The American Spaniel

F.J. Pfeifer, MD
New London, Wisconsin
circa 1940’s

I have read so many conflicting articles about the origin o the American Water Spaniels in different complete dog books and encyclopedias that with your permission I would like to give you the true facts about their recognition as a separate breed.

My father, who owned a small city drug store in Plymouth, Wisconsin in 1876, was visited by many Indians of various tribes.  They came to buy and barter for supplies and tobacco.  Most of them were accompanied by different dogs of various variety predominately the so-called American Water Spaniel.  My father called them Indian Dogs. 

In 1891 I came home with a small American Water Spaniel given to me by a friend.  My father said, “What do you want with that Indian Dog?” In 1892 I borrowed a single 12 gauge shot gun and my friend and I went hunting every Saturday and Sunday.  My dogs would run rabbits and tree many partridges.  We came home with enough game for a number of our neighbors. At one time we were very much perturbed as my water spaniel followed a fox all afternoon over the Kettles of Glenbeulah and Elkhart Lake.  I always had American Water Spaniels when I was a boy.  

In 1919 I wrote the A..K.C. and told them I knw that these dogs always bred true to form and conformation and the litters were like peas in a pod and that I wanted to register them.  Naturally, with no background, they turned me down.  I then wrote to the Field and Stud Book with the same results.  In 1920 I wrote to the United Kennel Club of Kalamazoo, Michigan, giving the lineage and background of this fine hunting dog.  They registered Curly Pfeifer on April 8, 1920 as the first American Spaniel registered.  After that I registered many other males and females.  While buying many males and females that looked good I found that some of the bitches did not have all their litters true to form.  their pups I did not sell or register and the female I gave away to some child for a pet. 

After five generations of registration in the United Kennel Club or a purple ribbon registration as they called it the Field and Stud Book registered them.  In 1940 the A.K.C. accepted them as a separate breed. 

I started the Wolf River Kennel of American Water Spaniels in 1920.  Built a small kennel for $700.00 with cement floor, cook room and five runways.  The male pups were sold at $25.00 each and the females at $20.00 with the unconditional guarantee that if the dogs did not prove satisfactory at one year of age, I would replace the dog or refund the money.  Out of 125 dogs sold, I never had to replace the dog or refund the money.  With every pup I sold I send the enclosed training pamphlet.  I still get inquiries for pups and the little pamphlets

In April 1926 Cap’t Judy, editor of the Dog World wrote me and said, “I know little about the American Water Spaniel.  Will you please write an article about them and send some snapshots.  I’ll print the article in the Dog World with cuts of your dogs”.  The enclosed pages in my album will verify this statement.  In my opinion there is less doubt about the origin of the American Water Spaniel and the Golden Retriever than that of many other breeds. 

The basic history of almost all Spaniels goes back to the Portuguese Water Dog which is the older breed in spaniels.  

I think and believe the American Water Spaniel stems from the curly coated retriever which was recognized in England in 1859 and the flat coated retriever on account of it’s features, tail and head.  The flat coated retriever was recognized in 1860 in England.  

Lately we have many mixtures of Irish, Cocker and Water Spaniels with a curly topped head and a rat tail.  Some Kennels pawn these off as American Water Spaniels.  Yesterday I saw two supposedly registered American Water Spaniels coming from a Kennel in Wisconsin.  they looked very much like a cross between a Cocker and an Irish Water Spaniel.   They were small and weighed about 25 lbs.  Such deals are shameful and dishonest with no conscience or regard for true sportsmanship.

The genesis of the American Water Spaniel as a breed shows them to have a broad, smooth, flat skull, stocky, ears not set too high, straight feather tail, good chest and shoulders and strong hind legs. 

I realized and understand that most all breeds are a pot-pourri and a conglomerate mass or mixture composium of dogs and the good qualities of the many dogs are developed and refined so they meet the approval of the breeder’s personal idea, standard, type and conformation . 

I am sending you my album under insured mail for your perusal.  You may keep it a number of weeks to look it through if you are interested.  The check enclosed is for registered return of the album as my Grandson is very anxious to have it when I am through with it. 

Sincerely yours, 


F.J. Pfeifer M.D.

This letter was a part of Grant Beauchamp’s collection. At this time we do not know who he was writing to, the date, or what ever became of the album. 

From the Archives of Grant Beauchamp  
Donated by his daughters Lori Jangala, Amanda Judd and Janice Lowe