irish setter Q&A
WITH LORRAINE BISSO, NENA DEE, PETER A. FROST, MAUREEN A. DAY, SIDNEY MARX, DR. DANA MASSEY & JUDITH ZAWIKOWSKI
fronts did not match which was evident in their movement and exaggerated topline.
see some beautiful Irish headpieces as I travel from show to show. I have also seen a few breeders (thankfully, only a few) who give little thought to hereditary health issues when planning a breeding. There are a very few that keep their heads firmly buried in the sand like an ostrich. DM: Exaggerated rear angle; low tail sets, high tail carriage; lack of depth. JZ: The Irish Setter breed has changed dramatically since I became involved in the breed. That doesn’t surprise me after being around for 48 years! I have bred and finished quite a few Champions under the KILLARY prefix in those long years, along with my dog-partner, Deb Peterson and feel that the breed has lost a few things that I would like to see breeders concentrate on. One of them, which I call the “drag of the breed,” is the front assembly. Cathedral fronts don’t belong on a dog that needs to be sturdy enough to be able to go all day in the field. The gay tail that has cropped up in the past five years or so has me totally in disbelief. Doesn’t off the back mean anything anymore? They are not Afghan Hounds! The deep, scissoring groom- ing jobs that are seen in the conformation ring are so over-exaggerated, it’s pathetic. Some may think I am old school on that subject, but you are not hiding flaws from me by going crazy with the scissors! The Irish Setter is a beautiful dog, has a great temperament and should be bred to the standard and groomed properly, to amplify all its wonderful traits. I am seeing really pretty heads, lovely condition and nice, dark eyes. The breeders are paying attention much more than years gone by. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstood about the breed. LB: I think many do not understand the silhouette. The Irish Setter is slightly longer than tall when measured from breastbone to rear of thigh, not withers to tailset and the length should be in the ribbing with a moderate loin. Bal- anced angles front and rear short, perpendicular hocks and the correct body will produce the desired slightly sloping topline. The description of gait in the standard is very good. Watch- ing the Irish in the field though brings it to life. Bird in mouth or searching for game, head reaching slightly forward, the dog is graceful, agile and efficient, topline quiet, the forelegs reaching well forward and the rear driving with great power. Short hocks act as the fulcrum for this rear drive. Lifting of feet front or rear is wasted energy and not efficient movement. ND: It is important to consider the essence of being an aristocratic and elegant hunting dog that moves with an efficient big trot and not just a generic, red dog. The Irish Setter is the raciest of the four Setters. PF: A word that is often associated with Irish Setters is racy and something that I believe many new judges
PF: I think that there is a trend to breed for the extreme and we are seeing too many dogs that are heavily sculptured into a beautiful picture on the stack and then fall apart on the move. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in his breed are bet- ter now than when you first started judging? How has the breed changed? LB: Pictures from the 60s when I started showing show Irish Setters with lovely, long, chiseled headpieces, good shoulders, bone and small feet. Dogs also often had less coat than today, a more rounded croup as the tail was described as set on rather low and varying body proportions. The standard was revised in 1960 and the essential description of the active. aristocratic bird dog was added. There have been outstanding individuals through the years! MD: There are better croups, tailsets and the improved bend of stifle that adds to the proper rear angulation. However, the front with a correct layback of shoulder and proper return of upper arm are still a challenge—as they are in most breeds. As for exaggerated traits, the current grooming or stylizing of the coat by sculpturing the outline of the dog is really overdone but I don’t find it distracting. This stylizing and conditioning of the coat has truly become an art form. ND: I do think the dogs are better now than in the 70s. I find better balance today and a more elegant look. I am happy to say that the heads are going back to the classic long, lean, chiseled look with dark eyes and soft expressions. Heads are also showing better parallel planes of the skull, top of muzzle and underjaw. Although not a head breed, every breed has a distinct and different head. PF: I often hear people lamenting that the breed is not as good as it was years ago. I think that is because we remember the great dogs from the past and forget that there were others not so good. I believe that the top Irish of today are more glamorous than their predecessors but are equal to the top dogs of yesteryear. One thing that is important is that today’s breeders on the whole are much more aware of the health issues and endeavor to breed healthy specimens. SM: I think the breed has become more elegant and fancy, but often this has been at the cost of balance and soundness. When the breed—any breed—exagger- ates any single trait, we lose the essence of the breed. I think exaggerated trimming as well as breeding to the big winner—whether that dog fits with the bitch and pedigree—has often resulted in type that is no longer in balance (often seen in an over-angulated rear that ruins the desired balanced movement). On the other hand, I do
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