Showsight Presents the Sussex Spaniel

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...”

SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JUNE 2021 | 273

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