Brittany Spaniels

Bird Dog is Actually a Setter

Known as simply the “Brittany” in the United States, the Brittany spaniel has a developed a strong following throughout its history—both in the U.S. and in France, where the breed originated.

A popular hunting companion, the Brittany is also a top choice as a family dog, known for its gentle personality and affectionate disposition.

Brittany spaniel

The Brittany spaniel’s origins are in France. “Brittany” derives from a region in France where images of the dog were spotted on 17th century tapestries and paintings.

The painted images of the earliest-known Brittany spaniels depicted the dogs hunting and retrieving game in the field. The first written acknowledgment of the breed appears in the writings of a Reverend Davies in 1850, who described the dogs as “small and bobtailed” who were excellent pointers and retrievers in the field.

By the time the Brittany spaniel appeared in 1900 at the Paris Dog Show, the breed had been a popular favorite in Europe for hundreds of years.

In 1934, the Brittany spaniel was accepted into the American Kennel Club. By 1982, the AKC began to recognize the breed simply as “Brittany,” without the “spaniel” after the American Brittany Club convinced the organization that the breed wasn’t actually a spaniel but more of a setter or a pointer.

A sweet-natured dog, the Brittany spaniel is both an excellent family pet and hunting companion.

Easy to train, this breed is eager to please and can be sensitive to harsh criticism and handling. Known to be a terrific dog around children, the Brittany spaniel is energetic with a need for regular exercise and playtime.

Brittany spaniel

Brittany spaniels are medium sized, compact, athletic dogs with a solid build, weighing between 35 and 50 pounds, depending on the dog’s gender.

The breed can be born with either a naturally short tail, or a long one—which is typically docked to a length of one to four inches if the dog is destined to hunt in the field or train for show competitions.

The dog’s coat can be one of a variety of colors, most commonly orange and white, although other colors include orange “roan” (a base color of orange with white hair mixed in) or dark brown roan (otherwise known as liver). In 1956, black coats were accepted in France, although this coat color is considered unacceptable in American show competitions.

A Brittany spaniel’s size can also depend on which “type” of Brittany spaniel you have: “American” or “French.” There is speculation that the French Brittany spaniel has an English setter bloodline and is slightly smaller, weighing between 36 and 43 pounds.

While these medical conditions are generally uncommon they are known to occur in the breed. Your Brittany spaniel will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

Brittany spaniel
  • Canine epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. The symptoms vary in severity but the dog usually foams at the mouth and appears to be chewing on something. Then he will have violent muscle contractions, lose bladder or bowel control and faint.
  • Canine discoid lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease of the basal cell layer of skin (the deepest layer of epidermis). Sun exposure seems to play a role in the worsening of symptoms, although certain breeds, like the Brittany spaniel, can be predisposed. Symptoms include scaling and loss of pigment on the dog’s nose. The nose surface becomes smooth gray and ulcerated, which can lead to tissue destruction. This condition can also affect the skin around the eyes, ears and genitals. Treatment may include topical therapy.
  • Hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joints most commonly associated with large breed dogs. These malformations cause discomfort, lameness and result in arthritis. X-rays of the elbows and hips when dogs are around two years of age can identify these problems. Your veterinarian should be consulted about treatment options for these crippling conditions.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.