Sussex Spaniel

A Friendly, Child-Affectionate Hunting Dog With a Frequent Distinctive Howl to Signal Prey at Hand

With origins in the 18th century, the Sussex Spaniel has changed little since that time. Both calm and enthusiastic, this "sad eyed" hunting dog is actually quite cheerful and can even be described as clownish. Protective but relaxed, the Sussex Spaniel is the ideal family dog.


Named for the county in England where the breed was developed, the Sussex Spaniel gained great favor as a hunting dog. Originating from the estate of Rosehill Park, the breed was developed in the 18th century, with written mentions as early as 1803 from a magazine called Sportsmen's Cabinet.

The gentlemen of Sussex created a dog that could work well in dense undergrowth, heavy clay soil, and hedgerows that were thick and difficult to get through. The Sussex Spaniel could keep going all day. Its "bell-like" bay – the only Spaniel to bay – easily gave the alert to hunters that their prey was ahead. First exhibited at the Crystal Palace dog show in 1862, the Sussex Spaniel was among the first 10 breeds that were admitted to The American Kennel Club, in 1884.

The first breedings of the dog were limited to Sussex County, meaning that those spaniels were inbred, albeit occasionally bred with Field Spaniels to bring in new blood. Ultimately, hunters began to cultivate new breeds which resulted in abandoned interest in further development of the Sussex Spaniel. Although it came dangerously close to extinction, breeders Campbell Newington and Moses Woolland revived the breed, bringing it back and improving it. Woolland began breeding in 1882, with show and field lines, while Newington began to breed in 1887. The breed standard was written at this time.

The breed was popular for a while, but after Woolland died, Newington was alone in his breeding efforts. One J. E. Kerr became interested in the Sussex Spaniel and began to breed as well.

After World War I, the Sussex Spaniel dropped in popularity, and by the time World War II was at hand, the breed was again near extinction. Yet again, a breeder stepped in to save the day; this time, it was a breeder named Joy Freer; she alone bred these dogs for 60 years.

The first Sussex Spaniel came to the United States not long before the Great Depression, with more following later just before World War II. Although they didn't attract the public's attention at that time, three more were imported to the United States in 1969. Today, they're still rare, but are no longer near extinction. They are members of the AKC’s Sporting Group. In 2009, in a magnificent credit to this breed, it was a Sussex Spaniel who won “Best in Show” at the Westminster Kennel Club show.


It is rather endearing that the Sussex Spaniel is "sad on one end, happy on the other." That is, the Sussex Spaniel has a rather mournful expression, but is also known as the "Spaniel with a happy tail." This is a real hunting dog, with the "hound dog" sad expression – although a true Spaniel in every way. However, this is the only Spaniel that bays while hunting.

Expression aside, the Sussex Spaniel is a happy, energetic, even clown-like dog. Standing 13 to 15 inches at the shoulder and weighing 35 to 45 pounds, the Sussex Spaniel is strong, even massive, with a long, low body, short but powerful legs, and a broad, wide skull. The ears are large and hang low.

The coat is luxurious, can be slightly wavy or straight, but is not curly. This dog has feathering on the tail and legs down to the heel, with the ears also covered with soft hair. The neck is adorned with a "frill." All Sussex Spaniels have fur the color of "golden-liver,” with no other markings, shades, etc.


The Sussex Spaniel is a very calm and stable dog with the need for plenty of exercise – not necessarily a full-blown hunting expedition, although this of course is the perfect outing for a dog of this level of skill. If you don't take it hunting, make sure you take it for long jogs or walks every day.

The Sussex Spaniel has been called sweet, affectionate, and even amusing. Very affectionate with children, this dog is quite sociable and will get along well with other pets in the house, including cats. Make sure you live someplace where this dog can bark freely – because indeed, it will engage in barking. The dog has a melodious, "bell-like" bay, which you will find endearing, no doubt, but your neighbors might not. This is not a dog that will be "quiet." Although obedient and quick to learn, barking is one of the great joys of this breed, so make sure you know that you can handle that before you adopt a Sussex Spaniel.

Surprisingly, the Sussex Spaniel easily tolerates life in an apartment, as long as you deliver plenty of daily exercise. This dog cannot accept isolation, however. If you leave your dog alone a lot, it will not be happy – and will have a tendency to howl out of loneliness. It's best to give this dog as much companionship as possible.


Generally healthy, the Sussex Spaniel lives on average 12 to 15 years. Hip dysplasia, otitis externa (outer ear infection that's prevalent due to the breed's long, floppy ears) and certain heart conditions, including pulmonary valve stenosis, can also occur congenitally. Another condition called intervertebral disc syndrome, or spinal disc herniation, can also occur when the disc bulges or ruptures into the vertebral canal containing the spinal cord. If the cord is compressed, symptoms can range anywhere from mild back and neck pain to limb paralysis, sensation loss, and loss of bowel or bladder control. Mild cases can be treated by confining dogs to crates to restrict movement for several weeks, along with pain medication. Surgery can restore sensation and movement in the event of paralysis if the herniation is not particularly severe.


Brush and comb your pet's silky coat regularly, keep ears clean and dry, and trim hair between the pads on the bottoms of feet. Leave tufts growing between toes on the top of the feet. Brush your pet's teeth at least 2 to 3 times a week with a vet-approved toothpaste which maintains overall health. Doing this daily is even better if your pet will allow it. Trim nails regularly, at least once or twice a month.


Sussex Spaniel.

Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Sussex Spaniel.

Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Sussex Spaniel.

Retrieved September 27, 2015.

Sussex Spaniel.

Retrieved September 27, 2015.

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