The Saint-Usuge Spaniel (also known as Epagneul de Saint-Usuge) is a French breed, originated in the town of Saint-Usuge in the Burgundy region of eastern France. This breed was traditionally used as a versatile gun dog, assisting hunters in finding and retrieving game, particularly in waterfowl hunting. The breed's exact origins are somewhat mysterious, but it's believed to date back to the 16th century, with a Renaissance painting by Jean-Baptiste Oudry providing some of the earliest visual evidence of this breed. Due to the two World Wars, the breed came very close to extinction, but dedicated efforts by enthusiasts in the late 20th century revived the Saint-Usuge Spaniel. The breed is still considered rare, with most of the population concentrated in France.
Saint-Usuge Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, but as a larger breed they are at risk for developing orthopedic problems, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. They may also be prone to ear and eye infections, and skin allergies. As a deep-chested breed, they can be susceptible to bloat, also known as gastric dilation volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly, so it’s important to know the warning signs and get an affected dog immediate veterinary care. Genetic testing is recommended, including for the following specific conditions: Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, hyperuricosoria, degenerative myelopathy, and progressive rod-cone degeneration.
Saint-Usuge Spaniels are known for their intelligence, versatility, and gentle temperament. They are excellent with families and are known to be good with children. These dogs are eager to please and are highly trainable, but they also require a fair amount of physical and mental stimulation due to their working origins. They typically get along well with other dogs and pets, but early socialization is always recommended.
Despite their rarity, Saint-Usuge Spaniels have a dedicated following in France, where annual gatherings called "Saint-Usuge Sundays" are held for breed enthusiasts.
The breed's history as a waterfowl retriever is reflected in their love for water. Most Saint-Usuge Spaniels will jump at the chance to play or swim in bodies of water.
Their name is pronounced "Sant Oo-zhooj" Spaniel, and they are sometimes referred to just as Usuge Spaniels.