This blog is the first of the series where we speak to a club about their vulnerable breed. Using the Kennel Club's Native Vulnerable Breed list, we reached out to different clubs about their breed. We asked how they are used for working and how the breed has unfortunately ended up on the list, alongside their characteristics. This time, we are looking at the Sussex Spaniel. We spoke to the Sussex Spaniel Association who have very kindly produced this blog and given us the images used throughout.
The Sussex Spaniel
The Sussex Spaniel is named after the place of its origin. They have proven to be a very capable and reliable companion out in the field. This has been since its establishment as a working gundog, sometime in the middle of the 18th century.
The Sussex Spaniel was developed specifically to hunt gamebirds close to the gun in short, dense cover. This led to them being shorter and longer than other spaniels with a rectangular profile and a strong muscular physique. This makes them ideal for not only dense cover but heavy ground. They are a heavy set breed, weighing in between 20-25kgs. They should stand at between 15 -16 inches tall. The colour is unique, liver with golden tips. They have a slower, but steady pace and can go all day on the beating line using their exceptional nose. They tend to prefer to go under or through rather than over obstacles.
The KC Breed Standard states under Characteristics: “Natural working ability, gives tongue at work in thick cover”- this is unique. The origins of the dog giving tongue are unclear. However, it was most likely that it was encouraged because of the aid it gave to those out shooting. In dense cover, if the dog is making a sound it is easier for the guns to mark where it is, this alerts the gun to a potential flush and from where it will come, giving the shooter every chance of success. We have personally found when attending small shoots that the guns have appreciated the dog making a noise before a bird is flushed. However, on the larger shoots it is not so much required.
A dedicated group of Sussex owners regularly attend shoots to beat with their Sussex and others rough shoot over their dogs throughout the shooting season. They have a great nose and very rarely miss a bird. Between drives they are calm and happy to sit quietly and can often be seen having a quick nap – a great difference compared to other spaniels! It gives great pride at the end of the day when the guns become interested in the breed as they have seen them work well.
The Sussex is a natural hunter. Furthermore, with good and sympathetic training, they can learn to retrieve game. Like all training it needs to be done at an early age and above all made to be fun. Sussex can have a stubborn streak; if they decide enough is enough you have to be prepared to listen and come back at another time.
About the Sussex Spaniel Association
The Sussex Spaniel Association is committed to maintaining the breed as a working gundog and continues to organize a variety of working and training events throughout the year. This includes an annual Minor Breeds Field Trial one of only two breed clubs that have maintained this commitment.
The Sussex Spaniel Association take pride in the fact that the Sussex remains a true dual purpose dog and is quite happy in the show ring on one day and equally happy the following day hunting in the field. Currently there are two full Champions in the breed following their success at Minor Breed Field Trials.