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Boykin Spaniel Breed and Pet Insurance Guide

By Christy True and medically reviewed by Cathy Barnette, DVM
published: March 6, 2024 • 5 min. read
boykin spaniel

Introduction to Boykin Spaniels

The eager and friendly Boykin spaniel is a Sporting Group dog breed that makes a wonderful companion. These dogs love being around people and are affectionate, patient, and gentle. They get along well with dogs and children, yet they also have excellent hunting skills because of their breeding and genetics. However, these medium-built dogs are full of energy and require family members who love to get out for exercise and play.

To learn more about your new potential family pet, read this Healthy Paws breed guide that covers the dog’s size, temperament, health issues, care, and insurance needs.

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Size of Boykin Spaniels

Adult male Boykin spaniels are 30 to 40 pounds and 15.5 to 18 inches tall. Females weigh 25 to 35 pounds and stand 14 to 16.5 inches tall. Although these dogs reach their adult height by about seven to eight months of age, they continue gaining weight through muscle and fat until 14 to 16 months.

Here’s how big you can expect your Boykin spaniel to get as the dog grows from puppyhood to adulthood:  

Weight Chart6 months12 months18 months
Average male Boykin spaniels25 lbs.30 lbs.35 lbs.
Average female Boykin spaniels20 lbs.25 lbs.30 lbs.

Characteristics of Boykin Spaniels

Boykin spaniels are confident and adaptable dogs that enjoy people and have a lot of personality and charm. They thrive on human companionship and need family members devoted to spending time with them. This breed generally gets along well with other pets, making them an excellent option for multi-pet households. Boykin spaniels love being active and excel in various sports, including water retrieving, swimming, and hunting. These dogs need physical and mental stimulation; without it, they may be challenging to live with.

As you get to know a Boykin spaniel’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on the breed characteristics:

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseMedium
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedHigh
Amount of BarkingMedium
Amount of SheddingMedium
boykin spaniel

History of Boykin Spaniels

The Boykin spaniel is the official state dog of South Carolina and was initially bred in this southeast U.S. state. They are sometimes called “marsh spaniels” and “swamp dogs” because of their origin, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter had several dogs of this breed over the years.

The dog is named after a small community in South Carolina that has only been home to 100 to 200 people. Boykin, South Carolina was named after a founding resident named Lemuel Whitaker Boykin. Historical records show that around the year 1900, a man named Alexander White found a spaniel outside his Spartanburg, South Carolina church and began hunting with him. Mr. Boykin was his hunting partner and started a new breeding program using the spaniel dog. By combining Chesapeake Bay retrievers, cockers, English springers, and American water spaniels, he developed the breed we know today as the Boykin spaniel. Bird hunters in other parts of the country learned about the Boykin spaniel and discovered the dogs were energetic in fields, able to work on land and water, and sweet companions in the household, too. September 1 is designated Boykin Spaniel Day, and the American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 2009.

Boykin Spaniel Standard Information

The general appearance of a Boykin spaniel includes being well-muscled, having a docked tail, and having great agility. These moderately-boned dogs are smaller and weigh less than many other sporting dogs, giving them distinct advantages for hunting and sports.

Here is an overview of the breed standard information for Boykin spaniels:

boykin spaniel


  • Proportional to the size of the dog
  • Alert, eager, and self-confident expression
  • Yellow, amber, or brown eyes
  • Pendulous ears that are set higher when alert
  • Muzzle approximately the same length as the skull
  • Nose is fully pigmented and dark liver in color
  • Scissors bite preferred but level bite is acceptable

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Moderately long and muscular neck
  • Straight strong, and level topline
  • Sturdy body that is not too compact and not square
  • Tail is docked to three to five inches when mature


  • Sloping, muscular, and clean shoulders
  • Medium length legs that are straight and well-boned
  • Pasterns are strong
  • Feet are round and compact
  • Dewclaws should be removed


  • Well-developed hips and thighs
  • Hocks are well let down
  • Pasterns are relatively short
  • Feet are the same as with forequarters


  • Slightly wavy to curly coat of a medium length
  • Considered to be a “wash and wear” dog
  • Coat can be trimmed but never shaved
  • Honorable field scars are acceptable


  • Solid liver color and a deep reddish brown
  • Various shades of light to very dark chocolate brown
  • A small amount of white on the chest is acceptable
  • Sun bleaching is acceptable


  • Effortless gait with good reach
  • A long, forward stride with no side-winding
  • Eager and energetic in the field, yet controlled during a hunt
boykin spaniel

Caring for Boykin Spaniels

Despite the Boykin spaniel’s moderate size, this breed does not do very well in apartments. These energetic dogs need room to move around and plenty of time outdoors.

Here are some general tips for taking the best care of a Boykin spaniel:

Best Living Environments:

  • Not good apartment dogs
  • Best with active people who enjoy outdoor activities 
  • Households with people around most of the time
  • Moderately tolerant of warm and cool weather

Type of Exercise:

  • 60 to 120 minutes of exercise per day
  • Long walks and play sessions
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Running with a family member or alongside a bike
  • May become destructive if not receiving enough exercise and activity

Mental Enrichment:

  • Obedience training
  • Tracking, agility, rally, and field events
  • Nose work

Training Strategies:

  • Early socialization and puppy training classes
  • Generally easy to train
  • Smart and eager-to-please dogs that love to learn
  • Challenge the dog with learning new skills and tricks
  • Use positive reinforcement and treats during training

Grooming Tips:

  • Minimal maintenance for the wavy coat
  • Brush weekly to remove loose hair and dirt
  • Inspect the coat for matting and tangles
  • Bathe only occasionally
  • Trim nails regularly
boykin spaniel

Common Health Problems of Boykin Spaniels

The average life expectancy of Boykin spaniels is 10 to 15 years. They are generally healthy dogs but should also be checked by breeders for certain health conditions because of their breeding. For example, Boykin spaniels are prone to ear infections, hip dysplasia, cataracts, and exercise-induced collapse. The national breed club for Boykin spaniels recommends that the dogs have the following health tests: OFA radiographs of the patellas and hips; DNA testing for exercise-induced collapse, collie eye anomaly, and degenerative myelopathy; and an ophthalmologist evaluation. 

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Boykin spaniels:

  • Patellar luxation
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye issues, including progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and cataracts
  • Skin allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Pulmonic stenosis (heart abnormality)
  • Exercise-induced collapse

Diet and Nutrition for Boykin Spaniels

A fully grown Boykin spaniel will need about 2.5 cups of dry dog food daily. Some recommended dog food brands for this breed include The Farmer’s Dog fresh recipes, Zignature Salmon Formula for a wet dog food option, and American Journey Limited Ingredient Salmon & Sweet Potato for a dry dog food.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Boykin Spaniels

boykin spaniel

Since 1977, the Boykin Spaniel Society has been the national breed club for this type of dog and provided information about litter registrations, breed events, regional clubs, and a breeder directory. You can also contact Boykin Spaniel Rescue, Inc. to adopt a dog of this breed, rehome your dog, or volunteer to help dogs in need. Depending on where you live, there may be more regionally specific organizations to contact, such as Hunters Rest Boykin Spaniels in Tennessee and Operation Little Brown Dog in Texas.

Related Breeds

There are multiple kinds of spaniel dog breeds, which you may be interested to learn more about before deciding to bring a new pet into your home. Consider these dog breeds as well if you are interested in the Boykin spaniel:

Pet Insurance for Boykin Spaniels

One of the best things you can do to take care of your Boykin spaniel is to sign your pup up for pet insurance through Healthy Paws. Healthy Paws offers dog insurance plans for Boykin spaniels that covers illnesses, accidents, hereditary and congenital conditions, cancer, chronic conditions, emergency and specialty hospitals, hip dysplasia, and alternate care. Whenever your dog isn’t feeling well, our easy-to-understand pet insurance plan allows you to focus on your Boykin spaniel getting better instead of the high vet treatment costs.

Please tell us a few details about your Boykin spaniel to get your online pet insurance quote today.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 28 dog years. She also coordinates media requests and manages the Healthy Paws Foundation. A background in journalism may be why she enjoys writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and she volunteers with a local dog rescue. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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cathy barnette
By Cathy Barnette, DVM

Cathy Barnette, DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine), is a veterinarian and freelance writer based in Punta Gorda, FL. She graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, then headed to North Carolina, where she spent fifteen years working in small animal general practice. Cathy recently returned to her home state of Florida and now dedicates her working hours to creating educational content for pet owners and veterinary team members for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance LLC & the Healthy Paws Foundation. Cathy is passionate about making complex medical information accessible to pet owners, allowing them to partner with their veterinarians to make informed decisions about their pets' health. Cathy is a member of both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical Writers Association. In addition to her human family members, she shares her home with one dog, two cats, and a dove. Cathy Barnette on LinkedIn

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