FIELD VS. BENCH/SHOW SPRINGERS
The first specialty show for Springer Spaniels in the United States was held in New Jersey in 1922 .The contenders were field trial dogs - their owners sportsmen. These gentlemen would run their dog in field trials one day, then comb out the burrs and twigs, and show them in conformation the next day. This continued to be the trend until the early 1930's when fanciers of the show ring became more critical of the "non-conforming" field Springers, whose owners seemed more interested in one phase of the sport. These show-minded individuals became aware of the importance of coat and feathers in the show ring, and no longer cared to subject their possible winners to the rigors and hazards of the field.
This was the beginning of the division of the breed which is now represented by two distinct sports within the breed. (The last dog to win championships in both field and show ring was Dual Ch. Green Valley Punch in 1938.) Over the years, these groups have grown farther apart.
So, for over 70 years AKC Championed (Bench) dogs have been bred to comply with a purely physical standard. When the standard no longer reflected the winning dogs, the standard was changed to reflect what was making the champions. Nowhere does this standard require any ability of a dog; it is all purely physical appearance, movement, poise, etc. Today's Bench dogs tend to be heavier, with far more coat, and longer ears that are set lower.
In contrast, Field people have bred dogs for performance, leaving the physical appearance to fall where it may. The Field dog is bred considering nose, mouth, (how the dog treats the game), temperament, marking ability, trainability, brains, drive, and desire. All items which have had no influence or testing in the breeding of the Bench-bred dog, yet are absolutely fundamental in a Field-bred dog. The physical appearance of the Field-bred dog, by breeding first and foremost for performance, has resulted in dogs which are less well-conformed (according to the breed standard), and have temperaments that are more competitive. Physical differences include a body which is usually longer than it is tall, shorter and higher set ears, a shorter stop, and no haw (whites showing) in the eyes. All these items have proven to be positive attributes in the field.
Another thing to keep in mind, European bloodlines tend toward bigger dogs with the long, low-set ears of the American bench bred but with coloring more often seen on field bred dogs (e.g., ticking and more white). These dogs typically will not have docked tails.