The Boykin Spaniel was first bred by South Carolina hunters during the 1900's to provide the ideal dog for hunting ducks and wild turkeys in the Wateree River Swamp. Hunters on South Carolina's Wateree River needed a small rugged dog compactly built for boat travel and able to retrieve on land and water. In those days wagons, wooden boats and trains afforded hunters access to the game rich corridors along the river. But boat travel limited what hunters could carry. The typical heavyweight retriever was a drawback in a craft already loaded with men, guns, provisions and other gear.
On the Wateree River in the early part of this century hunters often used a take apart "section boat." Held together by bolts to form a large craft, the three sections with seats removed could be "nested" to fit neatly into a wagon or train's baggage car. Hunters also used sections as one-man boats just large enough for one person and a compact retriever.
L. W. "Whit" Boykin (1861-1932), a planter, land appraiser and well-known sportsman of the Boykin community just outside Camden, South Carolina, along with his kinsmen the Canteys, experimented with many breeds to resolve the problems posed by their Wateree hunting trips. With selective breeding and a little luck, Boykin developed a small multipurpose retriever now known as the Boykin spaniel.
The first Boykin spaniel, or the precursor of today's breed, was reportedly a small, stray spaniel type dog that befriended a banker walking from his home to the First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina around 1905-1910. Alexander L. White (1860-1942) 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 Whit Boykin. In Boykin's hands the little stray developed into a superb turkey dog and waterfowl retriever. This dog became the foundation stock for the Boykin spaniel. Other ancestors are reported to be the Chesapeake Bay retriever, springer spaniel, cocker spaniel, and the American water spaniel.
Today this little brown retriever can be found on hunts and in homes across America. Stamina in hot weather and eagerness to please make this dog a favorite in the dove fields, but Boykins have retained their spaniel flushing abilities and readily adapt to a variety of upland game hunting including pheasant, quail and grouse. An aptitude for water retrieving combined with their compact size assures these dogs a place in the duck boats and blinds as well. Boykins have often been described as "the dog that doesn't rock the boat." They are even effective in deer driving or in tracking wounded deer. Like many of the sporting breeds, Boykin spaniels make the transition from hunting companion to family pet easily. Boykin spaniels are true dual-purpose hunting dogs.