A spaniel is a type of gun dog. Spaniels were especially bred to flush game out of denser brush. By the late 17th century spaniels had been specialized into water and land breeds. The extinct English Water Spaniel was used to retrieve water fowl shot down with arrows. Land spaniels were setting spaniels—those that crept forward and pointed their game, allowing hunters to ensnare them with nets, and springing spaniels—those that sprang pheasants and partridges for hunting with falcons, and rabbits for hunting with greyhounds. During the 17th century, the role of the spaniel dramatically changed as Englishmen began hunting with flintlocks for wing shooting. Charles Goodall and Julia Gasow (1984) write that spaniels were "transformed from untrained, wild beaters, to smooth, polished gun dogs."
The word spaniel would seem to be derived from the medieval French espaigneul—"Spanish"—modern French, espagnol.
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