This Irish water spaniel appears in Stonehenge’s The Dogs of the British Islands, Being a Series of Articles and Letters by Various Contributors, Reprinted from the “Field” Newspaper (1872).
In the text, this particular dog is said to have been a superior specimen. His coat is less profuse and more tightly curled than one might expect from a modern example of his breed, and his topknot looks somewhat like a glorified Mohawk.
Irish water spaniels of this type were very commonly used as retrievers throughout the British Isles, and they were even quite popular in the United States for a time. The 1870′s and 1880′s were the zenith of their popularity, which also corresponds to the rise of the institutionalized fancy. The dogs now have largely been replaced by the St. John’s water dog-derived retrievers, and the English springer is now the main working breed of land spaniel– which can also moonlight as a water retriever.
But at one time, the Irish water spaniel was greatly sought after for its retrieving prowess.
It’s just a very different dog from the typical Labrador retriever!