Meet John Robert Lewis Jr. of Lexxfield Sussex Spaniels – American Kennel Club

Bobby Lewis was born and raised on the family farm in Natural Bridge, Virginia, where he still lives today. He saw his first Sussex Spaniel in the 1930s. Complete AKC Dog Book it was in the local library. As only a handful of Sussexes were in America at the time, he contacted Eunice and Milt Gies, owners of the 1972 Westminster Kennel Club Best of Breed winner, CH. Sedora Quettadene Damon. He was 14 years old at the time and his parents were kind enough to support him in this process. CH Oldholbans Fionnlagh arrived from Sussex, England in 1972, followed by CH. Fourclovers Lapwai in early 1973. Thus began Bobby’s 50 year involvement with the breed under the breeding name ‘Lexxfield’. For several years, his partner Marcus Thomas has joined the Lexxfield breeding program.

AKC: How did you get started in dog breeding?

Police officer: Fionnlagh and Lapwai were the first purebred dogs I ever owned. Fionnlagh mated with Damon four months after arriving in America and gave birth to a litter of three in March 1973. Lexxfield’s breeding program now has 15 generations of that first litter. All current Sussexes bred by Lexxfield, as well as most other Sussex Spaniel living in the United States today, trace their direct lineage back to my first two imports.

AKC: What is the most important thing to know about the Sussex Spaniel?

Police officer: The Sussex Spaniel is one of the most endangered breeds and has existed in extremely low numbers for over 225 years of its existence. All Sussexes have a golden liver color unique to the breed. The best examples of the breed today actually resemble those from the 1800s. Although its long, low build and color attract attention, the Sussex Spaniel’s personality is its biggest appeal. The breed is among the healthiest of all purebreds, but raising litters can sometimes be a challenge.

What is your favorite question to ask potential puppy buyers?

Police officer: “What do you know about Sussex Spaniels?” » is often my first question. The Internet offers many sources of information about the breed, and few of them are accurate. I also find out what traits the person is looking for in a dog and what characteristics they want to avoid in a dog. Sussex Spaniels are not for everyone. I want to make sure a potential owner has as much information about the breed as possible. If I determine that the Sussex would not be suitable, I will gently move the person away from the breed.

What are the main qualities you look for in potential owners?

Police officer: I am looking for a stable home environment and the ability to care for a Sussex puppy and the adult he will become. I’ve found that taking the time to talk to people pays off in the end. It is essential to get a feel for the person and their family life. If the conversation raises any “red flags,” I will dissuade the person from considering race further. Since Sussex is so rare, I also ask if a potential buyer is interested in breeding a litter. If the answer is “yes” and the person is a good match for the breed, I put them at the top of the waiting list. It is not uncommon for a person to have owned several generations of Lexxfield-bred Sussexes over the decades. It is often said that once you own a Sussex, no other breed will do.

What is the best advice you would give to beginning breeders?

Police officer: Sometimes Sussex litters can be notoriously difficult to raise. This is best summarized by Colonel R. Claude Cain who wrote the following in The sporting spanielaround 1906:

I myself began attempting to breed Sussex Spaniels almost fifteen years ago from a foundation purchased from Mr. Woolland, but although I have been fairly successful, on the whole my record was marked by disappointment and bad luck. Several of the best specimens of both sexes which I had purchased from Mr. Woolland died before I succeeded in breeding them; puppies are born stillborn, and most of those born alive have not reached maturity…»

This quote should not be used as a deterrent but should be considered a challenge to the novice and expert alike. Not all Sussex litters are difficult. The last two litters we had were some of the easiest I’ve had. My advice to anyone interested in breeding Sussex is to develop a relationship with an experienced Sussex Spaniel breeder who can help you with all phases of the breeding process. Those who have whelped litters of other breeds often notice that Sussex litters are completely different from what they have experienced before. Another important point that needs to be made is that breeding decisions regarding critically endangered breeds like the Sussex require common sense.

Do your dogs participate in AKC sports?

Police officer: Although we only compete in AKC conformation shows, several dogs with the Lexxfield name have competed in other types of events under the AKC umbrella.

What do you like most about breeding dogs?

Police officer: I have always been fascinated by the pedigrees and history of the Sussex Spaniel. Although the breed has always been very rare, pedigree information on the Sussex is among the most comprehensive of any breed. Any Sussex pedigree can be traced in an unbroken line dating back to 1812. The breed type was poor when I started 50 years ago. I have had great satisfaction over the years in helping to restore the breed to its correct type and temperament as described in the AKC breed standard. Another rewarding aspect of breeding is the personal friendships I have made over the years.

Do you have a favorite breeding story?

Police officer: I was 15 when I gave birth to my first Sussex litter, two female dogs and a male, in my parents’ kitchen. Another litter of nine followed in 1974. All 12 puppies in these litters were from natural births and all survived. Given the breed’s propensity for having difficult litters, birthing and successfully raising two litters in my mid-teens would seem miraculous. Today’s breeders say divine intervention must have occurred.


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