The Irish Setter was bred from various hunting dogs in 17th century Ireland to be the perfect hunting companion. Originally, they boasted red and white coats, but the standard famous red coat appeared in the 19th century, when the Irish Setter enjoyed a great popularity at home and abroad. Its agile and lean frame made it fast and tireless in the field, while its elegant and graceful build gained it show dog notoriety. Today, its sweet and gentle nature makes it an excellent family dog. Playful and energetic, this is a breed for an active family, who thrives on daily games, runs, and dog sports.
The story of the Irish Setter originates in Ireland, where hunters crossbred Pointers, flushing Spaniels, other Setters, and possibly Bloodhounds to produce an effective gundog that could point, track, and retrieve game birds. In the 1700s, the Irish Setter boasted a bicolor coat of red and white, and it had shorter legs. It was in the 19th century that the coat became solid in white or the distinctive red mahogany color that is the signature of the modern breed. The red was so popular that the Earl of Enniskillen declared he would only have these kinds in his kennels in 1812, and the color became the standard in the United States. The Irish Setter became known as a game bird hunter in Ireland, where it used its boundless energy to run back and forth in front of his hunter companion to find game. The breed was also recognized as an excellent hunting dog in America in the mid-1800s. In 1862, one particular Irish Setter was born with a longer head and more slender build. These traits gave him a refined look, one that his owner disliked so much that he ordered the dog to be drowned. Lucky for us, Palmerston was saved by a dog fancier who turned the Irish Setter into a show dog. Palmerston sired many offspring, and it is now widely believed that most Irish Setters of today are descended from him. By 1878, the AKC officially recognized the Irish Setter. The red dog gained in popularity, and sparked a Disney movie called “Big Red” in 1962. By the 1970s, Irish Setters were considered one of the most popular breeds in the United States.
The Irish Setter is an elegant and graceful dog whose body is built for agility and speed. Straight, muscular front legs and powerful, wide hindquarters end in small feet, making this breed faster and lighter than other setters. The Irish Setter is long and lean, being a bit longer than it is tall. The long head is gracefully sculpted, featuring a lean muzzle, brown almond-shaped eyes that project an alertness, and extraordinarily long and soft ears that hang close to the head. The jaws are about equal in length and the teeth fit closely. The tail boasts long, tapering hair, and is often held horizontally. While the slender and elegant build of the Irish Setter lends him agility while hunting, and admiration in the show ring, it is the distinctive red coat that has become the trademark of the breed. The standard is a solid chestnut or mahogany red coat, sometimes with patches of white seen on the toes or chest. Any traces of black will be faulted at shows. The hair itself is fine and straight, and fairly long. Feathered areas include the ears, chest, tail, legs, and stomach.
The beautiful, long and silky coat of this red dog does need daily to weekly brushing to keep it in good condition. The long hair can easily get tangled and form mats. Pay extra attention to the longer areas, such as the ears, tail, and other feathered places, as burrs love to hide in there. Spritzing with water can make brushing and combing easier. Consistent grooming can also help reduce the amount of hair in the house, as this breed does shed an average amount. Clipping and trimming every three to four months will keep the coat from looking frayed. An occasional bath or dry shampoo will keep the coat looking clean and well-groomed. Regularly check and clean any debris out of the Irish Setter’s long and floppy ears, as well as trim the nails and brush the teeth. This breed is highly energetic and requires vigorous daily exercise. Not recommended for apartment life or for sedentary families, the Irish Setter thrives in the country, or with a huge yard where it can run and play often. Without this exercise, this breed can become frustrated which could lead to difficulties in training. These dogs also have a high prey drive, and need to be fenced in or leashed during walks. Ideal as hiking and biking companions, Irish Setters also excel at dog sports, such as field and agility trials.