Spaniel Symbolism

Spaniel Symbolism


The Spaniel, with its playful nature and loyal companionship, has rich symbolic meaning in many cultures. This dog breed evokes concepts like faithfulness, childhood innocence, and emotional sensitivity. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the multifaceted symbolism of the Spaniel throughout history, literature, art, and dreams. Discover how this lively dog has captured imaginations across time and place.

Historical Origins of Spaniel Symbolism


The origins of the Spaniel breed can be traced back centuries to Spain and the United Kingdom. Their name derives from the Spanish word “Espanol” meaning “Spanish dog”.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, Spaniels became associated with nobility. Their excellent hunting skills and obedient temperament made them a favorite of kings, queens and lords who used them for falconry and hunting small game.

  • For example, King Charles II of England was frequently pictured with his beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

This regal association led to the Spaniel symbolizing concepts like loyalty and faithfulness. They were seen as always dutifully serving their masters.

Spaniel Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore


In Greek mythology, Spaniels were associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. It was believed that the dog’s loving nature was a gift bestowed by her. Legends said she used Spaniels to spread affection by having them kiss people.

  • In other folklore, friendly Spaniels were said to guide lost travelers to safety. Their kind nature made them protective guardians.

Celtic myths portrayed Spaniels as guides who helped souls crossover to the afterlife. Their loyalty extended beyond death to ease transitions to new beginnings.

Spaniel Symbolism in Literature

Many famous literary works showcase the Spaniel’s innocence and sensitivity. For example, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote an endearing poem about her cocker spaniel named Flush. She uses descriptions like:

“Clings with fond claws to gown and shawl,
And looks up in eyes that love him.”

This depicts the Spaniel as lovable and affectionate.

In Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre, Jane compares herself to her spaniel who seems to intuitively sense her moods. This demonstrates the Spaniel’s emotional intelligence and empathy.

Spaniel Symbolism in Art


Countless paintings capture the Spaniel as a sweet, gentle companion. The dogs are commonly shown as almost human-like with expressive, soulful eyes.

  • Famous artists like Van Dyck and Gainsborough featured Spaniels in aristocratic family portraits. The dogs represent familial loyalty.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry’s 18th-century Spaniel paintings elevated the dogs to regal, almost holy figures glowing with innocence.

Thomas Gainsborough’s 1770 portrait of two girls and a Spaniel integrates the dog as part of the family. One girl sweetly hugs the dog showing deep affection.

Spaniel Symbolism in Dreams

In dream symbolism, a Spaniel often represents a need for companionship or your inner child.

  • To see a happy Spaniel could signify harmony in relationships. An angry or aggressive Spaniel may reveal relationship stresses.

If the Spaniel is wounded or lost in a dream, it could indicate emotional hurts from childhood needing healing. Think about what happens to the Spaniel and how you feel about it for clues to interpret the symbolism.

Spaniel Symbols in Different Cultures


Interestingly, Spaniel symbolism varies slightly across cultures:

  • In China, Spaniels symbolize luck and prosperity. Their lively spirit brings a joyful bounty.
  • Native American tribes considered the Spaniel wise and loyal guides offering protection.
  • In the UK, Spaniels still maintain associations with aristocracy and refinement from their historical roots.

No matter the cultural context, the Spaniel evokes some universal concepts like playfulness, sensitivity, and caring.

Symbolism Based on Spaniel Breeds

The different Spaniel breeds each have distinct traits that inform their unique symbolism:

Cocker Spaniel

Playful, gentle, sensitive – This smaller Spaniel represents innocence, emotional openness, and inner child-like joy.

English Springer Spaniel

Energetic, friendly, and eager – Symbolizes vitality, loyalty, and obedience. Their readiness to serve and protect is symbolic.

American Cocker Spaniel

Cute, cuddly, family-oriented – Represents affection, ability to deeply bond with family/pack, harmonious relationships.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Graceful, noble, regal – Symbolism evokes refinement, loyalty to masters/leadership. Associated with nobility and prestige.

Boykin Spaniel

Adventurous, intelligent, hard-working – Symbolism includes curiosity, cleverness, and determination. Originated as a hunting dog in South Carolina.


Key Takeaways on Spaniel Symbolism

  • Spaniels symbolize compassion, faithfulness, sensitivity, and playfulness in many cultures.
  • Historically they were associated with aristocracy because of their refined hunting skills and obedient nature.
  • Art and literature commonly portray Spaniels as soulful companions bonding deeply with their families or owners.
  • Different Spaniel breeds have related but distinct traits that inform their symbolism.
  • In dreams, Spaniels can represent friendship, intuition, inner child, or emotions needing attention.


The Spaniel’s sweet nature and lively loyalty has inspired symbolic meaning for centuries across the world. Their graceful gentleness mixed with cheerful playfulness makes them a cultural icon of sensitivity and steadfast companionship. Whether in myth, art, literature or dreams, the Spaniel figure connects deeply to humanity’s search for faithfulness, affection, and inner child-like innocence.

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