Irish Setters

There is no more popular member of the large gundog family in the U.S. than the bright, chestnut-colored Irish Setter, with his streamlined frame, lovely featherings and soulful eyes.

Are Irish Setter good family dogs?

He is known as the Red Setter or the Irishman.

Many sportsmen consider him too fast and flighty in the field, but for all that he does a magnificent job finding and setting game, if properly trained.

The Irish Setter is even faster than the Pointer and covers much more ground in a day’s shooting than his English or Gordon cousins.

Like all “finders” the Irish Setter is not required to retrieve game but can be trained for this purpose just as easily as the other members of his family.

Irish Setters were easily the most popular working gundog, and excellent strains of high class working dogs were available here.

However, their outstanding beauty attracted far too many “show” breeders with the result that the vast majority today are being bred as decorative and house companions only.

Glamor Dogs

They are glamor dogs which have won many best in show awards at major shows.

The quality of most of them is very high but many consider that their handsome appearance contributes quite a lot to show successes.

English champions and other first-class winners have been imported from England.

In breeding for show purposes only, many breeders have a tendency to ignore the working requirements of the dog.

Far too many of these show dogs are altogether too refined in head and lack the substance essential to perform their work properly.

Competent judges discard these dogs but despite this the dogs continue winning to the eventual detriment of the breed.

As a companion, the Irish Setter is ideal for those who like a handsome, active, good natured dog.

Goes Walkabout

They must have plenty of exercises to be happy, and because of this probably more of the breed are seen running loose in the streets than any other pure bred dog.

If not taken out regularly, the Irishman will fly over the fence and go for a gallop himself to his own extreme danger.

Their colorful coats and stylish action make a lovely picture when working on quail or other winged game.

They are the lightest member of the setter family, being built on racy lines.

For all that, the dog must have plenty of bone and substance, speed and stamina.

The head of a good Irish Setter is most attractive.

The oval skull, reasonable stop and well-filled muzzle, delicately chiseled under the eyes, with well developed but not pendulous lips, all contribute to his charm.

But his eyes are the most outstanding feature which command attention. They are dark brown, well placed to give maximum vision, and have an expression all their own.

Dreamy Eye

Most gundogs are soft in expression but the Irishman’s eye is different. It possesses a little more fire, is rather smaller than that of other gundogs, but has a dreamy quality as well.

It is difficult to describe but easy to recognize, and unless the dog has it, he is not Irish.

The long, nicely arched neck sets into deep sloping shoulders but the front is rather inclined to be narrow. The ribs are well sprung, rather deep than round, and there is a more distinct cutaway underneath than we find in the case of the other setters.

Forelegs are straight and strong, with a little spring in pastern and the feet are strong, well-cushioned and knuckles well arched.

Plenty of length from hip to hock is required in the hindlegs, and the stifles are well turned with hocks clean and firm.

The tail is set level with the top line and is clothed with fairly long, bright chestnut featherings.

It is important to note that the tail featherings on an Irish Setter are not required to be as profuse as those on, say, an English Setter.

The body coat should be straight, free from wave or curl and the featherings on the low set ears are rather shorter than those found on other varieties.

A deep bright chestnut color characterizes the Irish Setter, and has been responsible for him becoming known as the “Red Setter.”

There is no standard weight or height given, but from 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder is generally accepted as being reasonable, and the weight around the 60 pounds mark.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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