We found it curious to come across the word, “somber” in a glossary of dog terms since it’s not a word one typically associates with tail wagging dogs, but a wee bit of homework revealed that there is one breed – and only one – in which the word appears in its breed standard: “The breed has a somber and serious expression…” and later, “[the breed] has a somber and serious appearance.
It’s not the first word that came to mind when we watched the winner of the Sporting Group at Westminster for two years straight (and grandson of Stump, the 2009 Best in Show winner), sit up and charm the audience. And yet upon reflection, “Bean,” the Sussex Spaniel, did have a sober expression even as the rest of us were enchanted with his trick. The classic spaniel head, soft eyes hooded by fairly heavy eyebrows contribute to a serious expression, but the frown is at odds with the Sussex’s innate sweet and cheerful nature. All the more baffling, then, that the Sussex appears on the Kennel Club’s List of Vulnerable Breeds. In 2018, onlu 34 puppies were registered, the lowest number yet since 2010. The breed isn’t for everyone – few breeds are – and the Sussex is a lot of dog in a small package. Potential owners would be wise to do their homework on the breed, good advice, actually, for anyone considering a new dog. Those who do find that the breed is a good fit are rewarded with a dog eager to be an active participant in family life.