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South Carolina State Dog: Boykin Spaniel

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The South Carolina state dog is the Boykin Spaniel. This breed has a rich history and cultural significance to South Carolinians, and is known for its hunting skills, friendly disposition, and versatility.

History of the Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel breed originated in South Carolina in the early 1900s. While the exact origins of the breed are somewhat unclear, it is widely believed that the first Boykin Spaniel was a small, stray spaniel type dog that befriended a banker walking from his home to the First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina around 1900.

Alexander L. White liked the little dog and took it home. After the dog showed some aptitude for retrieving, White sent the dog called “Dumpy” to his longtime friend and hunting partner Lemuel Whitaker Boykin near Camden, South Carolina.

Boykin, a banker and avid outdoorsman, saw the potential in the dog’s abilities and began experimenting with crossbreeding different breeds to produce a dog that was well-suited to hunting wild turkeys and waterfowl in the local swamps and marshes.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, American Water Spaniel, and various pointing breeds were used in the development of the breed, according to Whit Boykin’s grandson Dr. Baynard Boykin.

Boykin Spaniel puppy.

Boykin’s breeding program continued for several years, with the goal of producing a dog that was small enough to fit in a small boat but still had the stamina and ability to retrieve game. The breed quickly gained popularity among local hunters and soon became a sought-after breed throughout the region.

In 1977, the Boykin Spaniel Society was formed by the Boykin family to promote the longevity of the breed and educate people about it.

Today, the Boykin Spaniel is a beloved breed not only in South Carolina but also throughout the United States and beyond. The breed’s reputation for being a skilled retriever and an excellent swimmer has spread throughout the hunting community, and its friendly and sociable nature make it a great family pet.

The Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the breed, ensuring its unique characteristics and high standards for health and temperament are maintained for future generations to come.

Boykin Spaniel Characteristics

In addition to their chocolate-brown coat, Boykin Spaniels have distinctive amber-colored eyes. They are typically between 14 and 18 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 25 and 40 pounds.

The breed is known for its friendly and sociable nature, making it a great family pet. They are highly trainable and excel in obedience and agility competitions.

Photo by Ken Dodds.

As a hunting dog, the Boykin Spaniel is versatile and can work in a variety of environments, including swamps, marshes, and thick brush. They are skilled at retrieving both on land and in water, and are capable of handling tough terrain and harsh weather conditions.

Recognition as South Carolina State Dog

The South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Commission endorsed the Boykin Spaniel as South Carolina’s State Dog on April 20, 1984, and in 1984 Governor Richard W. Riley proclaimed September 1 as Boykin Spaniel Day.

In 1985, the South Carolina General Assembly officially declared the Boykin Spaniel as the state dog in Bill 2403, which was later approved and became Act Number 31.

Significance to South Carolina

The Boykin Spaniel is deeply rooted in South Carolina’s history and culture, and is considered to be a symbol of the state’s hunting heritage. It was specifically bred to suit the unique hunting conditions in South Carolina’s swamps and marshes, where other breeds were unable to thrive.

The Boykin Spaniel’s exceptional retrieving and swimming abilities make it a popular choice for hunters and fishermen in the state, who rely on the breed’s skills to retrieve game from water and thick underbrush.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In addition to its use in hunting, the Boykin Spaniel has also become a beloved companion to many South Carolinians. Its friendly and loyal disposition make it an excellent choice as a family pet, and its adaptability and intelligence make it an easy breed to train for a variety of tasks and activities.

The Boykin Spaniel Club and Breeders Association, founded in 1977, is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the breed. The organization works to maintain the breed’s unique characteristics and high standards for health and temperament, and encourages responsible breeding practices to ensure the future of the breed.


In conclusion, the Boykin Spaniel is deeply ingrained in South Carolina’s history and culture as the state dog. As a symbol of the state’s unique hunting heritage and a loveable pet, the Boykin Spaniel continues to hold a special place in the hearts of South Carolinians. Its reputation as a skilled hunter and loyal companion has made it a beloved breed both in South Carolina and beyond.