The Sussex spaniel has been saved from extinction following a surge in the breed’s popularity last year.

Just a few years ago the native breed was said to be rarer than the Giant Panda.

But following a boost in sales, breeders are reporting that numbers are returning to a healthy level.

In 2011 just 52 of the puppies were registered with the Kennel Club.

However, with 74 registered in the first three quarters of 2012 alone, it appears people are falling in love with the breed all over again.

The final total for last year, which is yet to be confirmed, is expected to reach the three-figure mark.

In comparison, some 40,000 to 50,000 Labradors were recorded for the same period.

Shelia Appleby, the secretary of the Sussex Spaniel Association, said: “It’s a small breed so most of us know each other.

“We’ve seen more litters this year but the breeders only decide to have them if there is the demand – which there has been.

“They are adorable dogs but not many people have heard of them. We are doing more and more to spread the word and it appears to be working.”

Breeding programmes

The dogs were first bred in 1795 in Hastings for hunting.

They nearly became extinct during the Second World War, with breeding programmes discouraged in order to save food.

It is said that just five Sussex spaniels survived the war, with their number remaining continually low ever since.

The rich golden coloured dogs have a unique look, being smaller, lower and more compact than the typical spaniel.

However they are described as being similar in temperament and especially enjoy being around people.

Although numbers are looking up, they remain at their most popular across the Atlantic in the US.

Bossy dogs

Mrs Appleby, who is based in Hampshire, said: “I get lots of people from Sussex calling me asking where their local breeder is based.

“I think it’s great that dog lovers from Sussex are buying their own breed.

“They’re lovely dogs but can be a bit bossy. I often get that look which says ‘This is my sofa’.

“I would certainly recommend them as a loyal and loving pet.”

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