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Sussex Spaniel

This English sporting gun dog was among the top ten dogs to be recognized by the newly formed AKC. Why is it now very close to extinction?…As early as 1820, the “Spaniels of Sussex,” an English popular kennel and county, were mentioned in sporting material as very good working dogs. They soon became fairly well known in England and were brought to America later that century. The Sussex Spaniel is not a particularly attractive dog; he’s known better for his hunting abilities in the field.

In the 20th century the Sussex Spaniels were so few in number that inbreeding became a serious problem. The Sussex was bred with the Clumber Spaniel; these genes can be seen today with the Sussex’s long back, short legs, heavy head and wavy red coat. Although the breed is still viable, it remains rare among AKC registrations because of its genetic limitations.

In temperament, the Sussex is the most mellow of the spaniels. He has limited exercise needs and does will in apartment and city life as long as he has sufficient long walks or a yard to play in.  He’s known to be calm, docile, yet cheerful. Although he can appear as being aloof and somber, he’s actually quite affectionate as indicated by his constantly wagging tail and soulful gaze. He gets along well with children and other pets. His sharp bark when strangers approach makes him a good watchdog, and he is moderately protective of his family.

The Sussex is still lauded for his hunting skills; his low, compact, sturdy build allows him to flush fowl by effortlessly ploughing through rough terrain with tall grasses and brushes, protected by his wiry overcoat. When tracking, the Sussex is known for “giving voice” in barks and howls to let the hunter know that he’s onto something good! His thick coat makes him ideal for hunting in cold weather; he does not do well in hot environments.

Because of his long back, the Sussex Spaniel’s primary health concern is degenerative disk disease and hip dysplasia. Less than careful breeding has caused the Sussex to have droopy lower eye lids that can become infected.

If you decide that a Sussex Spaniel fits your needs and lifestyle, you won’t be disappointed in this dog’s hunting skills or companionability. Many American and British breeders are determined to once again gain his well-deserved status among gun dogs and companions.

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