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Irish Setter

Last updated date: 24th Apr 2024
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Introduction to Irish Setter

The Irish Setter or the Red Setter is a setter-breed of gundog and family dog. They are native to Ireland. The Irish Setters are known for their bold and elegant build and their bright, rich mahogany-coloured coat. The friendly, mischievous, inquisitive, and high energy level Red Setters are famous for locating birds for the hunters. The red and white setters, resembling the 19th-century ancestors, have emerged as a distinct breed. They are identified as good-tempered, intelligent, and swift in the field. The term “Irish Setter” is commonly used to encompass the show-bred dog recognised by the American Kennel Club. 

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Irish Setter: Appearance

The first thing that one notices in the Irish setter dog is their deep mahogany or popularly called oak red colour. Their furry coat is moderately long, straight and silky. They need frequent brushing to maintain the condition of their fur and to keep them mat-free. The undercoat of the Irish setter dog is abundant in winter weather and the topcoat is fine. They also have fur over their tail, ears, chest, legs, and covered completely over their body. They have small feet with toes in arch shape filled with feathers between them. The colour of their nose is dark and the ears are positioned at the back and lay near the head. The ears are so long that it falls till the nose. 

The tail is also lengthier and flows down to the level of the line on the back. Their height ranges from 24 to 28 inches i.e, 61 to 71 cm. The male red setters weigh 29 to 34 kg and the females weigh between 25 to 29 kg. The FCI Breed Standard for the Irish Setter stipulates males stand 58 to 67 cm tall, and females are 55 to 62 cm tall. The Irish Setters are deep-chested dogs with small waists and their life expectancy tends to be around 11 to 12 years. 

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Irish Setter: Temperament

The Irish Setters are very enthusiastic in nature. They are quite popular as happy go lucky species who enjoy being around humans. The Irish setter dogs make excellent companions with animals and family pets. According to the FCI, ANKC and UK Standards, the breed of the dog should be  “Demonstrably affectionate”. They mingle well with domestic pets, tiny animals and even strangers and hence are not well-suited as guard dogs.

The breed of Irish setter is known to be very active and they definitely need a good walk and run daily in wide, open spaces. Because of their high energy, they should be channelized towards exercising and physical activity otherwise the excessive energy may turn destructive. However, the Irish setters have the tendency to ‘play deaf’; hence, one should be careful while allowing them off-lead. 

The red setters like to be engaged with some task. Lack of activity will lead to a bored, destructive and hyperactive dog. The breed thrives on constant human companionship. They respond swiftly to positive training and are highly intelligent dogs. 

The Irish setter's subtle temperament shapes them as an amazing therapy dog. They are permitted in hospitals with special permission for the patients. They are also permitted in schools to create a calming and relaxed environment. They do an excellent job with the community, which require emotional support. 

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Irish Setter: History

Let us understand how this wonderful breed came into existence. 

The Irish setter dog sets back its history at the beginning of 1570 with traces in the literature Caius’s De Canibus Britannicus. However, it would be completely incorrect to find any resemblance between the dog described in Caius’s De Canibus Britannicus and the dog we find today. The dog described by Caius is a type of setting spaniel, most likely now extinct. About this early dog, Caius wrote: “The most part of theyre skinnes are white, and if they are marcked with any spottes, they are commonly red, and somewhat great there with all”. If we believe him, then it can be assumed that the solid red colouring of today's Irish Setter or the Red Setter came about by selective breeding practices. 

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Another mention of the Irish setter dog is found in “The Country Farme '' by Richard Surflet and Gervase Markham, published in 1616. They said: “There is also another sort of land spannyels which are called Setters”. It is now very clear that at the beginning of the 18th century the Irish setter came into existence. It is very clear by now that by the 18th Century, the type of dog known as the 'setter' had come into its own right and the Irish had begun actively breeding their own type. A great example of this is that the de Freyne family of French Park began keeping detailed stud records in 1793. Around 1845, the setters in Ireland were predominantly either red or as stated by Youatt, “...very red, or red and white, or lemon coloured, or white patched with deep chestnut.”  

The breed standard for the modern Irish Setters was first drawn by the Irish Red Setter Club in Dublin and was approved on 29 March 1886. This consists of a 100 point scale where points are awarded for each of the dog's physical attributes. Later, several changes were made such as dropping the point system and the modern system was developed. 

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Irish Setter: Uses and Benefits

The Irish Setter dogs were bred for hunting, specifically for setting, locating and pointing upland game birds. They are highly energetic, tireless and wide-ranging hunters. They are well-suited to fields and wet or dry moorland terrain. The Irish Setters use their strong sense of smell to locate the bird and then hold a pointing position indicating the position of the bird. 

In the early 19th century, the dog was brought to the United States. In the year 1874, the registry of dogs in the United States was born when the American Field put together the Field Dog Stud Book. The Field Dog Stud Book is the oldest pure-bred registry in the US. At that time, all were allowed to register the dogs - even when bred from sires and dams of different breeds. During that time, the Llewellin Setter was bred using bloodlines from the Lavarack breeding of English Setter and bloodlines from native Irish Setters. In the 19th century, the American Kennel Club registered Irish Setters in a myriad of colours - not all of them were red. In the words of Frank Forester, a sportswriter, “The points of the Irish Setter are more bony, angular, and wiry frame, a longer head, a less silky and straighter coat than those of the English. His colour 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”.

The setter that was completely red in colour was preferred in the show ring and the breed took the same direction. Between the year 1874 and 1948, the breed produced 760 conformation show or the breed show champions, but only five field champions. In the 1940s, the Field and Stream magazine put into writing a well-known fact that the Irish Setter was disappearing from the field and an outcross would be necessary to resurrect the breed as a working dog. Ned LaGrande of Pennsylvania purchased the last of the working Irish Setters in America and imported dogs from overseas. With the help 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 the breeding of a dog that would successfully compete with the white settlers and the modern Red Setter was born. 

Before the year 1975, there was a relationship between the American Kennel Club and the Field Dog Stud Book. According to this ‘relationship’,  registration with one body qualified a dog for registration with the other. In the year 1975, the Irish Setter Club of America petitioned the American Kennel Club to deny the reciprocal registration, and the request was granted. 

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The Working Red Setter

The modern-day Red Setter is smaller than its bench-bred cousin. While the show dogs weigh around 32 kgs, the working red setter is around 20 kgs. The coats of the red setters are less silky and their feathers are generally shorter. They have a lighter colour - generally russet and fawn colours. The red setters have white patches on their face and chest. 

Irish Setter: Grooming

The Irish Setter dog needs a lot of attention and effort in grooming its beautiful silky coat. They need regular brushing. They are an average shedder and continuous brushing regularly will help in reducing the shedding to a large extent. Apart from brushing, cleaning the ears, brushing teeth, and clipping of toenails are also required very much as a part of the grooming. 

Irish Setter: Training

The Irish Setters are clever dogs but easy to train. They need patient and soft handling. An interesting fact about the setters is that they like to work and keep their owner happy making the teaching and learning process easy. 

Irish Setter: Interesting Facts

  • The most interesting and unique feature of this dog is its zigzag running pattern. 

  • Their sense of smell is so amazing - they can track the prey through the scent in the wind.

  • They bond well with everyone and develop separation anxiety if separated from their family.

  • Whenever they feel bored or alone, they start being destructive.

Irish Setter: Health Problems

Though the Irish setters are healthy dogs, they are also prone to diseases. A few common diseases of the dogs are mentioned below:

  • Hip Dysplasia - It is a hereditary condition where the bone in the thighs doesn’t join properly with the hip joint. The setters affected with this disease may suffer from pain and lameness. The hip dysplasia may turn to arthritis as the dog grows older. Apart from the hereditary conditions, the disease may occur due to other environmental reasons such as fast growth in the pet, falling due to jumping or running or high-calorie food. 

  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) - This is an orthopaedic problem, which is caused in the joints due to the improper development of cartilage. The disease leads to intense stiffening in the joint area to the extent that the dog suffers even to bend its elbow. It is caused because of excessive feeding of growth formula puppy diets or high protein diets. 

  • Hypothyroidism - It is the low secretion of the hormone which is secreted by the thyroid gland. The signs of this disease are infertility, obesity, dull mentally, eyelids drooping, fall in energy levels and heat cycles being irregular. The fur on the dogs gets brittle and starts to fall off and the skin of the dog turns dark and rough.

  • Canine Leukocyte (CAD) - This disease is caused by inheritance. The WBCs are affected and lose the capacity to fight any infection. It impairs their immunity. 

  • Epilepsy - Epilepsy is hereditary and the abnormality leads to mild or serious seizures. It can also be caused due to metabolic disorders, infectious sickness which affects the brain, tumours, consumption of poison or serious head injury or due to an unknown reason. 

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) - It is a degenerative eye abnormality that causes blindness due to the damage of photoreceptors behind the eye.

  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) - The disease leads to lameness which is caused due to high intake of protein and calcium diet. The symptoms of this disease are fever, loss of appetite, swollen joints, lethargy and uneasiness to walk.

  • Gastric Torsion (Bloat) - This life-threatening disease is prone to dogs, who are given just one big meal in a day, eat quickly, drink too much water or exercise too much after eating. The symptoms include being tired, depressed, weak, lethargic and weakness in heart rate. 

  • Panosteitis - Panosteitis is a disorder that affects the limb bones which causes lameness in one or both legs. 

FAQs on Irish Setter

Q1. Write Some Positives and Negatives About the Irish Setter Dogs.

Ans - Some Positives About the Dog are:

  • They are amazing family dogs

  • They are affectionate.

  • They are joyful and happy go, lucky companions.

Some Negatives About the Dog are:

  • Their grooming needs a lot of attention.

  • They are prone to many diseases.

  • They need a good amount of space for playing and running.

Q2. Name Some Irish Setter Mix Breeds.

Ans - Some mixed breeds of Irish Setters are:

  • Poodle + Irish Setter = Irish Doodle

  • Labrador Retriever + Irish Setter = Irish Setter Lab Mix

  • German Shepherd + Irish Setter = German Shepherd Irish Setter Mix

  • Boxer + Irish Setter = Boxer Irish Setter Mix

  • Golden Retriever + Irish Setter = Golden Irish

Q3. Are the Irish Setters Good Family Dogs?

Ans - The Irish Setters or the Red Setters are very friendly and make good family dogs. However, their jolly and friendly nature restricts them as guard dogs. So, if you are looking for some guard dogs, Irish setter dogs are definitely not the ones. Also, if left alone, they suffer separation anxiety and may turn destructive.