The Irish Setter, also known as the Red Setter, is a breed of gundog and family dog. The term Irish Setter is commonly used to encompass the Show-bred dog recognized by the AKC as well as the field-bred Red Setter recognized by the Field Dog Stud Book.
(Alternative names: Red Setter, Irish Red Setter, Madra rua)
Irish Setter Appearance
The coat is moderately long and silky and of a deep red color, and it requires maintenance. This includes shedding that occurs quite a bit and will stick to anything that touches it and constant brushing to keep mat free. The undercoat is abundant in winter weather. Irish Setters range in height from 25 to 27 inches (64-69 cm), males weigh 60 to 70 pounds (27-32 kg) and females 53 to 64 pounds (24-29 kg). The FCI Breed Standard for the Irish Setter stipulates males: 23 to 26.5 inches (58-67 cm), females: 21.5 to 24.5 inches (55-62 cm).
Irish Setter Temperament
This happy, playful breed is known for its joie de vivre and thrives on activity. It loves to run in open spaces. It is faster and has more endurance than other setter breeds.
In general, Irish Setters are friendly, enjoy human company, and actively look for other dogs with which to play. They are affectionate and like to be petted. Irish Setters are excellent with children. Due to the breed’s need for frequent activity, this is an inappropriate dog for inactive families or apartment dwellers. Irish Setters are not aggressive, although can bark to protect the area from strangers. Possibly due to their stubbornness and resistance to obedience training, they have been marked as being stupid, but are really quite intelligent.
Irish Setter Health
Irish Setters are a moderately healthy breed. Like almost all dog breeds, they are prone to certain genetic disorders:
Progressive retinal atrophy
Von Willebrand’s disease
Patent ductus ateriosus
Irish Setter History
The breed Irish Red Setter was developed in Ireland in the 1700s from the Old Spanish Pointer, setting spaniels, and early Scottish setters.
Early Irish Setters were white with red blotches on their coats, but today the Setter’s coat is a rich mahogany color. The Irish Red and White Setter is more closely related to those early Setters.
The Irish Setter’s name in Gaelic is Madra rua or “red dog”. Originally, the Irish Setter was bred for hunting, specifically for setting or pointing upland gamebirds. They are similar to other members of the setter family such as the English Setter and Gordon Setter. Irish Setters are extremely swift, with an excellent sense of smell and are hardy over any terrain and in any climate. The Irish Setter is used for all types of hunting. It even works well on wetlands.
Today, the Irish Setter is more commonly found as a companion and family pet.
“Red Setter” Controversy
The Red Setter is a variant of the Irish Setter or Irish Red Setter. The Red Setter is a pointing breed of dog used to hunt upland game. Considerable acrimony exists between the partisans involved in the debate over this breed.
Irish Setter History
The Irish Setter was brought to the United States in the early 1800s. It commanded great respect in the field and was one of the most commonly used dog among the professional meat hunter fraternity.
In 1874, the American Field put together the Field Dog Stud Book and registry of dogs in the United States was born. The FDSB is the oldest pure-bred registry in the United States. At that time, dogs could be registered even when bred from sires and dams of different breeds. At about this time, the Llewellin Setter was bred using blood lines from the Lavarack breeding of English Setter and, among other breeds, bloodlines from native Irish Setters. Around the same time, the red Irish Setter became a favorite in the dog show ring.
The Irish Setter of the late 1800s was not just a red dog. The AKC registered Irish Setters in a myriad of colors. Frank Forester, a 19th-century sports writer, described the Irish Setter as follows: “The points of the Irish Setter are more bony, angular, and wiry frame, a longer head, a less silky and straigher coat that those of the English. His color ought to be a deep orange-red and white, a common mark is a stripe of white between the eyes and a white ring around the neck, white stockings, and a white tage to the tail.”
Irish setters need plenty of activity.The Setter that was completely red, however, was preferred in the show ring and that is the direction that the breed took. Between 1874 and 1948, the breed produced 760 conformation champions, but only five field champions.
In the 1940s, Field and Stream magazine put into writing what was already a well-known fact. The Irish Setter was disappearing from the field and an outcross would be necessary to resurrect the breed as a working dog. Sports Afield chimed in with a similar call for an outcross. Ned LaGrange of Pennsylvania spent a small fortune purchasing examples of the last of the working Irish Setters in America and importing dogs from overseas. With the blessing of the Field Dog Stud Book, he began an outcross to red and white field champion English Setters. The National Red Setter Field Trial Club was created to test the dogs and to encourage breeding toward a dog that would successfully compete with the white setters. Thus the modern Red Setter was born and the controversy begun.
Prior to 1975 a relationship existed between the AKC and the Field Dog Stud book in which registration with one body qualified a dog for registration with the other. In 1975 the Irish Setter Club of America petitioned the AKC to deny reciprocal registration, and the AKC granted the request. It is claimed, by critics of the move, that the pressure was placed on the AKC by bench show enthusiasts who were unappreciative of the outcrossing efforts of the National Red Setter Field Trial Club, as well as some AKC field trialers following a series of losses to FDSB red setters. Working Irish Setter kennels today field champion dogs that claim lines from both the FDSB dogs and AKC dogs.
Red Setter Appearance
The modern Red Setter is smaller than his bench-bred cousin. While show dogs often reach 70 lb, the working Red Setter is generally around 45 lb. The coat is less silky and the feathering is generally shorter. The color is lighter, with the working dog found in russet and fawn colors. The Red Setter often has patches of white on his face and chest as the Irish Setter of old did.
Red Setter Temperament
The Red Setter is a happy, biddable dog. He is readily trainable and reportedly learns quickly. Most Red Setters do not retrieve as readily as many of the versatile breeds do but can be taught to retrieve to hand. The Red Setter makes a loving house companion and is reportedly good with children.
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