Irish Setter: A Look Back

Discover how the Irish Setter dog breed’s history and standard was viewed in the United States in 1916.

From the Archives of Dog World: Enjoy this all-access pass to dog history from the pages of the oldest living dog magazine. This content remains in its original form and reflects the language and views of its time. Health and behavior information evolves and only the most current advice should be followed.

The origin of the Irish Setter dog breed is, like that of other dog breeds, buried in an obscurity from which it will never emerge, in spite of the many theories which have been propounded concerning it. The peculiarity of its coloring renders the Irish Setter distinct in itself, and it is more than possible that it is in some way descended from the liver-hued seeting dog, which is referred to by Geronse Markham in his “Hunger Prevention.” As a matter of fact, the earliest mention that we have been able to discover of any setter peculiar to Ireland is in the “Sportsman’s Cabinet” where, in the chapter on English Setters, direct allusion is made to this dog breed in the following words: “The sporting gentlemen of Ireland are more partial to setters than pointers, and probably they are better adopted to that country . . .  The fields in many parts of Ireland are large, very rugged, and stony.”
This clearly shows that at the beginning of this century the Irish Setter, in some shape or other, was indentified with the Emerald Isle. It is greatly to be regretted that no mention is made of the appearance of these dogs, as, if there had been anything of the kind a good deal of light might have been thrown upon the Irish Setter as this dog breed at present exists. It is somewhat remarkable that in the cases both the Irish Setter and the Gordon Setter so great a difference of opinion should exist among the supporters on the subject of color. The controversy on the Gordon Setter question has already been done justice to; but, on approaching the Irish Setter, we are met with almost identical difficulties, as to the Gordon Setter so in the Irish, opinions are mainly divided on the question of white. Whether this color is permissible in a pure-bred Irish Setter or not, was, at one time, a very important feature in discussions on these dog breeds, and we have of later years even heard it maintained that white marks should disqual by an Irish Setter in completion on the show bench.

The Irish Setter Standard
As Approved by the Irish Setter Club.

Head.—Should be long and lean. The skull oval (from ear to ear), having plenty of brain room, and with well-defined occipital protuberance. Brows raised, showing stop. The muzzle moderately deep and fairly square at end. From the stop to the point of the nose should be long, the nostrils wide and the jaws of nearly equal length, flews not to be pendulous. The color of the nose dark mahogany or dark chocolate and that of the eye (which ought not to be too large) rich hazel or brown. The ears to be of moderate size, fine in texture, set on low, well back and hanging in a neat fold close to the head.

Neck.—Should be moderately long, very muscular but not too thick, slightly arched, free from all tendency to throatiness.

Body.—Should be proportionately long, shoulders fine at the points, deep and sloping well back. The chest deep, rather narrow in front. The ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung room. The loins muscular and slightly arched. The hindquarters wide and powerful.

Legs and Feet.—The hind legs from hip to hock should be long and muscular, from hock to hell short and strong. The stifle and hock joints well bent, and not inclined either in or out. The forelegs should be strong and sinewy, having plenty of bone, with elbows free, well let down and, like the ohck, not inclined either out or in. The feet rather small, very firm, toes strong, close together and arched.

Tail.—Should be of moderate length, set on rather low, strong at root and tapering to a fine point; to be carried in a slight scimitar-like curve or straight, nearly level with the back.

Coat.—On the head, front of legs and tips of ears should be short and fine, but on all other parts of the body it should be of moderate length, flat, and as free as possible from curl or wave.

Feathering.—The feather on the upper portion of the ears should be long and silky, on the back of fore and hind legs long and fine, a fair amount of hair on belly, forming a nice fringe, which may extend on chest and throat. Feet to be well feathered between the toes. Tail to have a nice fringe of moderately long hair, decreasing in length as it approaches the point. All feathering to be as straight and as flat as possible.

Color and Markings
.—The color should be a rich golden chestnut or mahogany red, with no trace whatever of black; white on chest, throat or toes, or a small star on the forehead, or a narrow streak or blaze on the nose or face not to disqualify. 

Excerpted from Dog World magazine, December 1916, Vol. 1, No. 12. For back issues of Dog World, click here.

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