Irish Setter

Updated: Jul 3, 2018

Other Names : Irish Red Setter and Red Setter

Country of Origin : Ireland

Dog Group : Gundog


Irish Setters are the oldest of the setter group, preceeding Gordon and English setters. The country of origin is, of course, Ireland. It is believed the breed developed from old spaniels, setting spaniels and a Scottish setter. The breed was first developed for hunting and has always had a good nose for scent. However, it has not always proved to be the greatest of hunters as its mischievous, fun-loving nature sometimes gets in the way. It was in 1882 that the Irish Red Setter Club was formed in Dublin, prompted by the breeding programme of The Earl of Enniskellen, who developed the signature solid red coat. However, major show winners in the late 1800s, still had some markings of white or black, harkening back to their relations, The Red and White Setter and The Gordon Setter. While doing well in the show ring, the first field trial champion was not made up till 1929. In the 1940s the breed was nearly decimated by the eye disease Progressive Retinal Atrophy, better known as PRA. This disease is a non sex-linked genetic illness that causes night blindness. Thankfully, it is now known how to DNA test to identify carriers and thus, eliminate them from a breeding programme. Due to this scientific advance, the breed has recovered itself and the incidence of PRA has dropped dramatically.


This gundog’s outstanding attribute is its rich, chestnut to mahogany coloured coat. It is a silky, flat coat with feathering at the legs, ears and on the tail. Balanced and elegant, the breed strides through the show ring, or alongside its owner, with its head held high. The are quite muscular dogs and should not carry any excess weight.

Feeding & Ownership

This is a breed that is susceptible to bloat so care must be taken with feeding, two smaller meals are ideal. The breeder should give you advice, and a diet sheet, regarding the feeding of your Irish Setter.


The Irish Setter plays enthusiastically but gently with children and is extraordinarily sweet and affectionate as a pet. They get on well with other dogs but do need early exposure to cats and other pets in order to live in peace with them. Being terribly friendly, this is not a good guard dog, though it will announce the presence of a visitor. If bored, Irish Setters are known to bark to excess so it is best to keep them happy and active. Again, they should be trained early on as they have a tendency to scavenge and can eat some terrifying objects, e.g. light bulbs, fish-hooks, etc. Despite its noble appearance, The Irish Setter remains a pup at heart throughout its life, one of its more endearing traits.


The dog’s crowning glory is, of course, the coat. Daily brushing is essential to keep the feathers from tangling. Occasionally, the owner will need to trim between the pads and behind the ears to prevent mats. Bathing can be done as needed. A professional groomer may be needed for extensive trimming once in a while. However, for show, the coat needs a great deal of careful attention in order for the dog to be competitive. One essential grooming chore that can not be ignored is careful and regular cleaning of the ears. As they are drop ears, very little air circulation is able to get inside the ear and thus it is a breeding ground for bacteria, making ear infections common.


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