THE Sussex Spaniel is Britain’s rarest native dog breed.

It was found to be at risk by the Save the Forgotten Dog Breeds Campaign, a project run by dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club, topping its vulnerable native breeds list.

It believes that many native British and Irish dog breeds are at risk of becoming extinct because people don’t know they exist or they are not considered fashionable.

Sussex Spaniels were first bred in Hastings in the 1800s to be used as hunting dogs and were very popular,

But, their breeding was discouraged during the Second World War and after the conflict there were believed to be just seven Sussex Spaniels left.

The spaniels were saved from extinction when English breeder Joy Freer devoted her life to increasing the number.

But figures have since fallen and the breed is again considered to be vulnerable.

Sussex Spaniels were found to be far rarer than the giant panda with only 34 registered in 2018, compared to the 1,864 giant pandas found to be alive in the wild during the latest census in 2014.

On its website, The Kennel Club states: “Some breeds have such low numbers that they are completely unrecognisable to the British public.

“This is a concern because it means that breeds that might be the perfect fit for people’s lifestyles are being overlooked in favour of other breeds that might not be, simply because they are not as known.”

The organisation said it created the campaign to protect these breeds of British and Irish dogs.

Now, plans to save the spaniel have been taken to new, royal heights.

In a bid to raise the profile of the breed, the Sussex Spaniel Association is planning to ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to adopt a pair of Sussex Spaniel puppies.