IV. THE SUSSEX SPANIEL.—This is one of the oldest of the distinct breeds of Land Spaniels now existing in the British Islands, and probably also the purest in point of descent, since it has for many years past been confined to a comparatively small number of kennels, the owners of which have always been at considerable pains to keep their strains free from any admixture of foreign blood.
The modern race of Sussex Spaniels, as we know it, owes its origin in the main to the kennel kept by Mr. Fuller at Rosehill Park, Brightling, near Hastings. This gentleman, who died in 1847, is said to have kept his strain for fifty years or more, and to have shot over them almost daily during the season, but at his death they were dispersed by auction, and none of them can be traced with any accuracy except a dog and a bitch which were given at the time to Relf, the head keeper. Relf survived his master for forty years, and kept up his interest in the breed to the last. He used to say that the golden tinge peculiar to the Rosehill breed came from a bitch which had been mated with a dog belonging to Dr. Watts, of Battle, and that every now and then what he termed a "sandy" pup would turn up in her litters. Owing to an outbreak of dumb madness in the Rosehill kennels, a very large number of its occupants either died or had to be destroyed, and this no doubt accounted for the extreme scarcity of the breed when several enthusiasts began to revive it about the year 1870. Mr. Saxby and Mr. Marchant are said to have had the same strain as that at Rosehill, and certainly one of the most famous sires who is to be found in most Sussex pedigrees was Buckingham, by Marchant's Rover out of Saxby's Fan.
It was from the union of Buckingham, who was claimed to be pure Rosehill—with Bebb's daughter Peggie that the great Bachelor resulted—a dog whose name is to be found in almost every latter-day pedigree, though Mr. Campbell Newington's strain, to which has descended the historic prefix "Rosehill," contains less of this blood than any other.
About 1879 Mr. T. Jacobs, of Newton Abbot, took up this breed with great success, owning, amongst other good specimens, Russett, Dolly, Brunette, and Bachelor III., the latter a dog whose services at the stud cannot be estimated too highly. When this kennel was broken up in 1891, the best of the Sussex Spaniels were acquired by Mr. Woolland, and from that date this gentleman's kennel carried all before it until it in turn was broken up and dispersed in 1905. So successful was Mr. Woolland that one may almost say that he beat all other competitors off the field, though one of them, Mr. Campbell Newington, stuck most gallantly to him all through.
Mr. Campbell Newington has been breeding Sussex Spaniels for over a quarter of a century with an enthusiasm and tenacity worthy of the warmest admiration, and his strain is probably the purest, and more full of the original blood than any other. His kennel has always maintained a very high standard of excellence, and many famous show specimens have come from it, notably Rosehill Ruler II. (a splendid Sussex, scarcely inferior to Bridford Giddie), Romulus, Roein, Rita, Rush, Rock, Rag, and Ranji, and many others of almost equal merit.
Colonel Claude Cane's kennel of Sussex, started from a "Woolland-bred" foundation, has been going for some seventeen years, the best he has shown being Jonathan Swift, Celbridge Eldorado, and Celbridge Chrysolite.
The breed has always had a good character for work, and most of the older writers who mention them speak of Sussex Spaniels in very eulogistic terms. They are rather slow workers, but thoroughly conscientious and painstaking, and are not afraid of any amount of thick covert, through which they will force their way, and seldom leave anything behind them.
A well-bred Sussex Spaniel is a very handsome dog. Indeed, his beautiful colour alone is enough to make his appearance an attractive one, even if he were unsymmetrical and ungainly in his proportions.
This colour, known as golden liver, is peculiar to the breed, and is the great touchstone and hall-mark of purity of blood. No other dog has exactly the same shade of coat, which the word "liver" hardly describes exactly, as it is totally different from the ordinary liver colour of an Irishman, a Pointer, or even a liver Field Spaniel. It is rather a golden chestnut with a regular metallic sheen as of burnished metal, showing more especially on the head and face and everywhere where the hair is short. This is very apparent when a dog gets his new coat. In time, of course, it is liable to get somewhat bleached by sun and weather, when it turns almost yellow. Every expert knows this colour well, and looks for it at once when judging a class of Sussex.