What to Know About Clumber Spaniels

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on May 22, 2022
6 min read

You can use several words to describe Clumber spaniels. They are bird dogs, gundogs, sporting dogs, and flushing spaniels. In the field, they are determined and focused. At home, they are easygoing companions. No wonder the breed has many devoted fans.

The Clumber spaniel has English roots and takes its name from Clumber Park, the home of the Duke of Newcastle. The breed is sturdy and low to the ground, well-suited for hunting in dense brush. Clumbers are good swimmers and can take to the water for retrieving as well.  

Owners have this to say about Clumber spaniel size: They are heavier than they look! The heaviest of the spaniels, Clumbers have large, dense bones and well-muscled bodies. Considering their size, they are very active. Still, you'll definitely feel it if your dog sits on your lap.  

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), male Clumber spaniels should weigh from 70 to 85 pounds. They should be 18 to 20 inches at the withers. Females can be slightly smaller. Despite their bulk, Clumbers move with an easy, rolling gait, well-suited for long days in the field.

A Clumber spaniel's most noticeable feature is the massive head, which is squarish and heavy-browed. The eyes are amber-colored and deep-set. The ears are triangular and slant forward. 

The Clumber's coat is silky, straight, and thick, making it resistant to weather. Feathering is present on the legs, belly, ears, and tail, and the neck has a thick frill. The coat is white, with lemon or orange markings. Typical markings include:

  • A spot on top of the head
  • Markings around one or both eyes
  • Freckling on the muzzle
  • Spots on the ears 

A few markings are acceptable, but the preferred body color is solid white. The legs may have some freckling. In the past, breeders docked the tail. Today it may be left natural, even for show dogs.  

The Clumber spaniel temperament is gentle, affectionate, loyal, and playful. Clumbers are intelligent and have a strong desire to please. Owners often describe them as lovable. 

As hunting dogs, Clumbers are multi-talented. Their keen sense of smell makes them excellent trackers. Their powerful bodies can handle many kinds of terrain. They can not only flush out game birds but also retrieve them. And they like the water, so they will even retrieve from the water. 

The U.K. Kennel Club has named the Clumber Spaniel a vulnerable native breed. Dogs with this designation are of British or Irish origin and are declining in numbers, with fewer than 300 new dogs registered each year. In 2020, owners in the U.K and Ireland registered 188 Clumber spaniels. 

The Clumber spaniel lifespan is typically from 10 to 12 years. 

Clumber spaniels have a heavy coat, but the silky texture makes it mostly a pleasure to groom. Daily brushing is best, with a thorough grooming once a week. Frequent brushing prevents matting. 

It's important to keep the hair on the feet trimmed, to prevent your pet from picking up debris that could cause sore feet. Push the hair between the toes and then trim the hair that extends past the footpads. 

You may get by with monthly baths for your Clumber. Clean the folds of skin on the head more often, to prevent a yeast infection. Regular cleaning of the ears will prevent ear infections. You should trim your Clumber's nails regularly and brush the teeth daily.

Clumbers love to eat, so you must take care that your dog does not become overweight. Feed your pet a high-quality food, and use treats sparingly. Never feed your dog cooked bones or fatty human foods. 

Clumber spaniels need room to move around. They do best in a home with a large yard or garden. Hunting dogs get plenty of exercise. Others can get their exercise by playing ball or fetch with their owners. Walking and swimming are good exercises for your Clumber as well. 

Like most pets, Clumbers should visit their veterinarian at least once a year. Older and younger animals should go more often. Your veterinarian can help you with vaccines, flea and tick problems, heartworm prevention, and other routine care. 

Clumber spaniels are generally healthy, but veterinarians acknowledge these Clumber spaniel health issues. Some are quite rare, but a Clumber has an above-average chance of having them:

  • Hip dysplasia. Like most larger breeds, Clumbers sometimes have problems with the hip joint. Dysplasia is less serious in this breed than in many others. Still, Clumbers should have their hips X-rayed at around two years of age, to look for potential problems. Elbow dysplasia can be a problem, too.
  • Disc disease. Some Clumbers have problems with the rubbery discs between the vertebrae. If the discs bulge or rupture, your dog could suffer pain and possibly go lame. An MRI can diagnose this condition. It can be handled with therapy and sometimes corrected with surgery.  
  • Hypothyroidism. Some Clumbers have low levels of thyroid hormones. This condition is easily treated with medication.
  • Immune-Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA). In this condition, the immune system attacks the red blood cells. This condition can be fatal, as it is hard to treat.
  • Eyelid problems. The eyelids of Clumbers sometimes turn in (entropion) or out (ectropion), resulting in eye irritation.  Clumbers' eyes have an unusual diamond shape. Sometimes vets not familiar with the breed will diagnose entropion or ectropion when the eyelids are normal for the breed.
  • Ear infections. Like many long-eared breeds, Clumber spaniels are vulnerable to ear infections.
  • Allergies. Clumbers can also be prone to allergies. They may react to insect bites or stings. They may also react to things they touch, inhale, or eat. You can't cure your dog's allergies, but with the help of your vet, you can manage them.  

One of the most endearing Clumber spaniel characteristics is their love of carrying around a toy or other favorite item. This tendency stems from their pedigree as retrievers. This habit may make their owners chuckle, but it can also cause trouble. Clumbers have eaten or swallowed rocks, toys, and items of clothing. Sometimes this results in a blockage in the digestive system. You should keep items that are small enough to be swallowed out of the reach of your Clumber. 

The Clumber spaniel personality makes them excellent pets. They are well-suited to family life for several reasons:

  • They aren't problem barkers, probably because they were bred and trained to be quiet in the field. 
  • They are affectionate family members and are good with children. 
  • They are good with other dogs.
  • They are very trainable because they love to please their owners, although they can be stubborn.

Like most breeds, they also have a few drawbacks:

  • They shed a lot.
  • They drool a lot because their mouths aren't designed to hold all the saliva they produce. 
  • They can be noisy breathers and may snore while sleeping.

The early history of the Clumber spaniel is a mystery. Some say that the breed is a mingling of St. Bernard, basset hound, and an early breed called the Alpine spaniel. 

More reliable sources trace the breed to England in the late 1700s. The Duke of Newcastle and his gamekeeper developed a stocky spaniel especially suited to bird hunting on the duke's estate, Clumber Park. Many of the rich and titled families of the area embraced the breed.

“Return from Shooting," a 1788 painting by Francis Wheatley, shows the Duke with dogs and hunting companions. Several of the dogs appear to be Clumbers. 

The breed has been a favorite of several members of the British monarchy. These include Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, his son Edward VII, and his son George V. Today Princess Anne is a fan of the breed.

When the British first held dog shows in the mid-1800s, Clumbers were among the entries. They came to North America around the same time. When the American Kennel Club (AKC) began in 1844, Clumbers were one of only nine breeds that the young organization recognized. 

In 1996, a Clumber spaniel, Ch. Clussexx Country Sunrise, won Best of Show at the Westminster Dog Show.

Clumber spaniels also successfully compete in: 

  • Hunting
  • Tracking
  • Obedience training
  • Agility trials

They also make good therapy dogs because of their gentle nature and love of people.