The Brittany is revered by hunters as a brilliant and efficient gun dog. For many years the breed was referred to as the Brittany Spaniel. However, this often led to a confusing debate over its classification. Although it carried the markings of a spaniel, in the field the Brittany often froze or pointed out game, much in the tradition of a setter or pointer. Spaniels, on the other hand, were known to typically flush game from their hiding spots. While the Brittany is believed to be the result of a setter and spaniel cross, it would seem more than just being the only spaniel breed that points out game, they are actually a setter in a spaniel suit.
The cross of an English setter and a small French land spaniel, the breed was developed by hunters in the Brittany region of France approximately 200 years ago. It was much smaller than other gun dogs but worked in tune with hunters amazingly well. Their keen nose and penchant for searching out game either on land or in water quickly made them indispensable. The Brittany performed its job with a natural ease and seemed to take pleasure in its work as well. Upon approaching game a Brittany would expertly freeze, or set its body stiff, with its muzzle pointing out the direction of quarry.
Not only did it prove itself worthy in the field, the breed also had a pleasing temperament. As spaniel breeds tend to have a mind of their own, it is the setter in the Brittany that makes it so well rounded. Doing well in the field pleased the hunter and this in turn pleased the Brittany. The dog is widely known for having an inherent sense of when to turn their hunting instinct on and off.
As a family dog the Brittany turned out to be amiable, loyal and dependable. They bonded extremely well even with smaller children and kept a watchful eye over their household and all who were in it.
Eventually, the Brittany became so popular with hunters that it finally began making its way out of Europe, landing in the United States in the 1920's. After developing a standard, the American Kennel Club deemed it an official breed in the 1930's. By the early 1980's, the AKC saw fit to drop the word spaniel out of the Brittany's name. In some places, such as Canada, the breed is still referred to as a Brittany Spaniel. Little has changed about the Brittany since its beginnings and it still remains at the top of the list as both a hunting dog and family dog. Thanks to its agility and grace, it is now even becoming a favorite in dog shows.