Happy Boykin Spaniel Day

Celebrating South Carolina’s state dog

Photo: David DiBenedetto

A Boykin in a duck blind.

In 1984, South Carolina Governor Richard W. Riley declared the first of September to be Boykin Spaniel Day, a date that coincides with the beginning of dove hunting season. Besides being excellent flushers and retrievers, Boykins make friendly and enthusiastic family pets. If there’s an animal that encapsulates the spirit of the South, the Boykin spaniel is surely it. Here are just a few reasons the breed is so special.

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Humble beginnings

Around 1900, Spartanburg banker Alec White encountered a little brown dog who followed him right into church, where he was quickly ushered back out. But the loyal spaniel waited outside until the end of the service and stuck by White’s side for the foreseeable future. White sent the dog (whom he named Dumpy) off to a well-known trainer named Whit Boykin, who bred Dumpy with retrievers, spaniels, and various pointing breeds to create a new type of pup bearing his own name: the Boykin spaniel.

photo: Sadie Chafe
Patient, kind, and intelligent, Boykins make great companions.

Steady as she goes 

Sportsmen had long desired a hunting companion that was agile, intelligent, hardworking, and “small enough to not rock the boat.” The Boykin’s medium-sized, stout, yet athletic build checked these boxes.

Just keep swimming

Boykins are adept swimmers who take to water naturally. Many South Carolina beaches host happy Boykins swimming to their heart’s content or lunging through waves to fetch a toy. They often steal the show at the Southeastern Wildlife Expo (SEWE) “Dock Dogs” event, leaping eyebrow-raising distances into a pool to retrieve objects. Not only are these feats of athleticism impressive—they’re pretty darn cute too. 

photo: Courtesy of Southeastern Wildlife Exposition
A Boykin flies through the air at SEWE’s Dock Dogs event.

New breed on the block

Although the Boykin spaniel dates back to the early 1900s, it was not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 2009, with the breed joining the AKC’s elite “All-American” group. While a Boykin has never won Best in Show at Westminster, the gorgeous dogs undoubtedly turn heads when they walk across that sacred green carpet. (But hey, we’re biased.) 

photo: Sadie Chafe
A beach-loving Boykin.