Showsight Presents the Sussex Spaniel

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.

274 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, JUNE 2021

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