally recognized as a purebred dog until the United Kennel Club did so in 1920, followed by the Field Dog Stud Book in 1938, and finally by the American Kennel Club in 1940. It was made the state dog of Wisconsin in 1985. Having reached its peak of popularity probably sometime in the 1920s and 1930s, the AWS has become the "Forgotten American" at many times in its history. Still, with the tenacity of spirit that exemplifies this little brown dog, the breed's enthusiasts have managed to maintain a reasonable population that is not likely to disappear from the scene any time soon.