From its glossy golden-brown coat to its adorable tendency to babble to its owner – we take a closer look at the characteristics that make this rare, Sussex-born breed so special

It’s a rare breed that’s a treasure to own

The Sussex Spaniel, with its distinctive golden liver-coloured coat, is the rarest of the land spaniels. It was developed by a Mr A E Fuller from Rosehill Park, Brightling in East Sussex, which explains how the name came about.

‘When Mr Fuller died in 1847, the Sussex Spaniel became scarce and, despite a later revival in 1870, the breed numbers have consistently remained low,’ says Ciara Farrell, Library and Collections Manager at The Kennel Club. ‘It is frequently listed on The Kennel Club’s Vulnerable British and Irish Breeds list, which highlights breeds with fewer than 300 puppy registrations per year'. In 2020, 44 Sussex Spaniels were registered, compared to 52 in 2019.

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They love to get out and about and will keep you on your toes

Sussex Spaniels need more than two hours’ exercise per day, and it’s easy to understand why. As gundogs, they were originally trained to find live game or retrieve those birds that had been shot and wounded. The Sussex Spaniel, however, emerged as a particularly gritty and determined pup.

‘The Sussex Spaniel was bred to be a slower, tougher breed of spaniel, that was low to the ground and powerfully built with a thick protective skin to move through even the densest thickets,’ says Ciara.

It will keep you entertained with its chatting

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You’ll never be lonely with a Sussex Spaniel around, due to its chatty nature.

‘Another distinctive feature of the breed is its informative voice which, unlike other spaniels, is used to help keep in touch with its owner or handler while in thick undergrowth, and has been described as a “noisy, babbling sort”,’ says Ciara.

Great British Life: The Sussex Spaniel is a rare breedThe Sussex Spaniel is a rare breed (Image: Lisa Croft-Elliott / The Kennel Club)

It’s a happy, laidback dog that devotes itself to its family

‘The Sussex Spaniel, with is fascinating heritage and characteristic coat, is an exceptionally friendly and laidback breed,’ says Ciara. ‘It is such a shame that they are currently classed as a vulnerable breed, as they are lovely pets who are completely devoted to their family.’

While Sussex Spaniels are built for the countryside, they are suitable for small homes - as long as you have a large garden for it to run around in.

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They make great show dogs

If you are eager to pour your energy into a pampered pet, you’ll be pleased to know that Sussex Spaniels have the potential to make great show dogs. A Sussex Spaniel called Wilbur won the grand final of the Kennel Club Vulnerable British and Irish Breeds competition at Crufts in March 2020. Even if you don’t make it to Crufts, bear in mind that Sussex Spaniels have a medium coat that does shed, so you’ll need to groom your pup around once a week.

What to consider before buying a Sussex Spaniel

When it comes to introducing any dog to your home, it’s important to swot up on the pros and cons to ensure you find the best fit for you and your family.

‘We are lucky to have such a rich diversity of breeds in the UK that we really encourage people to do their research to find the right breed for them, and to hopefully ensure we don’t lose these iconic breeds forever,’ says Ciara.

A great place to start is to contact the Sussex Spaniel Association, which can provide a list of breeders who may have puppies available. They can also put you in touch with their rescue and rehoming co-ordinator who is based in Derby. If you have small children, always seek the advice of a reputable dog breeder or qualified expert before introducing a dog to your home.