Gordon Setter Guide

Sporting Dog Breeds

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The heaviest of the setters, the Gordon is sturdily built with plenty of substance and bone. The suggestion should be one of strength and stamina rather than speed. It is square-proportioned, upstanding and stylish. The gait is bold, smooth and effortless, with head carried proudly and tail constantly flagging. The Gordon setter carries a thicker coat than the other setters. The hair is straight or slightly wavy, always soft and shiny. Longer feathering is on the ears, underside, backs of legs, and tail. The whole impression should be of a rugged dog capable of withstanding a long, active day in the field under a variety of conditions.

The Gordon setter is a capable, close-working bird dog. It can run and hunt all day, and this kind of energy needs a regular outlet or the dog is apt to become frustrated. Gordons make lively, enthusiastic companions and need the company of lively people. Somewhat more protective than the other setters, they are reserved toward strangers and sometimes aggressive toward strange dogs. The Gordon has earned its reputation as a devoted family dog.


FAMILY gundog, setter, pointer

AREA OF ORIGIN Great Britain (Scotland)


ORIGINAL FUNCTION bird setting and retrieving

TODAY'S FUNCTION pointing, pointing field trials

AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 24-27 Weight: 55-80

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 23-26 Weight: 45-70


Energy level High energy

Exercise needs High

Playfullness Moderately playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Shy

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Moderately easy to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Moderately protective

Grooming needs Moderate maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

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The Gordon needs much strenuous exercise every day in order to stay in shape. It can live outdoors in temperate climates, but it must be able to spend ample time with people and does best dividing its time between inside and outside. Its coat needs regular brushing and combing every two to three days. In addition, some clipping and trimming is needed for optimal good looks.
• Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion
• Minor concerns: PRA, elbow dysplasia
• Occasionally seen: cerebellar abiotrophy
• Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye
• Life span: 10 – 12 years
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Black and tan setters existed in Scotland at least by the 1600s, but it was not until the late 1700s that the breed became established as the Gordon Castle setter. The fourth Duke of Gordon kept many of these dogs at his Gordon Castle, thus lending the breed its name. Efforts to breed the finest setters at Gordon Castle continued through the efforts of the Duke of Richmond after the Fourth duke's death. Although the breed's name was changed back to black and tan setter around 1900, the name Gordon setter was restored when the English Kennel Club registered the breed. Gordon setters are the heaviest and slowest working of the setter breeds, and this distinction was accentuated when Gordons first entered the show ring. In 1875, the trend toward an overly ponderous show Gordon was halted largely through the efforts of one man, Robert Chapman. Unlike many sporting breeds, little division between show- and field-type Gordons exists. Gordon setters first arrived in America in the mid-1800s and were among the first breeds recognized by the AKC, receiving the nod in 1892. The breed is a favorite among hunters demanding a one-man shooting dog, though it generally lacks the flash and speed of the other setter breeds. Although it has a steady following, it has never been as popular as the other setters as a pet.
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