Can you recognize English and American Cocker Spaniel apart? I am sure you can, but there are still many people who have no idea, that there are two separate breeds of the always happy and merry Cocker Spaniel.
Both Cocker Spaniel breeds have their origin and history in Spain, from where they got into Britain. In Britain, they were bred for hunting, most often to flush or startle birds out of their hiding places.
In the beginning of the 19 century, first Cocker Spaniels were imported to North America to retrieve quails and woodcocks. At first, the American Cocker Spaniel was divided from the English Cocker Spaniel solely on size basis and they were still considered as a same breed. But breeders on either side of the Atlantic Ocean had different priorities and created different breed standards, which caused bigger difference between the two breeds.
The Cocker Spaniel was officially split into two separate breeds in the first half of the 20th century, when the differences between American and English Cocker Spaniels were too big.
One of the main difference is the size of both breeds. The English Cocker Spaniels typically have height of between 38-43 cm, which is 15-17 inch and weight between 12-16 kg, which is 26-35 lbs.
The American Cocker Spaniel is slightly smaller. The average height is between 34-39 cm, or 13-15 inch and weight between 12-14 kg, which is 26-31 lbs.
But if you want to recognize these two breeds easily and quickly, you should look at their face. The American breed has shorter muzzle, deep stop, rounded skull and deep chiseling under the eyes. On the other hand, the English Cocker Spaniel has longer muzzle, which is equal in length to the skull. The skull is also considerably longer.
The snout length and head type is probably the easiest way how to differentiate these two breeds apart. I would also say, the the English Cocker Spaniel has softer and more loving expression in their dark eyes.
The last appearance difference is the coat. Both breeds have the same coat structure, but the American Cocker Spaniel was specifically bred to have more coat which is typically denser. The American Cocker Spaniel also tends to have much more feathering.
This is a reason why the English Cockers coat is slightly easier to maintain. You still have to brush them and trim them, so their coat does not tangle, but it is not as time consuming as with the huge amount of coat of American Cocker Spaniel.
And what about the difference in temperament and personality of Cocker Spaniels? Well, there really is not that much differences. Both breeds share the same merry, sweet, fun loving and affectionate temperament and they both make extraordinary companion pets. They might be little bit too independent for some owners, but if they are properly socialized they are typically very loving and gentle towards kids and they can live with other dogs in the household as well. Both are very people oriented, quite active and adaptable, so they can fit in almost any household situation.
And last, but not least, lets talk about the health. The health problems are similar for both breeds and it includes health issues such as cataracts, skin allergies, bite problems, immune system disorders, thyroid or ear infections. It is said, that the American Cocker Spaniel suffers a little bit more from the immune disorders (such as IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) and IMT (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia). The average lifespan of American Cocker Spaniel is also slightly shorter, as it is typically between 12-13 years, while the English Cocker has average lifespan between 13-14 years. But there are many many Cockers who are enjoying happy and active life even in their later teens.