Irish Water Spaniel

FCI standard Nº 124

Group 8 Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs
Section 3 Water Dogs
With working trial
Acceptance on a definitive basis by the FCI
Tuesday 28 December 1954
Publication of the official valid standard
Tuesday 13 March 2001
Last update
Friday 08 November 2002
En français, cette race se dit
Epagneul d'eau irlandais
Diese Norm ist in deutscher Sprache sichtbar
Irischer Wasserspaniel
En español, esta raza se dice
Perro de agua irlandés
In het Nederlands, wordt dit ras gezegd
Ierse Water Spaniel


The Irish Water Spaniel can be easily adapted to suit most forms of shooting he will hunt, often point and retrieve readily from heavy cover. The onstruction and nature of the breed has traditionally made it the choice of the wildfowler.

Brief historical summary

The exact origins of the breed remain obscure. Generally it is thought that Water Spaniels evolved from dogs that originated in Persia and came to Ireland via Spain. The first Irish reference to “ water dogs that pursue waterfowl” dates from 1600, so we know that dogs with waterproof coats were used in Ireland even before the advent of the fowling piece. There is no real evidence of the ancestry of the Irish Water Spaniel except in its most peculiar feature-the rat tail. This feature appears in no similar dog and makes it very likely that the modern breed had an indigenous Irish ancestor. The tail has given rise to the names “ Whip Tail” and “ Rat Tail”. In any event the descendants of these dogs were accepted and achieved great success on show benches in the second half of the 19th century. In 1890 the Irish Water Spaniel Club was formed to promote the interests of the breed.

General appearance

Smart, upstanding, strongly built, compact or cobby.

Behaviour / temperament

Proud, combining great intelligence and endurance with a bold and dashing eagerness of temperament, immense stamina and loyalty. A good family dog with a sense of humour but discerning with strangers.


Cranial region

Skull and head should be of good size.
Skull high in dome, good length and width allowing for large brain capacity. Top-knot should consist of long loose curls growing down into a well defined peak between the eyes and should not be in the form of a wig, i.e. growing straight across.  

Facial region

Perfectly smooth. Hair grows in a narrow line forming a beard at the back of the lower jaw.
Large and well developed and of dark liver colour.
Long, strong and somewhat square in appearance.
Jaws and teeth
Strong and regular with scissors bite.
Comparatively small almond-shaped, dark amber or dark hazel and very intelligent looking.
Very long and lobe-shaped in the leather, set low, hanging quite close to the cheeks and covered with long, twisted curls of hair.


Fairly long, strong and arching, (enabling the head to be carried well above the level of the back) and strongly set into the shoulders.


Should be of good size, being as a whole so proportionate as to give a barrel-shaped appearance accentuated by the springing of the ribs, overall strong and well- muscled.
Short, broad and level, strongly coupled to the hindquarters.
Deep and wide.
Deep, but not too wide or round between the forelegs, though large girth with ribs well sprung behind the shoulders. Ribs carried well back.


Smooth, strong and thick at root (where it is covered for 3 to 4 inches - 7.5cm to 10cm with short curls), and gradually tapering, ending in a fine point. It should not be long enough to reach the hock joint, and should be carried nearly level with the back in a straight line.



Very powerful and sloping.
Well boned and straight, the forearm at point of elbow in a straight line with the highest point of the shoulder blade.


Very powerful.
Well bent stifles.
Hocks set low.


Large, somewhat round and spreading, well covered with hair, both over and between the toes, but free from any superfluous feather.

Gait and movement

The gait has a characteristic peculiar to the breed, that of a rolling motion produced by the barrel-shaped ribcage.


Dense, tight, crisp ringlets, entirely free from woolliness but with a natural oiliness. The back and sides of the neck should be covered with curls similar to those on the body, the throat should be smooth, the smooth hair forming a V-shaped patch from the back of the lower jaw to the breastbone. The forelegs covered with feather, which should be abundant all round though shorter in front. Below the hocks, the hindlegs must be smooth in front, but feathered behinddown to the feet.
A very rich puce liver, white on chest obj ectionable.

Size and weight

Height at withers
Dogs 21/23 inches (53/59cm). Bitches 20/22 inches (51/56cm).


• Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and its ability to perform its traditional work.
• Faults listed should be in degree of seriousness.

General faults

 White on Chest.
 Paleness of coat.
 Light eye.
 Woolliness of coat.
 Feather on front of Hocks.
 Want of feather on front of forelegs.
 Splay feet.
 Feather on stern.
 Feather on face.
 White on feet.

Disqualifying faults

 Aggressive or overly shy dogs.

NB :

• Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
• The above mentioned faults when occurring to a highly marked degree or frequently are disqualifying.
• Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
• Only functionally and clinically healthy dogs, with breed typical conformation should be used for breeding.



Additional information from visitors

One of the oldest water dogs of the West, the Irish Water Spaniel was developed from sheepdogs and hounds of Central Asia brought to Spain from Persia and then imported into Ireland after being crossed with Poodles, Bloodhounds and Portugese Water Dogs. In Ireland the breed existed under different names and several types were developed, such as the Shannon, Tweed, Northern Irish, Southern Irish and others. These types are believed to had been crossed and eventually created the modern Irish Water Spaniel breed. By the late 1800's, this versatile worker became a popular show dog in Britain and America.
Playful with children and loving of water, it makes an excellent family pet. The Irish Water Spaniel is a gentle and devoted companion, but needs obedience training, due to its somewhat stubborn and timid nature. Athletic, intuitive and strong, it is still used for hunting purposes and retrieveing field trials. The coat is curly and oily, naturally waterproof and accepted only in uniform shades of liver brown. Average height is around 22 inches.

Detailed history

The Irish Water Spaniel, or Dog of Irish Water, is a dog at once rare and very original, which, although it is not a new arrival in the canine world, represents a certain mystery still. Where is he from? How old is he? Everything related to this dog before the nineteenth century is apparent from the legend or suppositions.

Some scholars argue that the Irish Water Spaniel is at least two thousand years old, as it would be a direct descendant of known water dogs in the Middle East and Egypt well before our era. The latter would also be the ancestors of the Barbet and the Portuguese Water Dog, and it is easy to imagine that the Arabs could be responsible for their arrival in Europe, they who occupied the Iberian Peninsula for many centuries and have advanced as far as Poitou. But, with regard to whom the Water Spaniel would have made the long journey from the Middle East to Ireland, the question remains unanswered.

For other dog breeders, the breed would be at most two hundred years old, because its history would go back to the French Revolution. Aristocrats emigrating to Ireland would have brought with them great Poodles able to hunt in the marsh, then the crossings of these poodles from France with Setters (Irish of course) would have resulted in the creation of the current Irish Water Spaniel. The defenders of this version are the most numerous, especially in France, naturally, because it is quite plausible that the emigrants, aware of the cynegetic possibilities of the green Erin, have carried in their luggage dogs of water, which do not could be Poodles or Barbets (which, at the time, was little different). On the other hand, the dark brown color of the Irish and Poodle breeds are quite similar from a genetics point of view.

Such an argument, of course, has its detractors, especially among the British; A. Gondrexon-Ives Browne states, for example: "This hypothesis is to be dismissed because of the totally different structure of the hair. The absolutely pure inheritance of the breed tends to prove that it has been raised for a very long time without any contribution of foreign blood. Indeed, it is true that the hair of the Poodle is of a fine and woolly texture, that it is very long and forms elastic crimps, whereas that of the Water Spaniel is oily and forms short stiff curls. Moreover, it is undoubtedly to the oily nature of the hair of the Spaniel of Water that another suggestion is made: that of a possible kinship of this dog with the Retrievers; all originating, more or less directly and exclusively or not, from the island of Newfoundland; and especially with the Curly Coated Retriever. However, according to the literature on this latter breed, it appears that the Water Spaniel is an ascendant of the Curly Coated rather than the reverse.

Even the "classic" authors of canine history provide little clarity. Thus, Hugh Dalziel, in British Dogs, admits that the origins of this dog remain unknown, while emitting the idea that he could be the ancestor of all the Spaniels. There are few books on Irish dogs, and when Colonel HC Cane quotes passages from Anna Redlich's The Dogs of Ireland in his study of the breed, nothing is known about the past. Irish Water Dog, except that this dog is the only survivor of three breeds assigned to the same job.

It is likely that the Irish Water Spaniel will keep its secret for a long time. On the other hand, the milestones of his career in the field of dog-eating are a tangible field on which one can rely, because, when one asserts that it was about 1834 that began its rational breeding, this does not prejudge anything the seniority or the recent creation of the breed. It seems that this dog appears for the first time in an exhibition in 1862, during one of the first events of its kind in the world, in Birmingham. It is certain that it was found in 1873 in Manchester: the five judges, who had to examine subjects belonging to 31 races, should not have seen much Irish Water Spaniels before, since they included him in the class. "Other breeds" in the company of a dachshund. It should be noted, however, that the Water Spaniel of Ireland has the honor to be part of the small number of breeds recognized with certainty at this date, since it appears in the Kennel Club's first Studbook (born in 1873). This Studbook, published in 1874, is none other than the census of the dogs presented in the thirteen exhibitions which took place between 28 and 29 June 1859 (Newcastle) and the 24, 26 and 27 December 1873 (Manchester).

It was not until 1890 that the first Irish Water Spaniel Club was created, which testifies to the rarity of the breed, even so far. It is at the end of the century that this dog spreads among waterfowl hunters, and especially among the most passionate of them, who do not hesitate, for example, to cross the Channel to practice their favorite sport. The British thus frequent various territories in Picardie, in Brittany and in Normandy, with a predilection for the marsh Vernier, near Pont-Audemer, true paradise of the hunt. The Irish Water Spaniels had to be introduced in quite large numbers and enough to impress the local hunters, since they are at the origin of the race named Epagneul de Pont-Audemer.

The Irish Water Spaniel will experience the height of its popularity during the inter-war period. In 1926 a second race club, the Irish Water Spaniel Association, was created, and until the eve of the Second World War, the statistics record an average of fifty subjects each year. This figure may seem modest, but the very narrow specialization of the race must be taken into account; In addition, the Water Spaniel must withstand the growing popularity of the Retrievers (Game Rapporteurs), who also have strong skills for working with water. Finally, its very original appearance should not make us forget that it can not be converted into a pure companion role, because of its oily hair. A population of the order of half a thousand subjects, at that time, seems more than honorable. In the years 1920 - 1930, the breed was established in the United States, Canada and France.

After the Second World War, which decimated its breeding, the Irish Water Spaniel will go through a difficult period. It is obvious that the possibilities of use of this dog tend to be restricted, because the swamps are almost everywhere drained to be transformed into farmland, when they do not become natural reserves, prohibited to hunting. Fewer and fewer, too, are the hunters who decide to opt for hyperspecialized breeds, which would require them to have several dogs permanently to hunt different game in different territories.

The scarcity of Irish Water Spaniel may have seemed inexorable, but the extent of its decline in the 1950s provoked a reaction: a dog so original and part of the British canine heritage has no right to disappear. So there were enough fans to put the Irish Water Spaniel in the limelight, and today its numbers have never been so important since they are in the order of a thousand in Great Britain. Britain.

This dog, as its name and appearance clearly indicate, is specialized in hunting marsh, pond, estuary and on the seashore. The work in the water, the most demanding, requires that the dog is has a very robust constitution and a temperament to match. This is the case of Irish Water Spaniel, whose character can be described as ardent, impetuous, energetic, and to whom one can not deny, moreover, a great physical courage. And the Irish dog still has other assets, also essential: its skin a bit oily, its greasy hair and his fingers "webbed" (the fingers of all dogs are "webbed", more or less, but the Water Spaniel is part of the breeds whose interdigital membrane is particularly developed).

However, the Irish Water Spaniel can showcase his qualities in various jobs. Thus, his retriever atavism appears very pronounced, for he has many noses, and, as befits any good retriever, he has. great training skills, so fiery and passionate. But it is recommended not to delay in undertaking his education: if he learns quickly and well in his youth, he is less malleable when he reaches adulthood. Very enduring, with a lot of memory, having the sweet tooth with game, the Irish Water Spaniel is therefore a first strength retriever, as at home on land as in water. Indeed, its curly fleece which protects it very effectively in ice water also protects it from the climatic rigors, the contact of the spine and the brambles. And, of course, used like any other Spaniel, this duck and waterfowl specialist will be of great service in hunting rabbits or running birds.

Like any Spaniel who respects himself, he is sometimes a bit cabochard, but in a fairly firm hand, it is a dog pleasant to live, very attached to his masters, affectionate and balanced: in a word, a very good companion, except for the fact that his oily hair imposes some constraints. Her fleece is also extremely dense and therefore requires regular care, failing which she tends to bathe, string, which removes much of its cachet; and is not allowed in exhibitions.

The original aspect is today a pledge of success for the races which are provided with it, and, from this point of view, nature spoiled the Irish Water Spaniel: it suffices to observe his eyes, slightly bridles, which give him a particular look; his tail, first covered with the same curly hair as the rest of the body, and ending in "rat's tail".

No comments

The latest updated breeds

  • Balinais

    Balinais Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Balinais is a cat breed that originated in the United States. This medium-sized cat is the semi-long-haired variety of the Siamese. Standard The French standard specifies that the Balinais, although fine, must not be too thin. A brief historical overview The Balinais is the semi-long-haired variety...
  • Australian mist

    Australian mist Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Australian Mist, also known as the Spotted Mist, is a breed of cat native to Australia. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its short-haired coat with a spotted tabby or blotched tabby pattern. A brief historical overview The origins of the Australian Mist go back to the late 1970s,...
  • Anatoli

    Anatoli Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Anatoli, also known as the Anatolian shorthair or Turkish shorthair, is a cat breed of Turkish origin. It is the short-haired variety of the Van Turk. Standard The Anatoli is said to be a natural Turkish breed, like the Van Turk and Turkish Angora. The Anatoli was recognized by the WCF in 2001. A...
  • Californian rex

    Californian rex Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Californian Rex is a breed of cat native to the United States. This cat is characterized by its wavy, semi-longhair coat. It is the semi-long-haired variety of the Cornish Rex. A brief historical overview As its name suggests, this variety was discovered in California in the 1960s.Today, it...
  • Cornish rex

    Cornish rex Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Cornish rex, also known as the Cornish rex, is a breed of cat native to the United Kingdom. This cat is characterized by its very short, notched, soft coat. A brief historical overview The Cornish rex, originally from Great Britain, is the result of spontaneous mutation. The breed's founder...
  • Chausie

    Chausie Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Chausie is a breed of cat native to the United States. This cat is characterized by its Chaus-like physique. A brief historical overview The Chausie is the result of hybridization between a Chaus and a domestic cat. The first crosses were made in the late 1960s to produce a cat with a wild type...
  • Chartreux

    Chartreux Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Chartreux, also known as the Chartreux cat, is a breed of cat native to France. This cat is characterized by gold-to-copper eyes and a short, full coat that is entirely blue. A brief historical overview The Chartreux is one of the oldest natural cat breeds in the world. It is thought to have...
  • Ceylan

    Ceylan Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Ceylan is a cat breed originally from Sri Lanka. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its ticked tabby shorthair. A brief historical overview It was an Italian, Dr. Paolo Pellegatta, who in 1984 discovered half-wild ticked cats (like the Abyssin) in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylan). With the help of the...
  • British longhair

    British longhair Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The British longhair is a breed of cat that originated in England. This medium to large cat is the semi-long-haired variety of the British shorthair. A brief historical overview The British longhair is a direct descendant of the British shorthair, and their history was identical until the...
  • British shorthair

    British shorthair Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The British shorthair is a breed of cat that originated in Great Britain. This medium to large cat is characterized by its very round head and large, round eyes. A brief historical overview At the same time, English breeders such as H. Weir selected the most beautiful alley cats, which were...
  • American Burmese

    American Burmese Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The American Burmese is a cat breed originating in Burma and developed in the United States from the 1930s onwards. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its sepia-toned coat. It differs from its English counterpart mainly by its face and round eyes. Standard The American Burmese is the only...
  • Bombay

    Bombay Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Bombay is a breed of cat originating in the United States. The Bombay is characterized by its uniformly black shorthair coat. The cobby body is muscular and compact. Standard Apart from coat and eye color, the Bombay's standard is identical to that of the American Burmese for LOOF and TICA.In...
  • Asian

    Asian Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Asian, also known as the Asiatic, is a breed of cat that originated in England. This medium-sized cat is a variety of the English Burmese, with coats and patterns different from those of the Mink, but with the same physique. It is the offspring of the Burmilla breeding program run by Baroness...
  • Burmilla

    Burmilla Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Burmilla is a breed of cat originating in England and belonging to the Asian group. Its development began in the 1980s with a chance cross between a lilac Burmese and a Persian chinchilla. Standard For the LOOF, English Burmese, Asian and Burmilla standards are identical, except in terms of...
  • English Burmese

    English Burmese Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The English Burmese or European Burmese is a cat breed descended from the American Burmese and developed in the United Kingdom from the 1950s onwards. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its sepia-toned coat. It differs from its American counterpart mainly by its triangular face and less...
  • Turkish Angora

    Turkish Angora Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The Turkish Angora is a semi-long-haired cat breed from Turkey. A natural breed that enjoyed great success in the 18th century, this medium-sized cat is still little known today, despite its great aesthetic qualities and character. Standard The standard has evolved since the first cat show in...
  • American Wirehair

    American Wirehair Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The American Wirehair is a breed of cat native to the United States. This cat is characterized by its curly coat. A brief historical overview This breed is descended from the American shorthair. It appeared in a litter of American shorthairs in 1966 in New York State. One of the males in...
  • American Shorthair

    American Shorthair Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The American Shorthair is a cat breed originating in the United States. This medium-sized cat is characterized by its hardy type. A brief historical overview This breed is a direct descendant of the alley cats brought back by European settlers to protect grain stocks from rodents. The...
  • American Curl

    American Curl Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The American Curl is a cat breed originating in the United States. "American curl" means "curly American", referring to the breed's origin (the U.S.A.) and the typical shape of the ears. A brief historical overview The first specimen is a long-haired, black-coated, yellow-eyed cat called...
  • American Bobtail

    American Bobtail Translation Francis Vandersteen Origin The American Bobtail is a new breed of cat from the United States. This medium to large cat is characterized by its almost complete lack of tail. A brief historical overview The breed was discovered in 1965 by an American couple, the Sanders, in the state of Arizona. The kitten had a wild...