Get to Know the Brittany: A True Celebrity of the Dog World

Like many human celebrities, this breed needs only a single name; the Brittany Spaniel officially became the Brittany in 1982.


Before there was Britney Spears, there was Brittany Spaniel. The latter, of course, is by far the more famous, because like Cher and other one-name celebrities, he’s now known simply as “Brittany.” Or, to be more precise, the Brittany.

More interesting things about the Brittany

  • The correct name is simply Brittany, not Brittany Spaniel. Although originally American Kennel Club recognized the breed as the Brittany Spaniel, the name was changed to Brittany in 1982 because their hunting style is more setter-like than spaniel-like. The Brittany is a pointing dog, not a flushing dog.
  • The Brittany may go back to at least the 1700s, maybe earlier. Paintings and tapestries from the 1600s depicting Brittany-like dogs provide the earliest firm evidence of such dogs. In 1850 came the first account of hunting with Brittany-like dogs, described as small, bobtailed and not as smooth coated as the Pointer. It’s thought that vacationing British hunters bred their English pointing dogs to the native spaniels of the Bretagne region of France.
  • The dogs were popular with the gentry as well as with poachers — who liked them because they were obedient and versatile, both pointing and retrieving — and came when called, a vital attribute for a poacher’s dog!

  • The first bobtailed Brittany was said to be born in the early 1800s.
  • Today some Brittanys are born tailless, some stub-tailed and some long-tailed. If long, they are usually docked (in North America) to about four inches. Docking is not legal in all countries. It’s not possible to create a breed with true-breeding short tails because of the genetics associated with stub tails.
  • When Brittanys came to North America (actually Mexico) around 1925, American hunters didn’t like them because of their short tails — until the dogs proved they could outhunt most of the local dogs. They were so good at field trials that they became the most popular pointing dog at competitive events.
  • The dogs were initially registered as “miscellaneous French Spaniels.” In 1907 they became a distinct French breed, with the first registered Brittany a dog named Boy.
  • The breed was introduced to the United States in 1931, and became an official American Kennel Club breed in 1934.

  • It is a member of the American Kennel Club Sporting Group.
  • The Brittany may be confused with the English Cocker Spaniel or Welsh Springer Spaniel. But the Brittany has a shorter coat, shorter ears, longer legs and a more square outline than either, and never comes in solid colors.
  • Although black is not allowed in the American Kennel Club standard, they are allowed in the standard of their native country, France. The American Kennel Club standard allows orange and white or liver and white.

  • The Brittany has more dual champions (meaning dogs who have earned championships in both conformation and field) than any other sporting dog.
  • No Brittany has won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show, but three have won the Sporting group, most recently in 2010.
  • The Brittany is the 30th most popular American Kennel Club breed, the same ranking it held a decade ago. It was at one time among the top 20 most popular breeds.
  • Celebrity owners include Susan Dey. Really, that’s it!

Do you own a Brittany? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for American Kennel Club Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.

17 thoughts on “Get to Know the Brittany: A True Celebrity of the Dog World”

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  5. All the stories about the origin of Brittanies involving cross breeding by English tourists are simply rubbish. Brittanies are basically descendants of the Dutch Kooikerhondje, which is the dog depicted in the paintings and tapestries from the 1600s.

  6. I have been a dog lover of all kinds for as long as I can remember. When I married, my husband, a pheasant hunter, had grown up with Brittanys who were working dogs. He did not know that they could also be a wonderful family companion. He hunted with his father’s dogs and I was amazed to learn that they not only point, but flush and retrieve. I witnessed it many many glorious times. We have had as many as 3 at one time; some given to us by relatives moving and unable to keep theirs. The commonality about them all was how tireless they were in the field and how loving they were as a family pet. We have our current Brittany, Max, who has been unique compared to the others. He is the first one we sent to hunting school since all the others learned from older dogs when we acquired them. We had an eleven year old named Duke when we got Max. I was cautious for the young pup, wanting to make sure Duke would accept him……it was the other way around. Duke was so mellow and Max did not bother him a bit, even when Max growled at Duke and tried to take over the alpha role! As it turns out Duke was the ONLY dog that Max befriended. And he adored Duke, til the day he passed away. Max missed him for sure! The other unique quality about Max was his distress of guns. The first time my husband and son took Max hunting, he ran back to the truck as soon as the shotgun was fired…….but he did learn to come to us with a blow of the whistle, and to change directions…….He also dislikes fishing poles……He prefers to do his hunting on his own. He has never gotten to like other dogs….others tell me it is because he was the first born male and since he was with me since 8 weeks, he views me as his to protect…..that is why he would attempt to attack other dogs passing by on our daily walks. He is now 14 1/2 and only wants to walk for about a half mile compared to the 4 1/2 miles we did e/o day for his life. We love him dearly but because of his distrust of other dogs, we have not gotten a pup. When he passes we will get a brother and sister Brittany. We just cannot imagine our lives without our favorite breed!

    1. I'm nearly 70. Like your husband, my Dad and my Uncle both raised Brittanys. Been around them my whole life. Hunted quail in Ks. Fantastic bird dogs, they are also good at retrieving waterfowl, as they love water. I've owned four myself as an adult. I've never seen one growl at another human, and rarely at another dog. They are sensitive to harsh treatment and yelling. Very intelligent and fairly easy to train, although the hunt is born in them from birth. We started them in the field at 8wks, with older dogs, and the older dogs basically taught the pups by correcting them themselves if they busted a covey. They were breed to hunt closer than say a pointer, but physical exercise is a must. I've owned other breeds, but you can't go wrong with a Britt.

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