Breed Spotlight: the Irish Setter

Thought to be a merge of the Irish Terrier, Water Spaniel, English Setter, Pointer, and Gordon Setter, the Irish Setter, also known as the Irish Red Setter, contains all the ingredients for a stunning breed, field or show line. Bred to hunt game birds, the Irish was trained for netting, a process where the dog seeks game, crouches before the quarry, and waits for the hunter to cast a net covering the prey and the dog. As the sporting gun was added to the field, the Irish’s purpose transformed into its modern expectation of pointing game by quartering—a technique in which the dog zigzags across a field in front of the hunter. Given the hunter’s command, the modern Irish will crouch to the ground in order for the hunter’s line of fire to directly target the prey. Some estimates mark the Irish’s appearance in early- to mid-1700s Ireland according to written records; although, at its first conception the Irish Setter resembled the Irish Red and White Setter with a mainly white coat bearing red areas. In the nineteenth century, selective breeding created the modern Irish’s striking solid red coat ranging in shades of chestnut red to mahogany. 

Today, the Irish Setter can be found in two color varieties: the Irish Red Setter and the Irish Red and White Setter. Often considered two separate breeds, Continental Kennel Club considers them separate varieties of the same breed.

Want to learn more about the Irish Setter? Click here for the full breed standard.

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