Although a dog named Boatswain, born in Ireland in 1844 and owned by Justin McCarthy, has been called the original Irish Water Spaniel, research has discovered that the breed is considerably more ancient. Nevertheless, the Boatswain name appears in numerous pedigrees.
The Irish Water Spaniel is the tallest of the spaniel family--21 to 24 inches at the withers, depending on sex. This dog is excellent as a water dog because it enjoys being in water and because its coat is naturally water-resistant. The dog has dense, tight, crispy ringlets on its back, sides and neck. Its legs are covered with hair, either curly or wavy, that is shorter in front. A clown-like topknot of curly hair extends to the eyes, taking the place of eyebrows. Overall color is solid liver.
Eyes are medium-sized and dark, and ears are lobular; they are set low and covered with curls. The tail resembles that of a rat; it is coated at the root end with short curls. The rest of the tail has short, smooth hair.