Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard for the Sussex Spaniel General Appearance: The Sussex Spaniel was among the first ten breeds to be recognized and admitted to the Stud Book when the American Kennel Club was formed in 1884, but it has existed as a distinct breed for much longer. As its name implies, it derives its origin from the county of Sussex, England, and it was used there since the eighteenth century as a field dog. During the late 1800's the reputation of the Sussex Spaniel as an excellent hunting companion was well known among the estates surrounding Sussex County. Its short legs, massive build, long body, and habit of giving tongue when on scent made the breed ideally suited to penetrating the dense undergrowth and flushing game within range of the gun. Strength, maneuverability, and desire were essential for this purpose. Although it has never gained great popularity in numbers, the Sussex Spaniel continues today essentially unchanged in character and general appearance from those 19th century sporting dogs. The Sussex Spaniel presents a long and low, rectangular and rather massive appearance coupled with free movements and nice tail action. The breed has a somber and serious expression. The rich golden liver color is unique to the breed. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size -The height of the Sussex Spaniel as measured at the withers ranges from 13 to 15 inches. Any deviation from these measurements is a minor fault. The weight of the Sussex Spaniel ranges between 35 and 45 pounds. Proportion - The Sussex Spaniel presents a rectangular outline as the breed is longer in body than it is tall. Substance -The Sussex Spaniel is muscular and rather massive. Head: Correct head and expression are important features of the breed. Eyes -The eyes are hazel in color, fairly large, soft and languishing, but do not show the haw overmuch. Expression -The Sussex Spaniel has a somber and serious appearance, and its fairly heavy brows produce a frowning expression. Ears -The ears are thick, fairly large, and lobe-shaped and are set moderately low, slightly above the outside corner of the eye. Skull and Muzzle -The skull is moderately long and also wide with an indentation in the middle and with a full stop. The brows are fairly heavy, the occiput is full but not pointed, the whole giving an appearance of heaviness without dullness. The muzzle should be approximately three inches long, broad, and square in profile. The skull as measured from the stop to the occiput is longer than the muzzle. The nostrils are well-developed and liver colored. The lips are somewhat pendulous. Bite - A scissors bite is preferred. Any deviation from a scissors bite is a minor fault. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck -The neck is rather short, strong, and slightly arched, but does not carry the head much above the level of the back. There should not be much throatiness about the skin. Topline and Body - The whole body is characterized as low and long with a level topline. The chest is round, especially behind the shoulders, and is deep and wide which gives a good girth. The back and loin are long and very muscular both in width and depth. For this development, the back ribs must be deep. Tail - The tail is docked from 5 to 7 inches and set low. When gaiting the Sussex Spaniel exhibits nice tail action, but does not carry the tail above the level of the back. Forequarters: The shoulders are well laid back and muscular. The upper arm should correspond in length and angle of return to the shoulder blade so that the legs are set well under the dog. The forelegs should be very short, strong, and heavily boned. They may show a slight bow. Both straight and slightly bowed constructions are proper and correct. The pasterns are very short and heavily boned. The feet are large and round with short hair between the toes.
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Hindquarters: The hindquarters are full and well-rounded, strong, and heavily boned. They should be parallel with each other and also set wide apart-about as wide as the dog at the shoulders. The hind legs are short from the hock to the ground, heavily boned, and should seem neither shorter than the forelegs nor much bent at the hocks. The hindquarters must correspond in angulation to the forequarters. The hocks should turn neither in nor out. The rear feet are like the front feet. Coat: The body coat is abundant, flat or slightly waved, with no tendency to curl. The legs are moderately well-feathered, but clean below the hocks. The ears are furnished with soft, wavy hair. The neck has a well-marked frill in the coat. The tail is thickly covered with moderately long feather. No trimming is acceptable except to shape foot feather, or to remove feather between the pads or between the hock and the feet. The feather between the toes must be left in sufficient length to cover the nails. Color: Rich golden liver is the only acceptable color and is a certain sign of the purity of the breed. Dark liver or puce is a major fault. White on the chest is a minor fault. White on any other part of the body is a major fault. Gait: The round, deep and wide chest of the Sussex Spaniel coupled with its short legs and long body produce a rolling gait. While its movement is deliberate, the Sussex Spaniel is in no sense clumsy. Gait is powerful and true with perfect coordination between the front and hind legs. The front legs do not paddle, wave, or overlap. The head is held low when gaiting. The breed should be shown on a loose lead so that its natural gait is evident. Temperament: Despite its somber and serious expression, the breed is friendly and has a cheerful and tractable disposition. Faults: The standard ranks features of the breed into three categories. The most important features of the breed are color and general appearance. The features of secondary importance are the head, ears, back and back ribs, legs, and feet. The features of lesser importance are the eyes, nose, neck, chest and shoulders, tail, and coat. Faults also fall into three categories. Major faults are color that is too light or too dark, white on any part of the body other than the chest, and a curled coat. Serious faults are a narrow head, weak muzzle, the presence of a topknot, and a general appearance that is sour and crouching. Minor faults are light eyes, white on chest, the deviation from proper height ranges, lightness of bone, shortness of body or a body that is flat- sided, and a bite other than scissors. There are no disqualifications in the Sussex Spaniel standard.
Approved April 7, 1992 Effective May 27, 1992
The Fault Section of the SUSSEX SPANIEL STANDARD
BY JOHN ROBERT LEWIS, JR.
A common question that judges ask concerns the origin of the “Faults” section of the standard. Prior to May 27, 1992, the AKC Standard for the Sussex Spaniel was a ver- batim copy of the British standard that was in effect in the United Kingdom circa 1890. This standard contains a list of positive points and negative points as shown here. During the early 1990s, the Sussex Span- iel Club of America (SSCA) decided to peti- tion the AKC for member status. Around the same time, the AKC embarked on a plan to convert all breed standards to a specific format. One of the conditions that the AKC imposed on parent clubs seeking member status was that the club had to change the standard to fit the AKC’s template. Because of this, the SSCA was forced to embark on a rewrite of the standard. Those on the com- mittee overseeing the project felt it impera- tive to keep as much of the wording of the previous standard intact so as not to change the appearance of the breed or introduce personal bias. Unfortunately, the AKC tem- plate did not allow for a Scale of Points. As of 1951, many of the breed standards had point scales. Sussex Spaniels were one of only two Sporting breeds that had dual point scales—one for positive points and one for negative points. (The other breed was the English Springer Spaniel.) These scales of points were a quick way for judges to mathematically rank exhibits accord- ing to which faults were more severe than others, and in the case of the Sussex, which features of the breed were more important than others.
POSITIVE POINTS Head......................................................................10 Eyes..........................................................................5 Nose.........................................................................5 Ears........................................................................10 Neck. .......................................................................5 Chest and shoulders.................................................5 Back and back ribs.................................................10 Legs and Feet.........................................................10 Tail. .........................................................................5 Coat.........................................................................5 Color...................................................................... 15 General appearance................................................15
Total ................................................................... 100
Light eyes.................................................................5 Narrow head..........................................................10 Weak muzzle..........................................................10 Curled ears or set on high........................................5 Curled coat............................................................15 Carriage of stern......................................................5 Topknot.................................................................10 White on chest.........................................................5 Color, too light or too dark....................................15 Legginess or light of bone........................................5 Shortness of body or flat sided.................................5 General appearance, sour or crouching..................15
Total ................................................................... 100
THE FAULT SECTION OF THE SUSSEX SPANIEL STANDARD
While a judge must take into consideration deviations from the standard’s language, the judge must also give greater weight to the enumerated faults. In other words, these faults warrant special attention.
A legitimate question arises as to why positive emphasis is placed on certain features, and negative emphasis on faults that may involve the same features mentioned in the positive. The answer lies in a careful reading of the existing “Faults” section (and the old scale of points). Notice that the ranking of positive features alludes to the different headings of the standard, while the list of faults are specific faults , not just deviations from the descrip- tions noted in the headings. While a judge must take into consider- ation deviations from the standard’s language, the judge must also give greater weight to the enumerated faults. In other words, these faults warrant special attention. The following example illustrates how a judge should use the ranking of positive features: Assume two exhibits appear in the Open Dog class. Both are equal in quality except that exhibit A’s topline is level and his back ribs are deep, but he is rather straight in the shoulders. Exhibit B’s topline is not level and his back ribs are not deep, but his shoulders have the proper moderate layback. Neither has any of the specific faults listed in the “Faults” section. Since the breed standard lists back and back ribs as a feature of sec- ondary importance, and chest and shoulders of lesser importance, the judge should place Exhibit A first. A judge would apply the specific faults under the “Faults” sec- tion in a similar manner. Again, assume two exhibits in the Open Dog class. Exhibit A and B are similar in appearance and are evenly matched in structure. Exhibit A has light eyes and is undershot. Exhibit B has proper eye color and a scissors bite, but the dog is very dark liver in color. In this situation, the judge should again place Exhibit A first as his two faults are considered “minor,” whereas Exhibit B’s color fault is considered “major.”
When applying statutory construction to legislation, lawyers must give every word meaning. Those on the Sussex Spaniel Stan- dard Revision Committee applied the same principle to the for- mer standard. The scales of points added additional language not found in the main body of the standard. The committee wanted to preserve the language of the point scales and keep the ranking of virtues and faults intact. To accomplish this, the Committee translated the positive points as follows: Those features assigned 15 points were labeled “most important features,” those assigned 10 points were labeled “of secondary importance,” and those assigned 5 points were labeled as “features of lesser importance.” Similarly, the committee translated the scale of negative points as follows: Those faults assigned 15 negative points became “severe faults” in the new standard, those assigned 10 negative points became “major faults,” and those assigned 5 points became “minor faults.” The ”Faults” section of the current standard reads: “Faults: The standard ranks features of the breed into three categories. The most important features of the breed are color and general appearance. The features of secondary importance are the head, ears, back and back ribs, legs, and feet. The features of lesser importance are the eyes, nose, neck, chest and shoulders, tail, and coat. Faults also fall into three categories. Major faults are color that is too light or too dark, white on any part of the body other than the chest, and a curled coat. Seri- ous faults are a narrow head, weak muzzle, the presence of a topknot, and a general appearance that is sour and crouching. Minor faults are light eyes, white on chest, the deviation from proper height ranges, lightness of bone, shortness of body or a body that is flat-sided, and a bite other than scissors. There are no disqualifications in the Sussex Spaniel standard.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Robert Lewis, Jr., otherwise known as Bobby, established his “Lexxfield” line of Sussex Spaniels in 1972 with the English import Ch. Oldholbans Fionnlagh. He is one of two living founding members of the Sussex Spaniel Club of America, and has held most offices within that organization. He is currently the club’s delegate to the AKC. Bobby is also a life member of both the American Spaniel Club and the Sussex Spaniel Club of America. Through his forty-nine years in the breed, he has been an active breeder and conformation exhibitor. The Lexxfield breeding program is now in its 16th generation.
JUDGING THE SUSSEX SPANIEL By Sam Folsom
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
“When judging the Sussex, IT IS IMPORTANT TO STAND BACK ABOUT FIFTEEN FEET FROM YOUR ENTRIES AND LOOK FOR THE OVERALL CORRECT BALANCE AND PROPORTION.”
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“...GAIT CAN BE SLIGHTLY ROLLING BUT NOT CLUMSY.”
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 ",$+VEHFGPVSCSFFET $PMMJFT 4VT - TFY 4QBOJFMT "VTUSBMJBO 4IFQIFSET 4IFUMBOE4IFFQEPHT t 4UBSUFE TIPXJOH JO $POmSNBUJPO JO XJUI$PMMJFT t 3FDFJWFE PVS mSTU 4VTTFY 4QBOJFM JO TIFCFDBNF$I4VOEPXOFSTǰF 4PVOEPG.VTJD t 0QFSBUFEVOEFSUIF)JMBOEOBNFXJUI -ZOO%1FUFSTPOBOEQSPEVDFEOVNFS - PVTDIBNQJPOTJODMVEJOH#*4 #*44$I )JMBOET)BQQZ)JHIXBZNBO 3JEFS
“...THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE BREED ARE COLOR AND GENERAL APPEARANCE, meaning balance or proportion.”
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THE SUSSEX SPANIEL The Golden Liver Color of the BY JOHN ROBERT LEWIS, JR.
P erhaps the most difficult concept for judges to grasp in the Sussex Spaniel standard is color. The Sussex Spaniel standard makes reference to color in three separate sections. Under the General Appearance section, the standard states, “The rich golden liver color is unique to the breed.” In theory, this is an incor- rect statement as the Field Spaniel standard also lists golden liver as an acceptable color. In reality, however, the golden liver color is unique to the Sussex Spaniel. During the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, pedigree research will show that the Field Spaniel was heav- ily influenced by crosses to the Sussex. Both breeds shared a common outline, but differed substantially in head properties and color. In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, it was quite possible to see a Field Spaniel that was golden liver in color. World War I changed that. During the war years and immediately afterwards, certain breeders of the Fields who were avid sportsmen set out on a mission to totally change the breed. This was accomplished through well-documented (and undocumented) crosses, primarily with the English Springer Spaniel. What resulted was a dog that would have been unrecognizable as a Field Spaniel in the show ring a mere twenty-five years earlier. Not only was the outline of the Field completely changed, but also the golden liver color vanished from that breed. Perhaps the genes responsible for the color remained hidden for a while afterwards, but almost certainly the proper golden liver color has not been seen in the Field Spaniel for more than a century. That the Sussex standard says the color is unique should be a strong statement to the judge that a liver color similar to other Sporting breeds is incorrect. Under the “Color” section, the standard reads: “Rich golden liver is the only acceptable color and is a certain sign of the purity of the breed. Dark liver or puce is a major fault. White on the chest is a minor fault. White on any other part of the body is a major fault.” This section states that the Sussex comes in only one color—golden liver—but does not actually describe the color. Judges will rarely find a Sussex of the perfect color in their show rings. Unfortunately, when the perfect color does show up, the judge will often penalize the dog for the color because it stands out from the other entries. Although the standard doesn’t describe the golden liver color, a major clue is found in this sentence: “Dark liver or puce is a major fault.” The converse of the statement indicates the cor- rect color. In other words, golden liver is a light liver color.
“Under the ‘Color’ section, the standard reads: “Rich golden liver is the only acceptable color and is a certain sign of the purity of the breed...”
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THE GOLDEN LIVER COLOR OF THE SUSSEX SPANIEL
Proper color in the Sussex Spaniel is caused not only by genetic factors, but also by exposure to the sun. The amount of sun exposure has a corresponding effect on the golden liver color. The more time a Sussex spends outdoors, the lighter the liver color becomes.
other than the chest …” Minor faults include “… white on chest …” In evaluating Sussex, judges must rank color and general appear- ance above all other features. In other words, perfect color and appearance trump all other features in terms of importance and must be given extra consideration. Judges often find a variation in color in the Sussex ring. Outside of perfection, there is a range of color that is acceptable. One exhibit may have good color, another excellent. At some point, the color becomes too dark or too light. When this occurs, the deviation becomes a “major fault.” A Sussex that is very dark or puce, i.e., the color of an Irish Water Spaniel, will earn the severest penalty, and should be placed below a dog possessing other less severe faults. The judge should not penalize as a “major fault” a dog with golden liver head, ears, and feather, but somewhat darker on the body. The judge, however, does take the deviation into consideration when deciding which dog has the best color. As noted under the “Faults” section, color that is too light is severely penalized. A judge very rarely encounters this situation. A Sussex that spends a great deal of time outdoors and whose coat contains a lot of dead hair from the lack of proper maintenance will have a bleached-out appearance, with a color that is nearly white. This type of coloration is at the other end of the spectrum from puce and garners an equally severe penalty. Although the standard does not mention it, the presence of tan points does occur in Sussex Spaniels. There are several tan-pointed Field Spaniels from the late 1800s that appear in the pedigrees of all Sussex Spaniels. Whether the tan points originate from the old Field Spaniel crosses, or from a more recent surreptitious cross with another Sporting breed, we may never know. Although the golden liver and tan coloration is quite beautiful, the standard states that “golden liver is the only acceptable color.” Tan points, however, are NOT a disqualification.
Golden liver is unique to the breed not only to the actual color, but in another important way. Proper color in the Sussex Spaniel is caused not only by genetic factors, but also by exposure to the sun. The amount of sun exposure has a corresponding effect on the gold- en liver color. The more time a Sussex spends outdoors, the lighter the liver color becomes. This is why judges will often see variations in color within the Sussex ring. Sussex puppies are illustrative of this principle. A judge will not discover a six-to-nine-month-old Sussex of excellent color, as the puppy has not had sufficient time outdoors to develop the perfect hue. That the color of the Sussex should be light liver is not what is distinctive about the tint. (Owners of other liver-colored Sporting dogs will also notice a fading or bronzing in coloration with increased sun exposure in their breeds.) The special feature of golden liver is that it actually has a metallic sheen to it. Joy Freer, the former doyen of the breed, once said that the perfect color of a Sussex is akin to the color of an old sovereign coin. For those unfamiliar with a sovereign, it is made of gold. Most Sussex with limited sun exposure will exhibit the metallic golden luster on their muzzle, head, ears, and feather, provided that they have the proper genes. With more exposure to sunlight, the golden luster intensifies over the body, and the liver lightens. Some Sussex that spend most of the time outdoors will arrive at the perfect golden liver, with the metallic sheen covering the body. Even with perfect body color, the metallic gold sheen is generally more intense on the muzzle, head, ears, and feather. “Faults” is the last section of standard that mentions color. The relevant portion of this section states: “The most important features of the breed are color and general appearance.” “…Major faults are color that is too light or too dark, white on any part of the body
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Robert Lewis, Jr., otherwise known as Bobby, established his “Lexxfield” line of Sussex Spaniels in 1972 with the English import Ch. Oldholbans Fionnlagh. He is one of two living founding members of the Sussex Spaniel Club of America, and has held most all offices within that organization. He is currently the club’s delegate to the AKC. Bobby is also a life member of both the American Spaniel Club and the Sussex Spaniel Club of America. Through his forty-nine years in the breed, he has been an active breeder and conformation exhibitor. The Lexxfield breeding program is now in its 16th generation.
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SUSSEX SPANIEL EXPRESSION
T he AKC Breed Standard states: “The Sussex Spaniel has a som- ber and serious appearance, and its fairly heavy brows produce a frowning expression.” The “somber and serious” part is misleading. People often say, “Oh, he looks so sad,” when a Sussex is just standing there thinking about what sort of mischief he can get into next. The reason they were and are bred [to look] this way is because they were bred to be a hunting dog; a hunting dog that can go through heavy underbrush after birds and other game without getting his eyes scratched—hence the frowning brow—and the “sad” look of the large, hazel eyes with some haw showing underneath is to allow for any weed seeds that get into the eye to be easily wiped out, rather than staying in the eye and irritating it as would happen with a tight eye. BY MARCIA DEUGAN
That soft, languishing look is not only beautiful, it is functional in the field while hunting. And it also makes his people want to hug him and give him whatever his little heart desires at home!
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THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN BREEDING AND SHOWING SUSSEX SPANIELS T his most important thing is adherence to the AKC Standard for the breed. We are so very proud that we have never changed our Stan- dard. (The only thing we have ever done is, BY MARCIA DEUGAN
back when AKC demanded that all standards remove the point system to conform to each other, we (myself, Bobby Lewis, and Craig Heugal) revised the point schedule to include the current “Faults” section.) It is so important to breed to the Standard and not to change the Standard to match whatever is being bred. It is a great tribute to breeders that Sussex Spaniels in the 1800s could compete with the Sussex of today—and no one could tell the difference. May this continue, forever.
In this old photograph of CH. Rosehill Ruler II, the golden highlights are evident.
A Sussex puppy is darker in color because of the lack of sufficient sun exposure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Marcia Deugan and her late husband, George, started in Sussex Spaniels in 1970, after waiting two years for a puppy, and imported their first from George and Mavis Lancaster in England. Ch. Oakmoss Witch CD was soon joined by Ch. Sedora Galega and Ch. Sedora Galingale, both from Eileen Adams and Ted Orton. Marcia’s kennel name is ZIYADAH, which appears in almost every Sussex pedigree in the US, if you trace them back far enough. Ch. Ziyadah’s Gerald O'Hara from the Deugan’s first litter was the first Sussex Spaniel bred in America to finish a championship after WWII. In 1981, they started the Sussex Spaniel Club of America with Bill and Margaret Reid, Diana Yarchin, and Bobby Lewis. This year is the club’s 40th Anniversary. Marcia has been in Sussex now for 51 years, is the current President of the SSCA, Judges Education Chair, and AKC Gazette Columnist. She is a Sussex Spaniel Preservation Breeder, and has been long before the term came into being.
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THE SUSSEX SPANIEL
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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“THEY 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.”
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.
“Their 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.”
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