When describing an Irish 'Red' Setter in 'The Hundred and One Dalmatians', Dodie Smith writes that they are 'feather brained as well as feathered tailed'. They are in fact, an intelligent dog who responds well to training as well as being spectacularly beautiful, with their rich, long and silky red coat.
At the beginning of the 18th century a dog known as a 'Setter' was on the scene, with strong lines coming out of Ireland, with Irish nobility being particularly attracted to breeding them. They were primarily bred to hunt and point game birds and fowl in the upland, boggy and peaty conditions synonymous with large tracts of Ireland using their powerful sense of smell and instinct for hunting.
A likely descendent of this 'Setter' could be Spaniel type breeds although no one seems to know for certain. By 1845, the preference for a solid rich, chestnut red coloured dog was becoming apparent, although lemon marled or white and red colours were also seen. Such was the popularity of the Setter as a breed, that the 'Irish Setter Club was formed and in 1886 approved breed standards for this beautiful dog, which remains more or less the same today.
Average height to withers: Males and females average between 24-27 inches, with males on the larger side
Average weight: 27-3 kg for both males and females
Do not be fooled by the graceful and serene appearance of the Irish Setter as underneath lays a tough, but undoubtedly gentle, dog who has the stamina and energy to spend a day in field conditions when required to do so.
That said, these dogs are certainly head turners wherever they go thanks to their silky, luxurious coat which is usually a burnished, rich and deep chestnut red with fine amount of feathering on the legs, ears, undercarriage and tail.
Everything about this dog is fluid and easy from their long, pedant and lobular ears to their graceful sweep of their back, sloping down to their hindquarters and tapering off into a well feathered tail.
People rarely have a negative thing to say about the temperament of Irish Setters, being friendly to adults, children, other animals and strangers alike. This easy going nature will not, of course, make them a good guard dog, however, you will have a playful, affectionate and loyal member of the family if you choose an Irish Setter to share your home. One thing to be slightly wary of with Setters is the hunting instinct which is still alive and kicking and as a result, it is advisable to supervise them around small animals you may have in the household such as rabbits, birds, hamsters etc.
They are a very active and alert dog, and enjoy long daily walks and runs. Due to their highly trainable nature, they are usually good off the lead, provided you have trained them with a reliable recall. This of course may vary according to the dogs personality as some Irish Setters are so playful they may develop selective hearing when called back to go home!
This is a breed of dog which does not relish being alone for long periods of time and inactivity may lead to separation anxiety, boredom and destructive behaviour.
Due to their pliable and gentle nature Irish Setters are often used as PAT dogs in schools, hospitals and hospices where they will receive the attention and affection with pleasure.
A healthy and well kept Setter will live between 10-14 years and they are generally a healthy breed but it is one of the only breeds for which genetic test has been developed to detect the presence of PRA. This is a group of genetic diseases seen in certain breeds of dog. Its clinical symptoms include a degeneration of the retina, causing progressive vision loss culminating in blindness. There is currently no known treatment for this condition.
Like some other medium to larger sized dogs, Hip Dysplasia may be an issue as can Epilepsy.
It goes without saying that the coat of an Irish Setter requires daily grooming. This is not something that should be compromised as letting a build up of detritus and debris is not advisable due to the fine, long nature of it - it will simply take twice as long to groom when you get round to doing it, as well as being potentially unhealthy for the dog. You need not bathe this breed more than a few times per year if you keep to a regular grooming schedule, unless you have a dog which is drawn to the mud. In addition, it is a good idea to check the Setters ears at least once a week. Being long, they do not allow air to circulate very effectively and can be prone to ear infections if they are not kept clean and dry.
You must take into account the exercise needs of the Irish Setter - at least 2 walks a day are needed to keep your dog happy and free from boredom.