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Among the most breathtaking of dogs, the Irish setter's beauty is in part the result of necessity. Its elegant, yet substantial build enables it to hunt with speed and stamina. Its build is slightly longer than tall, giving ample room for movement without interference between fore and hind legs. The trot is ground-covering and efficient. The coat is flat, straight and of moderate length, with longer feathering on ears, backs of legs, belly, chest and tail, providing protection from briars without becoming entangled in them. The rich mahogany color is just beautiful.
The Irish setter was bred to be a tireless and enthusiastic hunter, and it approaches everything in life with a rollicking, good-natured attitude, full of gusto and fervor. Given a daily outlet for its energy, it makes a pleasant companion. Without ample exercise, it can be overly active inside or become frustrated. It is an amiable breed, eager to please and be part of its family's activities. It is good with children, but can be too rambunctious for small children. It is less popular as a hunter than the other setters.
AKC RANKING 63
FAMILY gundog, setter, pointer
AREA OF ORIGIN Ireland
DATE OF ORIGIN 1700s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION bird setting and retrieving
TODAY'S FUNCTION pointing, pointing field trials
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 27 Weight: 70
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 25 Weight: 60
OTHER NAME red setter
Energy level High energy
Exercise needs High
Playfullness Very playful
Affection level Very affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Very friendly
Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Very friendly
Ease of training Moderately easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Not very protective
Grooming needs Moderate maintenance
Cold tolerance Medium tolerance
Heat tolerance Medium tolerance
The Irish needs exercise, and lots of it. It is not fair to take a dog selected for boundless energy and expect it to sit inside. A minimum of one hour of hard strenuous games and exertion a day is recommended. Because of its energy, it is not suited as an apartment dog. It can live outside in temperate or warm weather, but it needs warm shelter and needs to come inside in colder weather. It is such a sociable dog that it does best living with its family. The coat needs regular brushing and combing every two to three days, plus some clipping and trimming to looks its best. Major concerns: PRA, CHD, gastric torsion
Minor concerns: epilepsy, megaesophagus, OCD, panosteitis, HOD
Occasionally seen: OCD, epilepsy, hemophilia A
Suggested tests: DNA for PRA, hip, eye, cardiac
Life span: 12 14 years
Note: With the advent of DNA testing for PRA, this problem should no longer be a concern if both parents have been tested.
The precise origins of the Irish setter are obscure, but the most reasonable theories consider this breed to have resulted from a blend of spaniels, pointers and other setters mostly the English but, to a lesser extent, the Gordon. Irish hunters needed a fast-working, keen-nosed dog that was large enough to be seen from a distance. They found their dog in the red and white setters produced from these crosses. The first kennels of solid red setters appeared around 1800. In only a few years, these dogs had gained a reputation for their rich mahogany color. By the mid-1800s, Irish red setters (as they were originally known) had come to America, proving themselves as effective on American game birds as Irish ones. Back in Ireland, around 1862, a dog that was to forever change the breed, Champion Palmerston, was born. With an unusually long head and slender build, he was considered too refined for the field, so his owner ordered him drowned. Another fancier interceded, and the dog became a sensation as a show dog, going on to sire an incredible number of offspring. Virtually every modern Irish setter can be traced to Palmerston. Interest changed from field trials to dog shows, and emphasis changed from hunting ability to glamour. Despite this, the Irish setter remained a capable hunter, and dedicated breeders took steps to retain the breed's dual abilities. The breed increased principally in popularity as a show dog, however, and later as a pet. It eventually rose to a place among the most popular breeds in America in the 1970s, but has since plummeted in the rankings.