Developed in Sussex in the 1800s, the breed was widely favoured as a hunting dog, suited to working the difficult terrain. Thought to have hailed from the estate of Rosehill Park, the Sussex Spaniel established a reputation as a gentleman's dog, appearing in the popular 'Sportsmen's Cabinet' magazine in 1803. The breed was selectively bred to endure long periods, hunting over heavy clay soil and through dense undergrowth, barking to alert the hunter to its course. The Sussex Spaniel falls within the Kennel Club's 'gundog' breed group, sharing its classification with the Retrievers, Pointers and Setters. Considered a rare breed today, the Sussex Spaniel has faced extinction on several occasions, including during WWI when it was fortunately resurrected by the careful efforts of enthusiast and breeder Joy Scholefield.
A breed of heavy build, low to the ground with short legs and tail, and large pendant ears hanging below the face. The Sussex Spaniel boasts a deep, square-cut muzzle, with large eyes, a liver-coloured nose and a level topline. The coat is typically wavy or flat, and is coloured golden or liver. Despite being primarily bred to hunt, the modern Sussex Spaniel is commonly observed in tracking, retrieving and as a watch dog, barking to alert its master of change or threat. The Sussex Spaniel is the only Spaniel to bay on the hunt. Officially recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1884.
Despite its relative rarity, the breed makes an exemplary companion pet. Inherently gentle, docile and affectionate, the Sussex Spaniel is well suited to relaxed domestic living. As with most Spaniels, the Sussex possesses a pleasing temperament, is compatible with children and is vigilant around the homestead. Early socialisation is essential from puppyhood in order to avoid meek, fearful or passive behaviours in your dog. On average, a healthy Sussex Spaniel will weigh 18-20 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of roughly 10-15 years.
Typically healthy, the Sussex Spaniel is prone to few breed-specific or genetic complaints. Those it is susceptible to include hip dysplasia and associated orthopedic problems, eye disorders such as retinal dysplasia and entropion, heart murmurs, and ear infections and deafness. The Sussex Spaniel is also prone to easy weight gain so feeding human foods is not encouraged for this reason.