Irish Setter: Everything You Need to Know

The Irish Setter (Irish Red Setter) is a hunter, an extroverted intellectual, and an adherent of an active lifestyle with luxurious chestnut hair.

The Irish Setter is a charming, intelligent, clever girl with a positive attitude towards life and others. Sometimes overly gullible, but able to insist on his own, this handsome chestnut is the type of pet in which you never tire of discovering unexpected qualities. Hunting with the Irish Setter is a topic worthy of a separate article. It is possible to return from the field without prey with a dog only in one case – if not a single feathered creature was originally found on this field.

The Irish Red Setter is one of the most “secret” hunting breeds, the first written mention of which dates back to the 15th century. At first, the term “setter” did not denote a specific variety of dogs, but entire groups of animals, whose main qualification was working with wild birds. In particular, setters were often attracted to hunting partridges with a net. Possessing an extremely keen instinct, the dogs always accurately determined the location of the prey and indicated the direction to it, performing the function of a living navigator.

Little is known about the closest relatives of the Irish setters. There is an assumption that the blood of several varieties of spaniels, bloodhounds, pointers, and even wolfhounds flows in the veins of modern representatives of the breed. However, it has actually not been possible to confirm the guesses so far. Purposefully breeding hunting dogs with reddish-brown hair in Ireland began at the end of the 18th century, as evidenced by the herd books of those years. Nevertheless, until the middle of the 19th century, the breed was not considered formed, therefore, in the rings, animals performed in groups with other varieties of setters. The official starting point for the history of the breed is 1860 when it was decided to separate the Irish Setters into a separate type. In 1882, the first Irish Red Club was opened in Dublin, and three years later the first breed standard was issued by the same organization.

Interesting fact: at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries. in Europe, the crossing of the exhibition and hunting varieties of the Irish setter was practiced. Such experiments led to several problems, including the degeneration of the breed traits of the animals, due to which the mating between workers and show lines had to be discontinued. American breeders, on the contrary, were fond of improving mainly show specimens, so today’s “Irish” made in the USA are somewhat different from their overseas fellow tribesmen.

In Russia, Irish setters were known even before the revolution. Moreover, there were elite nurseries in the country, which were patronized by members of the princely families. But even after the change of the state system, the breed was not forgotten: they continued not only to breed it but also to actively improve it, importing purebred European producers into the Union. For example, A. Ya. Pego, a professional breeder, and author of the book “Irish Setter”, which for more than half a century has become the “bible” of domestic dog breeders, played an outstanding role in popularizing the “Irish” in the USSR.

It is worth noting that in Russia there has always been a stake in the breeding of animals from hunting lines, which means that the domestic livestock never went to international exhibitions. Later, E.E.Klein and T.N.Krom intercepted Pegov’s baton, modifying the type of dogs towards drier and more muscular, which allowed the Soviet setters to come a little closer to the Anglo-Irish pedigree ideal.

If the tops of the most sophisticated individuals were compiled for hunting dogs, the Irish setters would shine first places in them. High-legged, with a proud bearing, smooth, swift movements, these self-sufficient “gentlemen” are an example of intelligence and restrained charm. By the way, it is this feature of the breed that marketers and creators of commercials love to exploit.

A strong influence on the appearance of Irish setters is exerted by sexual dimorphism, due to which males not only surpass bitches in size but also look more colorful in general. The coat, which is unique in terms of color and structure, also plays an important role in the formation of the breed image. Satin, shimmering in all shades of reddish-red, the dog resembles an exquisite outfit that changes its shade depending on the type and intensity of lighting. The richness of the coat depends on the breed line. Worker setters are usually more modest than show ones, with less fluffy feathering on the ears and less expressive fringe on the belly.

Regarding the height and weight of the Irish Setters, in males the height at the withers is 58-67 cm, in bitches – 55-62 cm; dogs must weigh between 27 and 32 kg.

The breed has a narrow, highly elongated head, with a good balance between muzzle and skull. The supraorbital ridges and the occipital protuberance are distinctly protruding, the muzzle is moderately flared, almost square at the end.

The upper and lower jaws of the Irish Setter are of the same length and are closed in the classic “scissors”.

The nose is medium in size, the nostrils are wide open. Typical lobe colors are dark walnut, charcoal black, dark mahogany.

The oval, shallow-set eyes of the Irish Setter are characterized by a slightly beveled cut. The standard iris colors are dark brown and dark hazel.

The ears are small, set low, and very soft to the touch. The ear tip has a rounded tip and hangs down along the cheekbones.

The neck is slightly arched, of good length, sufficiently muscular, but not at all thick

The body of the Irish Red Setter is well proportioned, with a deep though rather a narrow chest, a straight back, and a sloping, long croup. The abdomen and groin areas are tucked up high.

Forelegs bony, sinewy, set parallel to each other. The shoulder blades are deep, the elbows are free, without obvious eversion to either side. Hind legs of impressive length, well muscled. The angulation is correct, the area from the hock to the foot is massive and short. The paws of the dog are not large, the toes are strong, tightly knit. The Irish Red Setter moves in a classic gallop, proudly throwing up its head. The reach of the forelimbs of the animal is high enough, but without excessive throwing of the legs up, the push of the hind legs is powerful, springy-soft.

The Irish Setter has a moderately long tail (in bitches it is a couple of centimeters longer than in males), a low-set tail with a massive base, and a relatively thin tip. The classic tail shape is straight or saber.

Adults are covered with a smooth, silky dog ​​of medium length. On the frontal side of the forelegs, on the head, and the tips of the ear canal, the hair is short, close to the skin. The back of all four limbs and the upper part of the ear canal are “decorated” with fine hair. On the tail and abdomen, a plentiful hound transforms into an exquisite fringe, often passing to the chest and throat area. Tufts of feathers are present between the toes.

All dogs have a chestnut color without a hint of black undertone. Acceptable: Small white marks on throat, chest, and forehead, or white blisters on muzzle and nose.

Irish Red Setters may not meet the breed standard for various conformation characteristics. For example, an animal shouldn’t have such disadvantages as:

  • long or curled coat;
  • broad or atypically short head;
  • coiled / burdock ears.

Bulging, small or too close eyes, a humped back, a flat chest, a thin sickle tail will also not be evaluated by breeding commissions. As for complete disqualification, it threatens individuals with cryptorchidism, owners of atypical or black coat color, as well as dogs that do not have toilet coats and have depigmented lips, eyelids, or nose.

The Irish Setter is a dog whose internal battery operates in turbo mode from puppyhood to venerable age. And this applies not only to physical activity but also to emotions, which the breed has a strategic reserve. If for the whole day the “Irishman” did not manage to communicate with any living creature (if there is no human – a cat will do), this is a serious reason for him to be upset.

Contact and friendly, Irish Red Setters are completely free of any aggression. They do not expect a dirty trick from strangers and are generous towards children, even if they are not very polite. However, it is a big mistake to perceive representatives of this breed as weak-willed mattresses. When necessary, the Irish Setter can show stubbornness and strength of character to demonstrate. True, he will not do this assertively, but gradually, using clever tricks, and sometimes sheer pretense. Trying to dominate a person is not typical for chestnut clever people (there are also exceptions), but they prefer to make decisions in everyday life on their own.

Irish Red Setters are not averse to hanging out and fit easily into dog company. They will also accept the second dog that appears in the house with “outstretched paws” unless it is a dominant jealous type of a Rottweiler or Boerboel. And yet, animals have the most sincere affection for humans, therefore, before acquiring an Irish setter, think about whether you are ready to sacrifice a sofa rest for a book in favor of morning jogging in any weather and whether you will not get tired of that volume of feelings and emotions, which the dog considers it his duty to throw out on the owner. In particular, at home, the “Irish” love to follow the owner’s tail, unobtrusively but insistently demanding affection, hugs, and attention, and no strict commands or shouts can cure such pathological love.

The Irish Red Setter is not without talent, although it does not enjoy a reputation for being easily trainable. The problem lies in the too lively temperament of the breed, which does not allow its representatives to concentrate on one object or type of activity for a long time. So, if you are planning to seriously engage in training your pet, get ready to smash your brains overdrawing up an individual training program that will not cause rejection in the dog.

3.5-8 months is the optimal age for training an Irish Setter puppy. By this time, the kids are already aware of what a collective hierarchy is, so it is important to have time to let them understand who is the real boss in the house and who is the “guy in the wings”. Teaching the pet to the OKD and UGS commands is a mandatory measure since the breed is prone to escapes. Particular attention is paid to practicing the “Come to me!” The dog should react to it instantly and unquestioningly, although, as practice shows, this skill is the most difficult for the animal.

With the rest of the teams, you can not be too zealous. The Irish Setter is not a shepherd after all; Pointing and mechanical work on the machine is not her strong point. So, if the pet did not fulfill the requirement immediately or slightly altered it, this is already a reason to praise the animal. For such a self-sufficient and stubborn dog, this is a serious achievement.
Setters are dependent on the master’s approval, and on this trait of character, it is possible to “go out” quite well in cases when the four-legged pet dodges classes. Show how upset you are by the dog’s unwillingness to work with you, and in a couple of minutes the Irishman, overwhelmed with remorse, will torture out another trick. Just do not abuse the canine complaisance: there are situations in which the Irish Setter will never make a concession. No, there will be no open protest, because the chestnut sly does not like conflicts. But there will be masterly deafness to commands and universal misunderstanding in the eyes. It is necessary to treat such attacks with understanding, transferring the lesson to another time, but in no case completely abandoning the goal. Irish setters are smart guys, quick to figure out which levers to push to get what you want, so if you don’t want to raise an obstinate lazy person, be persistent and resourceful.

Psychologically, the “natives of the country of leprechauns” remain puppies for a long time: hooligan, hyperactive, uncontrollable. You will have to come to terms with this fact since punishments and an authoritarian style of communication are unacceptable for the breed and will only worsen the situation. But slightly adjusting the baby’s behavior is real. For example, physical activity is good at reducing the craving for adventures. A rascal who has walked up to exhaustion usually does not have the strength for leprosy and only one desire arises – to take a nap in a corner.

The main prey for the Irish Red Setter when hunting is partridge, quail, corncrake, black grouse, ducks, and woodcocks. The breed is reckless, easy-going, and relatively manageable, but not as patient as we would like. The dog works, relying mainly on flair, using hearing and sight to a minimum. As a result: in the course of long aimless wanderings in the fields, the four-footed earner receives fewer impressions, therefore, he loses interest in work and switches to another type of activity. It is advisable to hunt with an Irish setter only in proven places, where feathered trophies definitely live. If you need a more consistent and focused search process “scout”, it is better to pay attention to the English setter.

In the past, a purely hunting breed, the Irish Setter is now increasingly positioned as a companion dog, which did not hesitate to affect the conditions of detention. “Irish” no longer spend the night in barns and the open air, and the care of their own wool was entrusted to the owners and groomers. The classic type of housing for a modern dog is a private house, preferably a country house, with a fenced yard. A more modest alternative is a comfortable bed in the apartment. Moreover, both options do not exclude intense physical activity, without which the four-legged “energizers” lose their taste for life and degrade.

The animals are traditionally walked twice a day. Each such promenade lasts at least an hour, and preferably an hour and a half. By the way, the habit of enduring with the toilet before going out on the street is easy for clever setters, but it is better not to go to extremes and additionally take the dog out to cope – 10 minutes spent will save the pet from unnecessary torment.

Get ready to tinker with Irish Setter fur a lot and often. First, because it is relatively long, especially in the abdomen, chest, and tail. Secondly, because the smooth, silky hair of the setters is constantly dumping, tied in knots, and tangled, along the way clinging to the thorns and seeds of plants. It will be especially tough with representatives of the exhibition lines, whose dog is an order of magnitude longer than that of hunting individuals. The show-setters are combed daily, thoroughly working the strands with a natural bristle brush.

You need to bathe your dog relatively often: once every 7-10 days. Usually, the washing process is preceded by the purchase of professional shampoos, conditioners, and natural oils to improve the structure of the coat. Without them, it is almost impossible to achieve a glamorous shimmer on the coat of an Irish setter. You should wash your pet after its dog has been thoroughly combed and the mats are disassembled because after the bath it will be more difficult to do this.

Irish Red Setters are trimmed with thinning scissors to give them a more thoroughbred look. This is not a full-fledged haircut, but an easy thinning of the decorating wool, so do not get carried away too much, but rather entrust the job to the pros. During the off-season, when there is a lot of mud and puddles outside, it is more advisable to walk the dog in protective overalls, which can be ordered in the online store or sewn independently from waterproof fabric.

The animal’s ears, eyes, and teeth are cared for regularly. The drooping ears of the Irish Red Setter are poorly ventilated, therefore, in addition to cleaning, they will have to be artificially ventilated – take the ear cloth by the edges and wave them vigorously. Dogs’ claws are cut 1-2 times a month: since the breed does not like to run on asphalt, preferring sandy paths and paths, they grind poorly. By the way, it is best to do a “pedicure” for an Irish setter after a bath, when the claw is softened by steam and warm water. Of the mandatory procedures, it is also worth mentioning brushing your teeth (at least a couple of times a week) and daily rubbing the mucous membranes of the eyes with herbal infusions (chamomile, tea).

Start by buying a bowl holder for your pet. The Irish Setter is not a stocky breed, and bowing at every meal is elementarily harmful to her, there is a risk of getting a volvulus. The calorie content of the diet should be calculated with an eye to the level of physical activity received by the dog. For example, athletes and representatives of hunting lines, who regularly travel to the field, need to be fed more densely than pets. In addition, Irish Setters are mostly small-footed and must be reckoned with. Of course, it is impossible to stuff more than the prescribed norm into an animal, but making a portion more nutritious or choosing an optimal feed in terms of fat content (from 16% and above) is quite realistic.

As for the natural menu for the breed, it does not differ in particular originality. Substandard meat (at the rate of 20 g per kilogram of animal body weight), offal, fish fillet – these are the three products that make up its base. Of cereals, buckwheat and oatmeal are useful for Irish red setters. By the way, puppies add cereal to the meat or bone broth. Vegetables and fruits are given to dogs only seasonal – and no Asian exotic that can provoke an attack of allergies. Additionally, adults can be treated to an omelet of two chicken eggs, low-fat sour milk, and vegetable oil (about a teaspoon), plus vitamin supplements, selected and agreed with the veterinarian.

The health of a breed depends on how responsibly the owner of the kennel approaches her breeding. The same hereditary diseases may not manifest themselves in animals, the breeder of which does not skimp on genetic testing of the litter, scrupulously selects sires for mating, and does not abuse closely related crossbreeding. Conversely, Irish Setters who are not very lucky with the owner and heredity may show the following diseases:

  • volvulus;
  • epilepsy;
  • hypothyroidism;
  • malignant tumors (melanomas);
  • entropion;
  • dysplasia of the hip joint;
  • allergic dermatitis;
  • inflammatory processes in the uterus;
  • spinal cord pathology (degenerative myelopathy);
  • congenital enlargement of the esophagus (idiopathic megaesophagus);
  • hypertrophic osteodystrophy;
  • laryngeal paralysis.

At the beginning of the 20th century, European breeders went too far with inbreeding, as a result of which the “Irish” suffered from progressive retinal atrophy for a long time. It was possible to eradicate the defect only after the development of a system of tests that helped to identify the gene for blindness in the early stages. Ultimately, defective individuals were no longer allowed for breeding, which reduced the risk of inherited disease.

How to choose a puppy?

  • The “girls” of the Irish red setter are more affectionate and agreeable, but the “boys” are richer “dressed” and differ in textured appearance.
  • To choose a good friend dog, it is better not to waste time on exhibitions, but to contact the hunting club that oversees working setter kennels.
  • Working line puppies look more faded than their show brethren. Their coat is lighter, shorter, and less frequent, and the puppies themselves are much smaller.
  • When purchasing an Irish Red Setter puppy for shows, it is worthwhile to thoroughly study the pedigrees of the producers. It makes no sense to wait for a reference exterior from a kid whose parents do not have a single exhibition diploma.
  • Check where the parents of the puppies are from. Usually, domestic producers give offspring that are excellent in working qualities and very modest in external indicators. This is because for over a hundred years Russian breeders have specialized in breeding hunting lines. If you need a puppy with show potential, it is better to contact kennels that practice mating imported individuals. There are not very many of them, but they are.
  • There are two particularly successful show types of Irish setters, depending on the breeding location: English and American. If you are an adherent of the classics in all its manifestations, it is better to give preference to the natives of Foggy Albion. At one time, American breeders went too far with the “upgrade” of the breed, because of which the appearance of their wards acquired a somewhat exaggerated look.



Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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