Spaniels are thought to have originated in Spain (hence their name) many centuries ago and eventually spread to other parts of the world. Welsh Springers, English Cockers, English Springer Spaniels, and other spaniels of British origin all share a similar early history. At first, all spaniels were called Cockers or Cocking Spaniels. They were named for the function they performed, not their type. Early breeders often interbred different types of dogs. Later, they began to divide spaniels into Water Spaniels and Land Spaniels. Welsh Springer Spaniel types were considered Land Spaniels. Many early writings mention a Welsh Cocker that many believe was the forerunner of today's Welsh Springer Spaniel. Tapestries created during the Renaissance depict a Land Spaniel that looks very similar to the Welsh Springer Spaniel.
Welsh Springer Spaniels became a favorite hunting dog of nobility during the 1700s, but in the 1800s, they were replaced by English Springers and other spaniels. Eventually, the breed was revitalized during the Victorian period in England. At early dog shows in the 1800s, Welsh Springer Spaniels competed in the same class as English Springers, with the only difference being color.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel was recognized by Britain's Kennel Club as a separate variety from the English Springer Spaniel in 1902. Originally, the breed was called the Welsh Spaniel or the Welsh Cocker. When designating it as a separate breed, the Kennel Gazette called it a Welsh Springer, which some feel might have caused some confusion with the English Springer Spaniel. Purists of the breed stress that Welsh Springers have no more connection with today's English Springer than any other variety of spaniel and are, indeed, their own separate breed.
Several South Wales gentry raised Welsh Springers for years. One notable breeder in the early 1900s was A.T. Williams, of Ynys-y-Gerwn, Neath. He was passionate about the working abilities of the breed and lobbied for the preservation of its character and type. His grandfather had also had Welsh Springers in the late 1800s. Williams' had a dog named Corrin, which was born in 1893. Corrin was the first Welsh Springer Spaniel to be photographed, and was a key stud dog of the breed, as well as a successful show and working dog.
Welsh Springer Spaniels were imported to America in the late 1800s and quickly gained popularity. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1906.
In the first 20 years of the 1900s, although they never were to become a very common breed, popularity of Welsh Springer Spaniels grew both in the U.S. and England. One of the leading exhibitors and breeders in England was Mrs. H.D. Greene of Craven Arms, Shropshire. Her Longmynd bitches were immortalized in a painting by Maud Earl, an artist who was known primarily for her paintings of dogs and other animals. Mrs. Green was the Secretary of the first Welsh Spaniel Club in England, and unfortunately lost her kennel during World War I.
In the U.S., August A Busch of Anheuser-Busch beer brewing fame, imported some dogs from R Hughes of Swansea, as well as two females named Longmynd Twig and L May Queen.
World War I and World War II took its toll on dog breeding in the U.S. as elsewhere in the world. Between the years 1926 and 1948, no Welsh Springer Spaniels were registered by the AKC, and it was believed that there were no longer any in the U.S. After World War II, dogs were imported from England to revive the breed, and in 1961, the Welsh Springer parent club was formed.
In England, the breed fared only a little better. After World War I, a new breed club was formed for Welsh Springers by Lt. Col. John Downes-Powell. The club was formed in 1923, and Lt. Col. Downes-Powell served as its Honorable Secretary until 1947.
During the time between World War I and World War II, some outstanding Welsh Springers were produced in England, including Ch. Shot O'r Baili, and Ch. Marksman O'Mathern. One of the most influential dams was Goitre Lass, owned by Mr D Lewis of Talybont-on Usk. She had 9 litters between 1926 and 1932. Six of those litters were the result of being bred to Ch. Merglam Bang and produced five full Champions, three other CC winners and several other award winners.
In 1939, an English dog exhibitor named Harold Newman was entrusted with ensuring the breed's survival during World War II. His dogs and his personality as a breeder, exhibitor, and judge are cited as major factors that helped Welsh Springer Spaniels stage a comeback in England in 1945. His stud named Dewi Sant sired eight show and full Champions. Newman gave a start to Miss D.H. Ellis (Downland) among others. Miss Ellis re-established the breed in the U.S. in 1950, and began Anne West's Linkhill kennel.
The Welsh Springer Spaniel Club of America was founded in 1961 with 21 members. Today, their membership is more than 400 with members from the U.S., Canada, U.K, Finland, and Holland. Several of the founding members are still with the club.
The Club held its first AKC Sanctioned Match for Welsh Springers in 1964 at the Randhaven Kennels. Always dedicated to preserving the working characteristics of the Welsh Springer Spaniel, the parent club holds many activities including sanctioned matches, hunt tests, obedience trials, and agility and tracking events.