Breed Profile: The Boykin Spaniel

I am a big fan of traveling for many reasons, not the least of which is that it provides me an opportunity to meet dogs from all over the world. While New Yorkers may be a bit jaded about the fact that we have just about every breed and mix walking our streets, it always catches my attention when I pass a New Guinea Singing Dog in Greenwich Village or a Norwegian Lundehund on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The Singer hails from Papua New Guinea and is listed as a Canis Lupus Dingo as opposed to my dogs who are in the Canis Lupus Familiaris group. They are extremely flexible and can rotate their paws which allows them the ability to climb trees. They also have a distinctive howl and make a bird like trilling sound, hence the reference to singing in their name. The Norwegian Lundehund may not be able to sing, but it definitely wins the blue ribbon for flexibility. It can bend it’s head back so that it touches it’s spine, and it’s ears can be sealed nearly shut by folding them forwards or backwards. The list of their unique attributes also includes normally having at least six toes on each foot. My dogs have a measly four. All those extra toes and that impressive flexibility allow the Norwegian Lundehund to climb narrow cliff paths in an effort to retrieve Puffin eggs.

While not as rare as the Singer or the Lundehund, I met a Boykin Spaniel last weekend while I was in Miami. This is a breed many people may not be familiar with. That is, unless you are from South Carolina, where it is the state dog. There is even a Boykin Spaniel Day in South Carolina (September 1st). With that said, I have decided that my dog Nora needs to be the dog of somewhere, so she is now the unofficial dog of Redhook, Brooklyn. Oh, and from this day forward, May 31st is Nora Day!

Boykins were developed as water retrievers, with the specific intent of being small enough to ride with their people in small boats through the swamps. Hence their nickname ‘the dog that doesn’t rock the boat.’ They are 15-18 inches tall and weigh between 25-40 pounds. They have a coat that ranges from flat to slightly wavy and it is a solid rich liver, chocolate or brown. They tend to be hardy, active dogs, and are usually big fans of swimming.

The breed can be traced to two dogs, Dumpy and Singo. Dumpy was found wandering in Spartanburg, South Carolina and Singo was found at a railroad station. These two dogs where the beginning of a breed that now has some very passionate fans, especially amongst people from South Carolina.