Showsight Spring Edition, February/March 2021


of Gordon (1743-1827). The Duke main- tained of kennel of setters at Gordon Castle in the very north of Scotland, and these dogs were black and tan as well as tri-colored. The Duke interbred his setters with other ken- nels’ dogs to obtain the wide-ranging gundog employed to locate the red grouse and ptar- migan found in those northern areas. Gordon Setters made their way to the US, being brought over by George Blunt and Daniel Webster in 1842. The parent club offers a yearly national championship field trial and, in 2018, began offering a national walking gundog championship. Besides these events, the club also offers field awards to Gundog of the Year, Gundog (Retrieve) of the Year, Derby Dog of the Year (for those that are not puppies, but not yet finished hunting dogs), and Puppy of the Year. In addition to these awards, any Gordon Set- ter earning an AKC conformation title, plus an obedience/tracking/agility title, and a field title, is awarded the “Beauty, Brains, Birdsense Award.” To their credit, there are Gordon Set- ter enthusiasts throughout the country who hunt and show the same dogs, and there have been dual champions in the breed. One does find that the field-only Gordon tends to be not quite as heavy in substance as the show Gordon, but definitely more so than the English Setter. The emphasis on a show coat in show Gordons does not appear to be as excessive as with the other Setter breeds. Morphologically, the breed evolved into a consistent type and structure without having pervasive excesses that have occurred in so many other breeds. What has caused the demise of Setters used as hobby gundogs and the emphasis placed on the show-type dog with its exces- sive (for the field) feathering? Is it the gradual change in the interests of the population as it moved from rural to urban and suburban set- tings? Do people no longer learn at a young age to enjoy hunting with gundogs? Do people still experience and enjoy meals with different types of animal protein than that which is commonly available commercially? Are many areas of the country so built-up that game fowl no longer have habitat? Have types of land use permits supplanted the abil- ity of hunters to shoot over their dogs? This writer does not have the answers, but would enjoy learning what you think. I’ll look forward to your commentary and questions on this article, as well as the ones that follow in this series. Feel free to send your comments to or to me at

the show specimens, with the tail being held more upright when on point than the car- riage seen in the show ring. That the breed has taken two directions, show and competi- tive field, is regrettable. The efforts of those who continue to strive to breed the dual-pur- pose Irish Setter, field and bench, are com- mendable. Interestingly, the FCI standard for the Irish Setter calls for a smaller size than the AKC standard: 23-26 ½" for dogs, 21 ½ -24 ½" for bitches (FCI); versus 27" for dogs, 25" for bitches (AKC). The Irish Red and White Setter existed as a strain as early as the mid-18th century. It was sometimes referred to as the Rossmore Setter, named for the family in Ireland that developed this strain of setters that was of red and white coloration. This strain was preserved by the Rossmore family into the 20th century and was well-known for their gundog abilities with ground-hiding game- birds. The breed declined greatly in popu- larity and, upon return from World War I, an Irish clergyman attempted to revive the breed through the use of existing stock. In the mid-1940s, a breed club was formed, but numbers did not increase significantly. In the 1970s, a united effort was initiated in Ireland to revive the breed. Numbers began to slowly increase and, by 1981, the breed club had been renamed at least twice. By the 1980s and late ‘90s, several revisions to the breed standard occurred that included color and pattern definition as well as penalizing for trimming. On first glance, the Irish Red and White Setter not only has much less furnishings all over than does the Irish Setter, it is also slightly lower in height range (AKC stan- dard) and does not have the all-too-common sweeping rear angulation of the Irish Setter. The heads are also a bit different in sub- stance, skin, and shape. The Irish Red and White Setter, though a fairly recent (1980s) re-introduction to the US, has maintained, to a large extent, its original type and style. The parent club in the US has described the breed’s hunting style in order to familiarize those who judge AKC field events. It has also described a grooming style that forbids the shaving, scissoring, and shaping of the breed’s coat. The heaviest of the Setter breeds is the Gordon Setter. Prior to being accepted by the Kennel Club (UK) in 1924 as the “Gor- don Setter,” these dogs were known in 1872 by the KC as a breed called the Black and Tan Setter. They were found in many ken- nels throughout Scotland and the north of England, but are most closely associated in name with Alexander Gordon, the 4th Duke

the parent club offers Hunt Tests with its National Specialty Show scheduling. The parent club also maintains two awards for those English Setters that are used as gundogs. Some of the early setter-types made their way to Ireland, and by the 1790s the Irish were beginning to develop their own breed of Setter. By the 1840s, setters in Ireland were of either the red type or the red and white type, or they were white with red patches or lemon-colored. By 1850, the breed was being referred to in literature as the “Irish Setter.” Originally made up in a heavier style (though not as heavy as the English Setter or what would become the Gordon Setter), the Irish Setter began to acquire a lighter, racier look by the earlier 1860s. Its red col- oration became the norm and, by 1886, the Irish Red Setter Club was formed in Dub- lin. This “look” eventually came to the US where it was bred on, and people became enamored of the breed as a companion rather than a superb grouse dog. Even during the years between the two World Wars, there were a few active Irish Setter gundog ken- nels that proved the breed’s mettle. However, the 1930s saw the breed turn favor from a gundog to a companion and show dog. By the 1940s, Field and Stream magazine was reporting that the breed was disappearing from the field. Proponents of the working gundog imported some dogs from overseas as well as crossed existing gundog stock with red and white English Setters whose off- spring were registered in the Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB). By virtue of registration in the FDSB, the AKC allowed the offspring to be registered in the AKC stud book as well. In 1975, the Irish Setter Club of America peti- tioned the AKC to stop reciprocal registra- tion between the FDSB and AKC, and the request was fulfilled. It was not until later in the second half of the 20th century, follow- ing the breed’s steep decline in popularity, that some interest once again turned to the breed as a sportsmen’s gundog. The US parent club offers yearly Irish Set- ter-only field trials in which field champion points and amateur field champion points can be earned as well as a walking field trial and a walking hunt test in the open and ama- teur formats. In 2019, the parent club award- ed four dual-titled (bench champion and hunt test) dogs their hunt test titles (junior, senior, or master hunter). For the previous year, one Irish Setter was awarded a dual title of bench champion and junior hunter. The dogs that are used exclusively for field trial work appear heavier in body and much lighter in feathering volume and length than


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