The Boykin Spaniel was originally bred in South Carolina before the 1920s. This amiable little dark brown retriever is both a superb hunter and loving family pet. It was bred to provide an ideal dog for hunting fowl in the swamps along the Wateree River, which demanded a sturdy, compact dog built for boat travel and capable of retrieving on land or water. Lemuel Whitaker "Whit" Boykin, a planter and sportsman from the Boykin community near Camden, tested many dogs to answer these needs. With luck and selective breeding, the multi-purpose retriever was being bred to type by the 1920s.
The precursor of the breed was reportedly a stray spaniel-type dog that befriended Spartanburg banker Alexander L. White around 1905. After the spunky dog showed an aptitude for retrieving, White sent the dog, called "Dumpy," to his friend and hunting partner Whit Boykin. In Boykin's hands this little stray developed into a superb turkey dog and waterfowl retriever. The popularity of the breed grew steadily and the Boykin's ability in the field and amiable nature brought the dog praise in all forms. In 1977 the Boykin Spaniel Society was founded, with headquarters in Camden, and counted 2,544 human members by 2000. In that same year, the official Boykin Spaniel registry, begun in 1979, listed 16,285 Boykins in forty-nine states and many foreign countries. On March 26, 1985, Governor Richard Riley signed into law an act making the Boykin Spaniel the official South Carolina state dog.