Boykin Spaniel Colors: Rarest to Most Common

Written by Kathryn Dueck
Published: October 28, 2023
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Boykin spaniels may have begun as hunting dogs, but they’ve since gained favor as beloved family pets. These enthusiastic, affectionate dogs make loyal companions eager to please their owners. They come in a few different shades of brown, sometimes with white markings on their chests. These hues often combine on a single dog to give it a richly variable coat. Read on to discover the various Boykin spaniel colors from the most common to the rarest!

1. Liver

Boykin Spaniel

The liver coloration in Boykin spaniels has a distinct reddish hue.

©redsidephoto/iStock via Getty Images

As part of its breed standard, the American Kennel Club (AKC) lists liver as the only official Boykin spaniel color. It is also the most common. However, it recognizes that this breed frequently comes in other shades as well. Liver is a deep reddish-brown variation similar to, but distinct from, true red. The B-Locus is the part of a dog’s DNA that determines whether or not it has a brown coat; the liver variation occurs when the B-Locus dilutes the eumelanin (black) pigment.

2. Brown

Boykin Spaniel retrieving

Brown Boykin spaniels are less reddish than their liver counterparts, though they may have red tones in the ears.

©Boykinspanieling / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

The term “brown” covers a wide variety of possible shades and is a very common coat color. In Boykin spaniels, it refers to something less reddish than liver and less dark or deep than chocolate. In reality, all Boykin spaniels come in shades of brown, whether they tend more toward liver, chocolate, or something in between.

3. Chocolate

Boykin Spaniel Happy Face

Chocolate Boykin spaniels tend to be the darkest of the three color variations.

©Cynthia Davison/

The last of the three Boykin spaniel colors is chocolate, which is a rich, dark shade of brown similar to that found in chocolate Labrador retrievers. The darkest of the three, it is notable for its incredible depth and sheen. Though it may not be quite as common as liver or brown, it doesn’t qualify as rare, either.

Boykin Spaniel Temperament

Boykin Spaniel puppy lying in grass

Boykin spaniels are affectionate and loyal dogs, eager to please and make new friends.


In addition to their gorgeous coats, Boykin spaniels are famous for their lovable and affectionate temperaments. They readily bond with the human members of the household and make great doggie playmates for children, even small ones. They also get along great with other breeds of dogs, which makes them a fantastic addition to multi-pet households. Giving them several other humans and/or dogs to play with is a natural way to meet their high-energy needs. Just keep in mind that this breed does not make a good watchdog or guard dog as it’s far likelier to make friends with strangers than to repel them.

Boykin Spaniel Exercise Requirements

Boykin Spaniel stands in the water waiting with anticipation.

Like all hunting dogs, Boykin spaniels need a lot of exercises.

©redsidephoto/iStock via Getty Images

Like any hunting dog, Boykin spaniels need a lot of exercise to be happy and healthy. This includes playing with toys, walking, and/or running free in a fenced yard or dog park daily. If they don’t get enough exercise, their pent-up energy may manifest as anxiety or boredom, which in turn may cause them to engage in destructive behaviors like obsessive chewing or excessive barking.

Dog Breeds Similar to the Boykin Spaniel


English cocker spaniel

was one of the dog breeds used to create the Boykin spaniel.

©Aneta Jungerova/

Three dog breeds bear an especially close resemblance to the Boykin spaniel:

  • American Water Spaniel: This breed is an all-around hunting dog with a generous, affectionate nature similar to that of the Boykin spaniel. The breed is notable for its brown, curly coat.
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever: This breed is a renowned hunting and retrieving dog with an endless store of energy. Both it and the Boykin spaniel are excellent swimmers. The Chesapeake Bay retriever is highly intelligent but can be stubborn when it comes to learning new commands.
  • English Cocker Spaniel: This breed is a type of gundog with a gorgeous feathered coat. Although it was one of the breeds used to create the Boykin spaniel, its coat comes in a much greater variety of colors.

History of the Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel Looking in Green Grass

Boykin spaniels were originally bred as waterfowl retrieval dogs.

©Cynthia Davison/

The Boykin spaniel originated in South Carolina in the 1900s. The story goes that a man named Alexander White came across a small brown spaniel outside a church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. White named the dog Dumpy and took him hunting, whereupon the dog’s instinct for water retrieval impressed him.

Realizing that Dumpy was just as good as any of his pedigreed dogs, White turned him over to dog expert Whit Boykin. Boykin bred Dumpy together with similar breeds including American water spaniels, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, cocker spaniels, and English cocker spaniels. What emerged was the Boykin spaniel, a breed with an excellent instinct for flushing out and retrieving waterfowl. Because these dogs were bred to work in and around water, they are excellent swimmers and need little encouragement to exercise their innate skills. In terms of their coat color, Whit Boykin likely bred his Boykin spaniels to blend in with the ground while hunting.

The American Kennel Club recognized the Boykin spaniel as an official breed in 2009. However, the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Commission honored the breed long before that, endorsing it as the state dog in April 1984. In that same year, Governor of the State Richard W. Riley declared September 1st as Boykin Spaniel Day. South Carolina officially declared the Boykin spaniel to be their state dog in the following year. To this day, South Carolinians celebrate Boykin Spaniel Day.

Summary Table of Boykin Spaniel Colors

1LiverMost common
3ChocolateLeast common
Summary of Boykin spaniel colors.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Zadranka/

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About the Author

Kathryn Dueck is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, dogs, and geography. Kathryn holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical and Theological Studies, which she earned in 2023. In addition to volunteering at an animal shelter, Kathryn has worked for several months as a trainee dog groomer. A resident of Manitoba, Canada, Kathryn loves playing with her dog, writing fiction, and hiking.

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