The English springer, or springer spaniel, is a breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in the category of sporting or hunting dog. The Kennel Club of England recognized springer spaniels as a separate breed from cocker spaniels in 1902. Bench and field springer spaniels are not separate breeds; the names refer to the purpose for which the dog is bred.
A bench springer spaniel is bred to be a show dog. Breeders strive to produce a dog that meets the AKC breed standard; that is, the list of qualities judges seek in an English springer spaniel. A bench springer spaniel must be comfortable at dog shows in what is known as the conformation ring, the show ring where judging takes place. A field springer spaniel is bred to be a hunter. Breeders seek the qualities hunters need in a dog to accompany them out into the field. This difference in purpose leads to the production of different qualities between the bench and field springer spaniel.
Appearance is everything for a show dog such as a bench springer spaniel. The AKC goes into great detail to delineate what a champion should resemble. This detail includes a neck that is "moderately long, muscular, clean and slightly arched at the crest. It blends gradually and smoothly into sloping shoulders." By contrast, appearance is of no concern for a hunting dog like a field springer spaniel. A good looking dog that cannot perform in the field is of no value. The characteristics of a good hunting dog have little to do with appearance.
The bench springer spaniel is larger than the field spaniel. The field springer spaniel has a more compact body that serves it well in the field. The bench spaniel is heavier and thicker which is a liability in the field but presents better in the show ring. The smaller size gives the field spaniel more energy which he needs. The bench spaniel has less energy and is more relaxed.
Coat and Color
Bench spaniels are predominantly black while field spaniels are mostly white. The reason for the difference is said to be the visibility factor while hunting; white dogs are easier to spot in the field. The field spaniel has a thinner shorter coat while the bench spaniel's coat is longer and thicker. A bench springer spaniel's coat will mat. It needs regular attention to brushing to maintain its look. The coat of the field spaniel is practical as is appropriate for a hunting dog and takes less maintenance.