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American Kennel Club Congratulates Westminster Best in Show Winner Stump

(Wednesday, February 11, 2009)

-- The Sussex Spaniel is a True Original: Among the
First AKC Registered Breeds in History --

"Stump" and owner-handler Scott Sommer won Best in Show at the 133rd Westminster Kennel Club Show. Photo by Mary Bloom.

The American Kennel Club®, a non-profit organization whose rules govern more than 20,000 canine competitions each year including the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, is pleased to congratulate Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee, a 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel who goes by the name "Stump." Owned by Cecilia Ruggles, Beth Dowd and his handler Scott Sommer and bred by Douglas Horn, Douglas Johnson and Dee Duffy, Stump is the first Sussex Spaniel to win Westminster. The breed originated in England in the 1800s and was among the original nine breeds in AKC’s registry 125 years ago.

"Stump’s win is very apt considering that the AKC is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and the Sussex, while not well-known today, was one of the first breeds registered with the AKC," said AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson. "A group of sportsmen formed the AKC back in 1884 and the Sussex, an excellent hunting companion with a long history in its native England, was among the most common breeds at the time."

At the time of the organization’s founding, AKC registered only the following nine breeds (versus the 161 it recognizes today):

*In 1884 the English Cocker Spaniel and the Cocker Spaniel were registered as the same breed. They were separated in 1946. Today the English Cocker Spaniel is ranked 70th.

These original breeds are all current members of the Sporting Group -- dogs bred to help man find and retrieve game. They all have innate instincts in the water, field and woods. While these breeds are less common today, the qualities that made them effective hunters – trainability, predictability and desire to please – make them ideal family dogs today. The AKC breed standard for the Sussex describes it as friendly with a cheerful and tractable disposition and "essentially unchanged in character and general appearance from those 19th century sporting dogs."

Today, another member of the Sporting Group – the Labrador Retriever – is by far the most popular purebred dog in America, holding that title for the 18th consecutive year, according to AKC’s recently released list of the most popular dogs in America. Other breeds in the AKC’s Top 10 include the Yorkshire Terrier, Dachshund and last year’s Westminster winner, the Beagle.

"I think the comparison of our original nine to the current top 10 illustrates the different needs that dogs fill today," said Peterson. "In the 1880’s most breeds served a specific purpose or function. Today dogs still serve man and in even more diverse roles -- from guide dog to bomb detection K-9 – but most of all, dogs are now companions that ground us to nature in a busy and increasingly technological world."

Sussex Spaniels "Blue" and "Mildred" visit the AKC offices to celebrate their breed's Best in Show win at Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Photos by Kira Sexton © AKC.