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Breed Spotlight: The Clumber Spaniel


A Clumber Spaniel with intact tail

The breed's history is uncertain before the middle of the 19th century. One theory is that it originated in France, stating that the Duke of Noailles at the time of the French Revolution gave his kennel of prized spaniels to the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. The theory goes that the now extinct Alpine Spaniel was bred with Basset Hounds, and then with the Great Pyrenees. A second theory is that it is descended from a now extinct type of Blenheim Spaniel. Originally these Blenheim dogs were large gundogs, colored lemon and white whereas the modern version that descended from them is a much smaller breed of dog known as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!


What is certain is that the breed took its name from Clumber Park and that the Duke of Newcastle's gamekeeper is credited with their development and improvement. Prince Albert, the Prince consort of Queen Victoria, was a fancier and promoter of the breed, as was his son King Edward VII who bred them. The breed was shown in England from 1859 onward. They are even referred to in Queen Victoria's diary: on October 16, 1840, she wrote that she, "walked out directly after breakfast before Albert went to shoot. We had his 7 fine Clumber Spaniels with us, and we went into the Slopes, with such a funny old Gamekeeper, Walters, in order that I should see how the dogs found out their game. They are such dear, nice dogs."


Until the mid-19th century, the breeding of the Clumber Spaniel was mostly restricted to the nobility. During World War I, breeding was stopped entirely causing their numbers to decrease to a record low. In 1925, King George V re-developed a line of Clumbers in the Royal Kennel and were used in the fields in the Sandringham Estate.



The Clumber Spaniel is currently recognized as a Vulnerable Native Breed by the UK Kennel Club, which means it is a breed with fewer than 300 new registrations each year. Here in the USA the numbers are even bleaker, with fewer than 200 annual registrations. While to some this may seem like a lot of dogs, it is a dangerously low population and a complicatedly small gene pool.


A Clumber Spaniel with docked tail, customary in the US

This is a dignified and mellow spaniel and is the largest of the AKC flushing spaniels. For those who can handle some shedding and drooling, the warm-hearted Clumber is an amusing best friend and a respectful housemate. Clumbers are powerful bird dogs of heavy bone, built long and low, with a massive head. They stand at approximately 20 inches at the withers. A small female might be around 55 pounds, while a large male could get up to 85 pounds. Built to push through thick cover in the field, Clumber movement is nonetheless free and easy, and they are surprisingly athletic. They are wonderful to behold at work in the field and derive quite a bit of joy from hunting. The dense coat is primarily white, with sparse lemon or reddish-orange markings. Clumbers are sweet and easygoing at home, but these outdoorsy fellows can be relentless on scent. Smart and eager-to-please Clumbers respond well to training. Though a bit wary around strangers, Clumbers are friendly dogs who bark only when they have an actual reason. They love swimming and fetching and are sturdy childhood companions.



They are often very calm in the home and enjoy curling up on the couch - a stark contrast from the athlete you'd find running in the fields when hunting with their human. Clumbers have minds of their own and tend to follow their noses when outdoors, so very good recall training can be helpful. Puppies are especially curious and playful. The breed has a trophy mentality, and the dog has an incessant need to carry something most of the time; unfortunately, this is often items left lying around the house, such as socks, so be sure to make sure they don't swallow anything! Clumber Spaniels have the tendency to be more reserved with other dogs until they have warmed up to them, but they get along fine with other dogs in the home.



The breed has been used to hunt pheasant and partridge, in both small packs and alone. It is well-suited for hunting in dense cover, and although the Clumber is rather slow in the field compared to other spaniels, it is a quiet worker with a fine nose and excellent stamina. The broad muzzle and soft mouth of the breed allows it to retrieve a variety of game while not causing further cosmetic damage to the kill. Hunters have also been known to use them when hunting waterfowl, dove, and rabbit.



Because Clumber Spaniels are large boned and fast growing, they can suffer from temporary partial lameness between six and twelve months of age, with this lameness subsiding when bone growth is complete. During this time, they may be seen favoring a particular leg. Another common condition that the breed has is heat sensitivity: if Clumber Spaniels are left without shade, they can become uncomfortably hot and dehydrated. When working in the field they tend to hold up just fine as long as they are offered rest periods and water.



For anyone interested in breeding, Clumbers sometimes have difficulties giving birth and may require caesarian sections. Some dogs may suffer from sensitivity to anesthesia. They are generally considered a healthy breed, though, and have an average lifespan of 10-12 years.



Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation

  • Elbow Evaluation

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

  • Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Phosphatase 1 Deficiency (PDP1) - DNA Test


The above health tests are easy to verify. Any breeder who health tests will be eager to show you proof of health testing, usually by sending you a link to the parent's profiles on the OFA website. Any breeder who gets cagey about health testing or says they did the tests but didn't send them in to OFA for certification is not on the up-and-up and should be avoided.


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