Irish red and white setter pups will grow up to be stunning show dogs with powerful hunting instincts.
The Irish Red and White Setter is an elegant, well-known native Irish dog breed.
The function of setters is to locate game, such as grouse, partridge, pheasant and snipe. Carrying its head high, trying to locate the scent of game in the air, the dog quarters the ground methodically and systematically. Once the game is located the dog adopts the characteristic ‘set’, by freezing on point in a lowered crouching position; its frame will be rigid and tense as it focuses on the hidden birds. This setting stance points the handler to exactly where the game is located. In short, the Irish Red and White Setter allows the hunter to find and pinpoint the exact location of birds. In the past, the birds would have been caught using a net, but the use of the modern automatic rifle has replaced this practice.
The main distinguishing feature of the Irish Red and White Setter is its colour. As the name suggests, Irish Red and White Setters should be red and white. One of the best descriptions of the breed is given by Lord Rossmore in 1944:
The colour of the red and white setter is most important. White should predominate and form the background or major colour. The red should only appear in large blotches. The boundary between red and white should be clearly defined. Although the boundary may be irregular, there should be no gradual blending of colour between red and white. The head should carry a red blotch, but the muzzle should be white. The ears should be red. There should be no specks on the body, but freckles on the nose and feet are allowed. The tail may be all white, but if marked with a red blotch is improved. They were easily trained, and to a keen sportsman quite the most pleasurable and keen dogs to shoot over and have as a friend that any man could wish. (Irish Dogs, W. L. Cuddy, 1978)
The coat is short and flat around the head and body. Feathering can be seen on the outer edges of the ears, neck, chest, down the back of the front legs, under the belly and on the back legs. The tail is also feathered, with its coat particularly long here. The feathering should not be too exaggerated, and never curly. No specific weight is given in the kennel club breed standard, but males can be up to 66cm at the shoulder and weigh around 32kg.
Personality and temperament
The Irish Red and White Setter is a loyal and attentive companion and makes for the perfect family dog. Generally submissive and non-assertive, they are a gentle and welcoming breed. Essentially a working dog, they do best in active households where they can expel some of their energy, and do require enough space to run freely so they can gallop and act on their natural searching instincts. Although energetic outdoors, they are quiet and calm indoors, preferring to curl up on the couch. Extremely sweet-natured, they are exceptional with children and other dogs.
‘Setting dogges’ have been used for centuries. By the 17th century these ‘setting dogges’ were well-established, although during this period interbreeding of different colours was still taking place. Gradually, breeders started to selectively breed dogs depending on their suitability to the working terrain.
Originally in Ireland, setting dogs came in a variety of colours, with most being red, particolour red and white, or nearly all white. These colours were interbred readily, and so all setting dogs in Ireland, regardless of colour, were classed under the umbrella term ‘Irish Setter’. In the mid-19th century there were mixed views on the exact colour of the Irish Setter, and by the end of the century there was a notable move towards a solid red colour. During this time the red and white coloured dogs suffered a sharp decline in popularity and numbers reached such low numbers that many thought the breed extinct. It was only with the great efforts of Irishman, Rev. Noble Huston, that the breed survived extinction. In 1970, there was a revival of the breed, and today the Irish Red and White Setter can be found across the world. Comparative to other breeds, however, numbers are still low, and so it is classed as a vulnerable breed.
Irish Red and White Setters must be provided with a decent amount of exercise and the space to run free, as well as a weekly brush. Other than that, the breed is low maintenance. Overall, they are a healthy breed.
Did you know?
The Irish Red and White Setter, along with the Irish Red Setter, appeared on an Irish postage stamp during the early 1900s.