Originally created 05/31/98

S.C.'s Boykin Spaniels a breed apart



The Boykin Spaniel is the epitome of man's best friend: Affable family pet, Mr. (or Ms.) Personality and super hunting dog.

The Boykin, whose breed originated in South Carolina, is the Palmetto State's "Official State Dog," having been granted that distinction by the South Carolina General Assembly and then-Gov. Dick Riley's signature on March 26, 1985.

Mike Creel of the information-education section of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in Columbia, became fascinated by "the little brown dogs" and began collecting information about their origin.

He was among the first to document facts about the Boykin Spaniel and through a series of articles bring them to the attention of the public. His inspiration was his own Boykin, acquired in 1975 as "a 3-month-old pup we named Booger," Creel writes in a chapter of a book co-authored with fellow enthusiast Russell Lynn Kelley.

"Booger inspired this young writer to travel all over the state, as well as write or call every Boykin Spaniel owner in the continental U.S., while researching and writing a 28-page article about the breed's past, present and shaky future," writes Creel.

The Boykin Spaniel traces the breed's beginnings, which started with Camden, S.C., hunter "Whit" Boykin's search for a perfect hunting dog; namely, one that literally wouldn't rock the boat during duck hunting forays on the Wateree River.

Waterfowl hunters can't do without retrievers to locate and fetch downed birds. The problem with retrievers in Boykin's late 19th and early 20th century days is that most were heavyweights -- shaggy Chesapeakes that gave a boat load of hunters with guns and gear uneasy feelings in already tipsy craft.

"Hunters along the Wateree at that time desperately sought an able dog...(that) could handle all the work in the water, flush (wild) turkeys and retrieve and track a variety of game," according to the book.

Just when the No. 1 dog of the breed appeared on the scene becomes a bit hazy, but the co-authors do an admirable job in providing readers with the known facts preserved by history.

This first book dealing exclusively with Boykins is loaded with photos, amusing anecdotes and lists breeders' kennels, trainers, results of retriever trials and hunt tests and tons of other information.

Hunting enthusiasts, no matter what breed of retriever they own, will enjoy reading it, but here's a warning: They could become a "converted" Boykin Spaniel owner if they're not careful.

The Boykin Spaniel, by Mike Creel and Lynn Russell Kelley, Summerhouse Press, P.O. Box 1492, Columbia, S.C., 29202 (1 803 779-0870), 184 pp., $35.