The Cocker Spaniel Club


The particolour "..and White" usually comprises:-

  • Black & White. The skin of the unpigmented white area is pink with either no spots or very few spots of black pigmented skin. Hair arising from these is usually white although a very small number of black flecks may be present. Pigmentation of the nose, eye rims and lips is black. The soles of the feet have definite areas of black and white/pink.
  • Liver & White (always with brown pigmentation). The unpigmented white/pink areas of skin may have some brown spots. Hair arising from these spots will usually be white although a few spots may give rise to brown flecks. Pigmentation of the nose, eye rims and lips is brown. The soles of the feet have definite areas of brown and white/pink
  • Orange & White (with black pigmentation). As for black & white except that any few flecks present are orange.
  • Orange & White (with brown pigmentation). The unpigmented white/pink areas of skin may have some brown spots. Hair arising from these spots will usually be white although a few spots may give rise to orange flecks. Pigmentation of the nose, eye rims and lips is brown. The soles of the feet have definite areas of brown and white/pink
  • Lemon & White (with black pigmentation) As for orange & white with black pigmentation
  • Lemon & White (with light brown pigmentation) As for orange & white with brown pigmentation

Note: Orange & White (black/brown pigmentation) and Lemon & White (black/light brown pigmentation) new born puppies may show markings but they may appear to be completely white all over. Within a few days, pale markings may start to appear which deepen to their full colour within a few weeks.

Sh Ch Lynwater Dawn Shimmer
Orange & White Bitch
Shenmore Snowdrop
Black & White Bitch
Daisycottage Hazel
Lemon & White Working Cocker
photo courtesy of Mr & Mrs R Herbert

Tan Mask & Trim

All of the "..and White" colours may have a tan mask and trim if both of the parents carry the separate gene for this trait. Once again it is difficult to distinguish by eye if the orange/lemon colours are wearing a mask & trim or not. In the case of the lemons their tan mask and trim will be expressed as a cream colour being a dilute form of tan. Tanned areas are usually expressed either as solid or ticked markings.

Ouaine Tam O'Shanter
Tricolour Dog
photo © George Caddy


Whites are rarely born. In fact they are usually black and whites, orange and white or lemon and whites with just a few flecks of marking. Pigmentation is usually black but may be brown or light brown. White spaniels are thought to be more prone to deafness than those with more pigmentation. For this reason, they are not generally encouraged in the breed.


There are several degrees of depth of pigmentation most clearly demonstrated in the liver/chocolate self colours and roans/particolours where brown pigmentation is present. Dark shades produce rich colouration in the hair which is often described as dark chocolate. There are several shades descending from dark brown to lighter brown which gives rise to varying shades of gold tinting in the hairshaft, thereby finding the traditional name of liver for this colour. The lighter shades of liver are particularly prone to bleaching by the sun and care should be taken in the management of dogs of this colour.

The solid colour golden (more often seen today in this breed's trans-Atlantic cousin, the American Cocker Spaniel, where it is termed "buff") occurs in two forms. The first with black pigmentation and the second, more rarely, with light brown pigmentation (this being a dilute variation)

Eye Colour

The Standard:"Dark brown or brown, never light, but in the case of liver, liver roan and liver & white, dark hazel to harmonise with the coat"

It is genetically impossible to breed a truly dark coloured eye on a dog with brown pigmentation, hence the description "hazel". Furthermore, when "dilute" factors come into play, the degree of pigmentation also presents as a lighter shade and the eye colour will follow suit.

Coat Texture

There can be little doubt that the quality of the hair can play a major part in how the eye perceives colour. The breed standard calls for the coat to be:

"Flat, silky in texture, never wiry or wavy, not too profuse and never curly. Well feathered forelegs, body and hindlegs above the hock"

A coat with too much undercoat will lack lustre . Youngsters under a year or so will carry a much more profuse feathering which it will lose when adult

It cannot be denied that wavy coats do occur in the breed and usually this is a dominant gene handed down in unbroken line from one of the parents (or both) to their offspring. Expert trimming and presentation can greatly improve the coat's appearance before a show but most attractive of all is a Cocker with the correct jacket and just enough feathering of moderate length. Then the dog's natural colour(s) can shine through to maximum effect.

Truly curly coats are rarely seen today. They are a throwback to water spaniel influences before the time of separation into specific breeds. This blood runs through the veins of all our Cockers however and is responsible for the topknot of hair which our Cockers frequently have on their skulls and which is traditionally hand pulled to give a flush appearance over the head.

A Few Home Truths

There can be few truer sayings than "what is in the blood comes out in the flesh" . These observations coined by previous generations should be kept in mind when we meet the unexpected or when we simply seek to further knowledge about Cocker Spaniels. The diversity of coat colour provides great interest and another true saying "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" . There can be no doubt that different people are drawn to different colours and patterns and the practice of breeding the solid colours separately from the roans/particolours has led to a slight divergence in breed type. It is the duty of all breeders and judges to learn a little about all the colours, even if preference is for another. In this way, at least we can all seek to achieve in our breeding plans and maintain in the show ring a uniform type. The original breed standard was drawn up by people who regularly worked their Cockers. The standard has been "improved" and altered several times during the century (mostly by influence of the show fraternity). Throughout this time, our merry, cheerful little Cocker Spaniels have pleased us with not only their character but with their colourful jackets and attractive looks. This is equally true, whether performing in their almost unchanged style and type since the 1930s in the field, bringing their owners glory in the show ring with a more modern style, presentation and appearance, or by being the delightful, faithful companion who brings joy to the hearts of devotees all over the world.  >>Back To Page 1

NB: Only the colours listed in the current breed standard under "Colours" are considered desirable in the breed: Current Breed Standard


Page 1, 2, 3, 4

©Jinty Gill Davis 9/09/2000


Genetics - Marcia Burns

The Cocker Spaniel - Ella B Moffit

The Inheritance of Coat Colour in Dogs - Clarence Little

Glasgow University (Extra Mural Studies) - Notes from lectures given by Professor N Clutterbuck (1967)



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