Where do Springer Spaniels come from? If you answered "England," you'd be mostly correct--but since the origin of the word "spaniel" is "from Spain," it's believed that true English Springer Spaniel begins in Spain. Ancestors of these dogs accompanied explorers as they settled in England and other parts of Europe centuries ago. Paintings from as early as the 1500s depict dogs of this type in various outdoor settings.
Prior to the invention of guns, spaniel dogs were used to flush birds into the open, where hunters would ensnare them with nets. In England, one spaniel type became known as the "springer" for its ability to leap at the birds to scare them out. With the advent of firearms, these dogs became even more valuable at driving the birds out to be shot. In general, though, spaniel dogs in England--even ones from the same litter--were classified by their hunting ability rather than their lineage. So a Cocker (prized for its ability to hunt woodcocks) and a Springer Spaniel could actually be siblings.
All that changed by about 1900, when breeders began refining their methods to produce true Springer Spaniel breeds. England's Kennel Club recognized the English Springer Spaniel in 1902; meanwhile the Springer began appearing in the U.S., and quickly gained popularity there. The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association (now the AKC's parent club) held its first meeting in 1924, and the American Kennel Club added the ESS to its official registry soon afterward.
By the 1940s, U.S. breeders were breeding two ESS types: those developed for hunting, and those for show. This division of "field-bred" and "bench-bred" Springer types is especially important even today.
As of 2020, the English Springer Spaniel is popular as both a hunting companion and as a pet. The ESS ranks 27th on the AKC list of 195 recognized breeds.