Sussex Spaniel

The Sussex Spaniel is so named because it originally flourished in that English county. The breed can be traced back to at least the eighteenth century to Rosehill Park, near Hastings.


In 1820 Sportsmen’s Repository described the spaniels of Sussex as good working dogs.

Bred and perfected by a number of Sussex landowners, the Sussex Spaniel was ideal to work the clay soil and thick undergrowth through a long day of hunting. In these conditions its habit of “speaking” is useful in informing the guns when they have hit the right line in the cover. These dogs were deep through with well sprung ribs, longer in the back than the Cocker Spaniels of the day, but short and strong in the couplings and with wide thighs and powerful hindquarters. Their coats were thick, dense, seallike and waterproof. Although the small gene pool meant much close breeding, and there was frequently a necessary infusion of Field Spaniel blood, the breed’s golden liver coat has always been a prized hallmark of the pure Sussex.

By the end of the century the Sussex had lost popularity and if it were not for the efforts of two dedicated breeders, the Sussex Spaniel could well have been lost. Working separately, M. Woolland and C. Newington both did much to save and even to improve the breed. In the 1920s Joy Scholefield (who later became Mrs. Freer) began her work with the Sussex — for sixty years she was to shepherd and save the breed. Without her efforts the Sussex would have died out during World War II. Indeed her stock forms the basis of today’s Sussex. The breed is now gaining increased popularity on the show bench while others prove their maintained capabilities in the field.


Like all sporting dogs, the breed should be even-tempered and as much at ease with people as other dogs. Prone to give tongue, this has proved less popular with field trialers, but as more and more game preserve hunting becomes popular, the Sussex Spaniel is likely to come into its own again. The heavy build and frowning expression of the Sussex often belie its energetic and sporting character.


The Sussex Spaniel Standard has gone through several changes over the years, mostly to accommodate the dogs of the day. Consistent throughout, however, is the abundant flat coat of rich golden liver hue. The Sussex is the lowest to ground of all the spaniel family. Allied to this lowness is immense substance on a frame of good, but not exaggerated, length. It is rectangular, long and somewhat massive, but not so extreme as to hinder its active, energetic free movement. It moves with deliberation, in a typically distinctive rolling Sussex action which is, nevertheless, of good ground-covering ability. Its rib cage is long, well sprung and should show no sign of a waist when it is mature.

The Sussex Spaniel is a balanced dog with its head not carried too high just above its backline. It has a good length of neck, well frilled down to its chest. Its head has good brain room and a square muzzle with well-developed lips. It should have a scissors bite but this has been a problem in recent years, happily now much improved. Its legs are short and strong, its hindquarters not overangulated or “Settery.” Its tail set is low.

Today the Sussex is a moderate dog standing 13-15 inches/33-38 cm at the shoulder in the United States and 15-16 inches/38-40 cm in the United Kingdom; it weighs 34-46 pounds/15-20 kg in the United States and about 50 pounds/22.5 kg in the United Kingdom.


The extremely small gene pool has caused difficulties in avoiding some health problems including both heart and joint problems. The eye formation, showing some, but not excessive, haw has been the cause of some entropion in the breed. This is the painful condition of ingrowing eyelashes.

Special Care and Training

An excellent and ardent hunter with great endurance and high intelligence, the Sussex Spaniel possesses an outstanding nose and in spite of being somewhat slow and massive, is a lively worker with a good spaniel tail. Easily trained, it loves to hunt and is an accomplished bird dog. The Sussex Spaniel coat does acquire profuse feathering when mature, so regular grooming is required, but this is rewarded by the glorious sheen and sealskin texture unique to the breed. Many Sussexes still work in the field and take readily to basic gun dog training. Dogs kept as companions should be trained in elementary obedience.


The breed adapts well to family life, enjoying companionship. Like all sporting spaniels, the Sussex is always ready for vigorous exercise, so it should not be allowed to become bored or isolated.

Gallery of Sussex Spaniel