The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

Norfolk Spaniel

Information and Pictures

Side view drawing of a brown and white spaniel dog with a long tail and long ears that hang down to the sides standing.

The extinct Norfolk Spaniel dog breed

Other Names
  • Shropshire Spaniel

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The Norfolk Spaniel had many appearances since it was always crossed with other breeds. Today, we can say that the Norfolk Spaniel looks identical to today’s modern Springer Spaniel with a white coat and liver spots. Originally, the Norfolk Spaniel could have also had spots of red, black, or brown. This breed also had similarities to the English Setter, saying that the Norfolk Spaniel was bigger boned than other spaniels and may have been a more stocky dog. They were around 17–18 inches tall and were weighed an average of around 40 pounds. Their coats were a medium length and their fur feathered at the ears, chest, and stomach.


This dog was very loyal and affectionate to their family. They would often have separation anxiety when left alone and were known to be difficult to train. Some say they were known for barking a lot, being disobedient, and sometimes had outbursts of aggression.

Height, Weight

Height: 17–18 inches (43-46 cm)

Weight: 35-55 pounds (16-25 cm)

Health Problems

Although there are no records for health issues on this extinct breed, they probably would be prone to hip dysplasia, a disease called PRA which affects their eyes, a blood disorder, and/or epilepsy.

Living Conditions

Norfolk Spaniels would have done well in any living size as long as they get enough exercise. They were known to adapt well to both city living and rural areas.


These dogs were relatively easy to exercise as they only needed a regular walk and a space to run and explore every once in a while. They were mainly used for bird hunting so they loved to adventure in new places.

Life Expectancy

This dog is extinct and there are no records of its life expectancy although they probably lived around 11–14 years.

Litter Size

This dog is extinct and there are no records of its litter size although they probably had anywhere around 4–10 puppies.


Their coats would have needed to be brushed frequently with a bristle brush. Longer coats may have needed to be trimmed in order to avoid mats in the fur. They would have needed baths when necessary.


The Norfolk Spaniel was used as a gun dog and a bird dog, able to chase birds out of their burrows. This breed is known to be the most similar to the original Spaniel breeds in the British Isles and possible Europe’s oldest gun dogs. These dogs were a small to medium size and had a longer coat around their ears and stomach. Since the Norfolk Spaniel has been around longer than records have been kept on these dogs, not too much is known about them.

Because the name spaniel translates to “Spaniard” and “Spanish”, many assume that they originated from Spain. This theory is false because spaniels were popular long before Spain was ever a kingdom. Spaniels were around in France and England in 1066, when the land that is now called Spain was divided into multiple countries. The more believable translation of the word Spaniel is that is translates to “Hispania” which was a Roman Province that was in the same spot where Spain is today.

Another theory that can be debunked is that the Spaniels originated from East Asia. This was a popular theory because there are a few dogs that resembled the English Water Spaniel such as the Tibetan Spaniel and the Japanese Chin. This theory is false as recent DNA tests have concluded that the dogs in East Asia and the Spaniels from Europe are not closely related.

Spaniels were originally used as hunting and working dogs and were commonly thought to be from Ancient Celts and that the Welsh Springer Spaniel was the original Spaniel.

Records show that during the Roman period, Britain's main exports were medium to small hunting dogs. There is no record of what kind of dogs these were, but many experts say they were Spaniels, while others claim that they were Beagles or Terriers. In any case, Spaniels were around where ever there was Celtic influences, especially in the British Isles and in France. Since Spain was inhabited by many citizens who were related to the Celts, called Celtiberians, it could be possible that they are in fact from the area that is now Spain.

The most believable theory has to do with the Saluki breed which were known as the dog of the nobility in the Middle East. The Saluki was similar to the Spaniels in appearance because of the longer fur on their ears and tail. The theory is that Crusaders may have brought this dog all over the continent, someone may have been visiting Spain at the time and mistaken the Saluki for being Native to Spain, naming them the Spaniel.

Before the invention of guns, Spaniels were used to locate birds and chase them out of the brush. The hunters would then release trained falcons or throw nets over the birds to kill the birds. Spaniels also loved the water and would hunt while in the lakes. After the invention of guns, Spaniels would retrieve the shot bird from wherever they landed.

Spaniels became extremely popular and common throughout Europe and the world. In the beginning, Spaniels were all one distinct breed but before long there were different varieties of Spaniels depending on where you traveled or what area you lived in. One of the first separations of the breed was in Western Europe and included one toy sized breed for wealthy families and one for hunting, closer to the original breed. England divided their Spaniels into land dogs and water dogs, both used for hunting. Water Spaniels were said to be crossed with either collies or poodles because of their matching traits with those breeds.

There may have been many varieties of Spaniels starting in the 1600’s. Land Spaniels were described as being mostly white with possible red spots on their fur and having long ears that flowed as they ran. These Land Spaniels became the most popular throughout Europe. There were also other descriptions of the same Land Spaniels having black fur and white spots usually on their feet, chest, and stomach.

The 1600’s may have also given us the English Water Spaniel which was usually described as having a base of white fur with spots of brown or liver. Some speculate that the English Water Spaniel was the first introduction of this color combination within Spaniels.

As the only breed kept by both the lower class and the upper class, the Land Spaniel was immensely popular for centuries, used for hunting birds. Land Spaniels also traveled with settlers to new regions and was brought to America on the Mayflower. Sometime around either the 16th or 17th century, new breeds were derived from the original Land Spaniel. This breed was known as the Setting Spaniel and helped to develop further Spaniel breeds later on.

Because Spaniels were mainly bred for working dogs at this time, there was no standard appearance meaning that they could be a variety of looks up until the 1800’s. Since Spaniels came in every size, the English started to divide them in various size categories. Large Spaniels became known as Springer Spaniels and the smaller Spaniels were now Cocker Spaniels. Cocker Spaniels got their name from hunting woodcock and Springer Spaniels were known to “spring” the birds into the air. For a while, both Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels were born in the same litters and bred with one another until they became their own breed in the 20th century.

The first record keeping system for the Spaniels began in 1812 starting with the Springer Spaniel and then attempts at creating other breeds were started. The first attempt was the Shropshire Spaniel. The second attempt at a new breed was the Norfolk Spaniel. Theories say that the Norfolk Spaniel was made by the Duke of Norfolk by breeding the Black and Tan Terrier with the Land Spaniel although no one can confirm this theory. Later in the 19th century, the Duke of Norfolk said that he was not the one who developed the norfolk Spaniel. More theories were thought of including that the dog either earned its name because it was developed in Norfolk or because it was most popular in that region. The Shropshire Spaniel was said to either be a very close relative of the Norfolk Spaniel or the same dog with two different names. No one can confirm this.

Since the Norfolk Spaniel was bred for hunting birds, this breed became extremely popular in the rural areas of Europe in the 19th century where bird hunting was also extremely popular. The Norfolk Spaniel was widely known as the most kept dog and the best bird hunting dog. Since nearly everyone owned a Norfolk Spaniel during the 1860’s, dog shows became popular in order to see who had the most appealing looking Norfolk Spaniel. Still, the Norfolk Spaniel probably wasn’t pure in anyway as they were still bred with other spaniels and various other breeds. By this time, the UK Kennel Club started to pay closer attention to purebread Norfolk Spaniels and guided others to do the same.

Debate began in the late 1800’s on what the Norfolk Spaniel actually was supposed to look like. Most believed that the Norfolk Spaniel was a type of Springer Spaniel although a smaller population believed it to be its own type of breed. Expert Breeders referred to the Norfolk Spaniel simply as a white and liver spotted Spaniel. In 1890’s it was widely agreed that the Norfolk Spaniel used to be its own breed although with time, turned into another version of the Springer Spaniel. Five years before, in 1885 however, the Spaniel Club was organized and the Norfolk Spaniel became its own breed.

The main reason the Norfolk Spaniel was different from other Spaniels was its usual white fur and liver colored spots. The Kennel Club agreed that the colors of the Norfolk Spaniel is the main difference between the two breeds and that the Norfolk Spaniel has always been only one set of colors, white with liver spots.

In 1902 however, the Kennel Club unified various Spaniel breeds and placed each in a different category. The Springer Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel were officially separate breeds. Varieties such as the Norfolk Spaniel and other Spaniels that were once similar to the Springer Spaniel was categorized within the English Springer Spaniels. After much debate by the Kennel Club, they once again decided that the only difference between the Norfolk Spaniels and the other Springer Spaniels was the color differentiation.

Today, there is still much debate as to whether the Norfolk Spaniel should have been separated and whether the breed even still exists. It is said that the Norfolk Spaniel went extinct before WWI although some believe they are simply the same as today’s Springer Spaniels.


Gun Dog

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Front view drawing of a brown and white dog with a wavy coat and drop ears that hang down to the sides sitting down.

The extinct Norfolk Spaniel dog breed