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By Danita Slatton Sussex Spaniel Breeder and AKC Judge


he Sussex Spaniel is one of the most unique in the Sporting Dog group. Th ey are still one of the rarest of the rare breeds, with approximately 600

in number. Th is has stayed pretty much the same for the past 20 years. Th is little brown dog, as most breeders refer to them, is long, low and level. Th ey are exuberant in the field and their tail action is quite lively when on the scent of a bird. Th ey are slow and methodical, with quartering (back and forth movement) covering the entire field. Th ey are the true gentleman’s hunting dog, which simply means, they stay close to their master and within gun range. Th ere are many misconceptions regard- ing the Sussex Spaniel in the show ring, so we will discuss a few of them in this article. Anyone judging the Sussex (or other Span- iels as well) should be well versed in just what some of the terminology really means and how it relates to that particular breed. We will start with the Sussex being long, low and level. Th ey are rectangular, which I believe most judges understand; they are low, 13"-15" in height and they should car- ry a level topline. Th eir lively tail action is something you will only see while they are in the field, doing the work for which they were

bred for. Th ey should have a nice wagging tail in the show ring, but please do not expect “lively” tail action. Th at tail action comes when they are on scent of a bird and assists their master in identifying where they are by the movement of the cover. Th e Sussex is, most generally one with a happy disposition and should have a nice moving tail, but the field is where the meaning of “lively” should come into play. Th ey are slow and methodical. Th e word “slow” is relative. Relative to what, one might ask. Th ere have been many judges that demand that exhibitors “slow down”, stating this is a slow, gentleman’s hunting dog. Th ere doesn’t appear to be a good knowledge of field work, for the

Sussex is not slow while in the field or anywhere else, for that matter. Th ey are, indeed a Sporting Dog and should rep- resent the same vim, vigor and vitality in or out of the field as any of the other Sporting Dogs. Again, the word “slow” is relative to other sporting dogs, such as the English Springer, Setters, Retrievers, etc. Do they cover as much ground, as say a Golden and in the same amount of time? We would all agree that would be a “no”. Th e Sussex is indeed slower than the rest of their group, but they are not slow! Th ey cannot (nor should they) keep up with the Springers, Goldens, etc. However, those short legs cover some pretty thick, heavy cover while on scent and they don’t

“The Sussex is, most generally one with a happy disposition and should have a nice moving tail, BUT THE FIELD IS WHERE THE MEANING OF ‘LIVELY’ SHOULD COME INTO PLAY.”

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just move along like a turtle or a snail. Th ey stay close to their master, within gun range, flush their bird and anxiously await their retrieve and this is why they are called the gentleman’s hunting dog. Th e older English gentlemen did not want to walk for miles in search of a dog on point. Th ey wanted something that they could hunt with that would stay close and within shooting range. Please remember the next time you judge a Sussex; “slow” is relative to the speed of their counter- parts in the sporting group and exhibitors should not be asked to “walk” around the ring. Th ey have a good, moderate speed and it is demonstrated well with a good reach and drive which fits them for a long day in the field. In our previous Sus- sex Spaniel hunting style description, it states: “ Th e Sussex was developed to work as a methodical, determined, thorough hunter, with a moderate pace, excellent endurance and an overall toughness.” Th ey hunt at a moderate pace, a quick- stepped trot and use their nose to find the

faintest of scents, rather than their little, short legs. Th e Sussex Spaniel was bred in Eng- land and was used in fields with heavy thicket and brush. Th ey do not go over or around, they go through this cover, which is why they must have a good front and rear assembly. Th ey need a good rear to help them push through this thick cover and a good front to pull them through, in search of their prey. Th ey are only mod- erately coated, which anyone who takes a moment to think about would under- stand; a long, thick, luxurious coat in a field full of burrs and briars? Th eir coat is soft and thick enough to protect them from injury and not “overdone” so as to impose those burrs into their fur for an agonizing time on the grooming table to remove them. Th e Sussex Standard states: “A scissors bite is preferred. Any deviation from a scissors bite is a minor fault”. We have no DQ’s in the Sussex Breed Standard, but there are faults that are mentioned that we

must take into account when judging the Sussex in the ring. Too many times there have been some very nice Sussex Spaniels put to the back of the line, due to a “bite issue”, yet they are truly a magnificent representation of the breed. Th is is com- mon from judges who come from breeds where bite is a major fault. When judg- ing the Sussex, we as breeders would ask that you judge the “whole” dog, using the major and minor faults in our Standard to bring out the best of the best on that day. We try to emphasize in our Judges Educa- tion Seminars: “Form and Function” and I can attest to the fact that a Sussex with a reverse scissors bite is more than able to retrieve and bring to hand any bird, including a large pheasant. If it’s a maloc- clusion, wry/parrot mouth, etc. that is in question, then by all means put it to the back of the line. You are judging the unique Sussex Spaniel by none other than its own Stan- dard. We hope you enjoy judging this unique little brown dog.


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T he Sussex Spaniel is still a rare breed in the US, having originated in Sus- sex County, England, but its numbers have increased dramatically in this country since the 1990s. It was first registered with the AKC in 1884. Virtu- ally extinct after World War II, the breed now can trace it’s ancestry to six Sussex that survived in England. Th ere were no registered Sussex in the U.S. at that time, nor anywhere else for which we have a reg- istration record. Th ey were bred extensive- ly in the 1700s and 1800s in England as “an old gentlemen’s hunting dog” because they were not considered to be particu- larly fast and tended to stay closer to the

hunters than other breeds. Th ey were bred specifically to hunt in deep underbrush such as the hedgerows in England and they are excellent with the upland game birds such as the Pheasant. Th ey are flushers and retrievers. Hunters in the US did not like the fact they “give tongue” (bark) when they are hunting. Th ey are short legged and rectangular, with large bone and a very muscular build, standing between 13" and 15" at the withers and weighing in the range of 35 to 45 pounds. Heights over or under the above are not penalized so long as the proportions are good. Th ere are no disqualifications in the standard except the normal AKC required disquali- fications. Th ey are generally friendly and outgoing, but tend to be slightly reserved

with strangers. In being judged, they pre- fer gentleness over heavy handedness. Th is breed should be shown on a ramp or on the ground, never on a table. When judging the Sussex, it is impor- tant to stand back about fifteen feet from your entries and look for the overall cor- rect balance and proportion. We have a neumonic device in judging the Sussex called the “Six L’s”. Th ese are LONG, LOW, LEVEL, LARGE BONE, LIVER COLOR, LIVELY TAIL. Th ey must be obviously longer than tall (rectangular), with a level topline from withers to tail. Sussex are heavy boned, but it mustfit the overall size and build of the dog. Th e liver color is a slightly redish medium brown. Blond or golden highlights may or may not


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be present depending on age of the dog. Th ese highlights are usually found on the ears and feathering of the legs. Th e lively tail means a wagging tail, especially when moving. Th e tail is normally docked in the U.S. and is never carried above the level of the back. Since our American standard calls for a docked tail, I personally will treat a natural tail as a minor fault. In examining the Sussex, approach from the front quarter. Examine the head for correctness as outlined by the stan- dard, eyes, ear set, broadness of skull to length and muzzle and bite. Concerning bite, scissors is preferred but anything else, overshot, undershot, even, is accept- able and a MINOR fault. Bite is the abso- lutely LAST thing you should consider in making a choice of placement. A scissors bite is preferred but most of the Sussex you see will be even or undershot. Once in a while you will see overshot, but very seldom in my experience. Some of us in breeding Sussex believe that they were actually bred for undershot, as they tend to scoop up the bird rather than going over it to pick it up. Undershot would be an advantage in this instance. Next, you will feel for depth of chest, shoulder angulation and the forelegs for heaviness of bone. Th e forelegs can be straight or slightly bowed with legs set well under the dog. Th e pasterns are short and heavily boned and the feet large and round with short hair between the toes. Th e topline should be straight and the hindquarters are full and well round- ed. Th e hind legs should be short from hock to ground and heavily boned, par- allel to each other and set wide apart to

approximately the same width as the front. Hocks should not turn in or out and the rear feet are like the front. Th e coat should abundant, flat or slightly waved, not curly. No trimming is acceptable except for the for the feet to shape the foot feather and remove hair between the pads of the feet. Feather on the feet must cover the toenails. In checking for gait, you must check both side gait and down and back. Th e gait can be slightly rolling but not clumsy. Th ey should move in a straight line and are best shown on a loose lead. Please have some tolerance for lack of a loose lead, especially for puppies. Also, watch for pacing, as this is a very comfortable gait for most Sussex, but not correct movement. Basically, in judging the Sussex, the most important features of the breed are color and general appearance, meaning balance or proportion. Secondary features are head, ears, topline, back ribs, legs and feet. Th e lesser important features are eyes, nose, neck, chest, shoulders, tail and coat. Faults are also in three catagories. Major faults are incorrect color, white on any part of the body except a small patch on the chest and a curled coat. Serious faults are narrow head, weak muzzle, pres- ence of a top knot and a general appear- ance that is sour and crouching. Minor faults are light eyes, white on chest, light- ness of bone, shortness of body (remem- ber rectangular) a body that is flat sided and a bite other than scissors (Remember Minor and not to be considered unless you have two specimens that are equal in every other way, then the bite can be the tie breaker).

Sussex are generally fun loving, gre- garious and have a friendly disposition. Although the numbers are increasing, please understand that all Sussex are important and deserve a good look. Th e breed numbers about 700 to 800 today in the U.S. with about 10% of those being shown in confirmation events. Sussex have joined the ranks of Best in Show, Group winners and group placements. Many Sussex are now shown and excel- ling in Obedience, Rally, Agility and other events. Th ey excel in Hunt Tri- als with a number of Master Hunters now on record and in tracking. Please do not ignore the breed because of lack of numbers. Today, the Sussex is found in virtually every dog sport and excel- ling in them. Th ey may have been bred to be the “old gentlemen’s hunting dog” but in reality, they can be amazingly fast and they love being active. Th ey are not a breed for the faint of heart. BIO t 0DDVQBUJPO4BMFT&OHJOFFSGPSBNBKPS NBOVGBDUVSFST SFQSFTFOUBUJWF BHFODZ 3FUJSFE t ",$+VEHF‰GPVSCSFFET $PMMJFT 4VT - TFY 4QBOJFMT  "VTUSBMJBO 4IFQIFSET  4IFUMBOE4IFFQEPHT t 4UBSUFE TIPXJOH JO $POmSNBUJPO JO XJUI$PMMJFT t 3FDFJWFE PVS mSTU 4VTTFY 4QBOJFM JO  TIFCFDBNF$I4VOEPXOFSTǰF 4PVOEPG.VTJD t 0QFSBUFEVOEFS UIF)JMBOEOBNFXJUI -ZOO%1FUFSTPOBOEQSPEVDFEOVNFS - PVTDIBNQJPOTJODMVEJOH#*4 #*44$I )JMBOET)BQQZ)JHIXBZNBO 3JEFS 


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