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The Irish Setter

Guest Author - Sandy Moyer


In the United States, the proud, elegant Irish Setter is probably the most popular canine Irish American. These beautiful dogs are easily recognized by their luxurious deep mahogany red coats.

The Irish Setter is a member of the AKC Sporting Dog Group. The breed standard describes the Irish Setter as "an active, aristocratic bird dog, rich red in color, substantial yet elegant in build. Standing over two feet tall at the shoulder, the dog has a straight, fine, glossy coat, longer on ears, chest, tail and back of legs. Afield, the Irish Setter is a swift-moving hunter; at home, a sweet natured, trainable companion."

Although the details are unclear, their ancestry surely includes a variety of setters, spaniels and pointers. That list probably includes the Spanish pointer and land spaniels imported to Ireland by Spaniards who aided the Irish in their rebellion against England.

Irish Setters were originally red and white dogs. Solid red Irish Setters first appeared in Ireland early in the 19th century. Careful, selective breeding produced a consistent all red coat. The breed was first welcomed to the United States around 1875 and recognized by the AKC in 1878. Today the Red and White Irish Setter is a separate registered breed in other many other countries, including the the UK, Canada, Australia. They have not achieved AKC recognition. Many AKC Irish Setters today do have small white markings on their chest, neck, or feet.

In the past few decades breeders have split the breed into two distinct types. There is a difference between Irish Setters used in field trials and Irish Setters who compete in conformation shows. To be competitive in the show ring, conformation-minded breeders developed larger dogs with a darker, deeper color and heavier coats. Breeders whose main interest is field trial competition believe that the larger size of show type setters reduces their speed, efficiency, and ability to successfully compete in trials against other breeds. Irish Setters from field lines, the "Irish Red Setters" are smaller dogs with lighter frames and thinner coats. Both field lines and show lines make good pets, but field dogs frequently have higher activity levels.

Setters were originally used to "set" game. When a setter found a bird, it crouched down close to its find, while the hunter threw a net over the dog and the bird. Today's field type Irish Setters are gun dogs, talented bird dogs and reliable hunting companions. They're extremely fast and have an excellent sense of smell. Their skills in the field include hunting, tracking, retrieving, and pointing.

Irish Setters are happy, friendly, intelligent, people loving dogs who love being part of the family. They're even-tempered, affectionate, and loyal. Setters nearly always get along well with other dogs and household pets. Although they love to play and totally enjoy being with children, younger setters, like most young large breed dogs, may be too boisterous for small children.

Irish Setters are also high-spirited, high-energy dogs. Although they'll eventually slow down and pleasantly mellow with age, that sometimes takes a wee bit longer for an Irish Setter than it's owners think it should. This is a breed that is generally slow to mature and has a somewhat longer than average adolescence... sometimes lasting until they are 2 or even 3 years old. To handle all their energy, Irish Setters need plenty of outdoor exercise in a well-fenced yard with room to run and play freely, or lots of long brisk walks.

Early obedience classes, firm handling, patience and plenty of exercise can mean the difference between a happy, well adjusted Setter that's a joy to own or one that's restless, stubborn and destructive.

Most Irish Setters will bark to let you know when someone approaches your property, but most will also readily make friends with whoever that is. They are just not the mean, growling, guard dog type, although just their presence and their bark would deter the average intruder.

They are exceptionally clean dogs and house training is rarely a problem. Crate training can make house training easier for you and your dog, no matter what breed.

Irish Setter's are considered moderate shedders. Their beautiful coat needs daily grooming that includes a light brushing and combing to keep it soft, and silky. Extra care is required to remove burrs and tangles after time in the field and also when moulting. To conform to show standards, trimming and shaping of the coat is needed. Baths should be given once or twice a year or when necessary to remove acquired odors.

The breed has a somewhat better than average life expectancy - 14 to 16 years. Common health concerns include elbow & hip dysplasia, bloat, epilepsy, auto-immune disease and skin allergies. Their ears should be checked frequently for excessive wax that can lead to inflammation and infection.

About rumors that Irish Setters are nervous, hyper or high strung ...
In the early to mid 1900s, there was an ever-growing interest in the Irish Setter as a show dog. Top Hollywood stars owned the aristocratic red dogs. The Setter's popularity skyrocketed in 1962, when the Disney movie, "Big Red, " attracted more attention to the breed. It got an even bigger boost when an Irish Setter named "Timahoe" moved into the White House with the Nixon family. After watching scenes of the first family with the handsome canine, Americans wanted to have dogs of their own just like him and the Irish Setter became the country's third most popular breed!

Such extreme popularity led to careless breeding practices, with nothing more in mind than supplying puppies to anyone with the cash to buy them. Dogs that were the result of breeding with no regard for temperament and raised in cages with no real human contact as puppies, went to owners who had no idea what to do about raising an active, fast growing puppy. As a result, there was a swift decline in demand and Irish Setters were no longer scarce. The lucky ones were for sale in the classifieds and waiting for new homes in animal shelters. The notion that Irish Setters are hyper, high strung, or untrainable, began with unfortunate specimens like these.

Today there are many knowledgeable, educated, reputable breeders who care about their dogs and the welfare of the puppies they prioduce. The Irish Setter is now number 59 on the AKC's list of registration statistics by breed. Although, as with any breed, there are still irresponsible kennel owners involved, the majority of Irish Setters are now the happy, friendly, lovable, and highly trainable dogs they were meant to be. Many Irish Setter lovers think energy and exhuberance is a delightful trait that really adds to the fun of life with their dogs.

For any breed-
NEVER buy a puppy from a pet store, especially a mall type store with puppies of many breeds displayed in cages. Many of those puppies came from puppy mills. Call a local kennel club for recommendations about where to find the breed you want. Always thoroughly check the reputation of a breeder and the quality of the dogs they breed. Ask for references, ask questions and expect to answer questions from them. And....unless there's a reason why a new dog must be a puppy, consider adopting a breed rescue or shelter pet. Click Here to start searching for a new pet.

Irish Setter Shirts


Get an Irish Setter T-Shirt and other Irish Setter themed gifts at Animal Den, The Dog Lovers Gift Shop


Irish Setter Links

The AKC Irish Setter Page

Irish Setter Club of America

Irish Setter Association, England

Irish Setter Club of Scotland

Irish Setter Club of Canada

Irish Setters in UK and Ireland

Irish Kennel Club

Midlands Irish Setter Society

Irish Setter Club of Arizona

Irish Setter Club of Michigan

Irish Setter Club of Minnesota

Irish Setter Club of Ohio

Irish Setter Club of New England

Potomac Irish Setter Club

Irish Setter Club of Seattle

Irish Setter Rescue

Irish Setter Rescue in New Jersey

Save Our Setters, Inc.

Irish Setter Dogs.Com

The Comprehensive Irish Setter

National Red Setter Field Trial Club

Irish Setters - Yahoo Groups

The Setter WebRing

Westminster Kennel Club

Irish Setter Grooming Profile

Irish Red Setter Page

Irish Red and White Setter Breed Standard (ARBA)

Irish Setter Pictures

Irish Setters at AllPosters.com

Learn more about Irish Setters ...


~~~~ Click on a picture to read about another Irish American Tail Wagger ~~~~


Irish Wolfhound

Irish Water Spaniel

Kerry Blue Terrier

Soft Coated
Wheaten Terrier

Irish Terrier

Glen Imaal Terrier

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Content copyright © 2014 by Sandy Moyer. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.

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