You can be forgiven if you have not heard of the Sussex spaniel for they are one of the rarest breeds of dog.
According to the Kennel Club, there were only 34 Sussex spaniels registered in the UK in 2018, making them even rarer than the giant panda. The breed has come close to extinction and is placed at the top of the Kennel Club’s vulnerable breed list.
What is a Sussex spaniel?
The Sussex spaniel is a low to ground, golden-liver coated breed of land spaniel that was first bred in Hastings in the 1800s.
They were popular hunting dogs due to their ability to work in dense cover and give tongue (bark) whilst working, which helped their handlers keep track of them.
Why are they so rare?
The Sussex spaniel‘s breeding was discouraged during the Second World War and after the conflict there were believed to be just seven Sussex Spaniels left.
The breed was saved from extinction when English breeder Joy Freer devoted her life to increasing the number but figures have since fallen and the breed is again considered to be vulnerable.
As a working dog, although a competent and capable hunter, the Sussex falls behind the more common Cocker and English Springer spaniel breeds which have both benefitted from greater popularity and extensive cross-breeding.
Although there are dedicated ‘minor spaniel breed’ societies that seek to re-energize breeds such as the Sussex and Clumber spaniels, as working dogs, the breeds are faced with heavyweight competition in the forms of the Cocker ( a breed which itself experienced a crisis ) and the Springer.
Hopefully this band of dedicated enthusiasts will be able to generate sufficient interest in the Sussex as a working dog that will encourage an increase in interest and numbers.
How can their numbers be increased?
The Sussex Spaniel Association is hoping to raise the profile of the breed by asking the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to adopt a pair of Sussex spaniel puppies.
Plans are also in place to increase public awareness of the breed and encourage more people to consider them as pets.
It is hoped that with some royal backing, the Sussex spaniel will make a comeback and become a popular breed once again.
Sussex spaniels are most popular in the United States
The United States has the highest population of Sussex spaniels with over 700 registered with the American Kennel Club.
This is higher than any other country although the breed is still considered rare and at risk of extinction.
The Sussex spaniel is also popular in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In the UK, the breed is struggling to make a comeback with only 34 registered in 2018.
Are Sussex spaniels good pets?
Sussex spaniels are gentle, loving dogs that make great family pets.
They can be quite reserved around strangers but are very affectionate with those they know and love. They are an active breed that needs regular exercise and playing time.
What health problems do Sussex spaniels have?
Due to their long, low bodies and short legs, Sussex spaniels are prone to back problems so it is important to choose a reputable breeder who has health tested their dogs.
They can also suffer from allergies and skin problems.
The Sussex spaniel is a beautiful, gentle breed of dog that is unfortunately very rare.
They make great family pets but their numbers are dwindling.
With some effort, it is hoped that the breed can be saved from extinction.
If you are considering a Sussex spaniel then please do your research and only buy from a reputable breeder.
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