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Irish Setter Dog History and Origin

The Irish Red Setter is a dog breed that was developed in Ireland during the 1700s . This breed was created from the breed of Old Spanish Pointer, also known as setting spaniels, and the early Scottish setters breed.

It is interesting that the original Irish Setters had white coloring with red patches on their coats, while Setters that we know today are a deep, mahogany in color. It is not surprising that the Irish Red and the White Setter are closer relatives to the early Setters.
Where does the name Irish setter originate? The name is derived from the Gaelic term, Madra rua which has a literal translation of ‘red dog.’ These dogs are similar to other breeds of the line such as the English setter and the Gordon Setter . In the beginning, the Irish setter was primarily bred for hunting purposes, particularly for setting and pointing for upland game birds.

Irish Setters are traditionally used for many types of hunting because of their swiftness, keen sensitivity to smell and are enduring through practically any type of terrain and in virtually any weather condition. This breed was popular for hunting on the wetlands. However, today, you will more likely find an Irish setter as a family companion than strictly a hunting dog.

It would not be until the early 1800s that the Irish Setter would arrive in the United States . During this time it was traditionally used for professional meat hunting fraternities.

During the year of 1874, the American Field would create the book called, ‘Field Dog Stud Book’. This book became the first official registry for pure-bred dogs in the USA . Unlike today, dogs in the original pure-bred registry could be bred from parents from different breed types.

During this time period, the Llewellin Setter was bred from the Lavarack breed of the English setter and the blood lines from the native Irish Setters. This resulted in the red Irish setter becoming one of the favorites for the dog show-ring.

During the latter part of the 1800s the Irish Setter was not strictly red in color, but came in a variety of many different colors. Frank Forester, a writer of the time, depicted the Irish Setter with the following words: “The points of the Irish Setter are more bony, angular, and wiry frame, a longer head, a less silky and straigher coat that those of the English. His color ought to be a deep orange-red and white, a common mark is a stripe of white between the eyes and a white ring around the neck, white stockings, and a white tage to the tail.”

Even though the Setter was bred in a variety of colors, the red dogs were the most popular of the breed. It was not surprising that the bloodlines started breeding the Setters to be red and they were the most popular in the show-ring. During the years 1874 to 1948, the Setter breed led to 760 conformation champions. However there were a mere five field champions.

During the 1940s, the popular Field and Stream magazine wrote about the concern that the breed was vanishing from the original purpose of hunting in the fields. Both Field and Stream and Sports Afield agreed that an outcross was desperately needed to bring back to life the Irish setter breed as a traditional working dog.

In the state of Pennsylvania with the sanction of the Field Dog Stud book, an avid lover of the Irish setter spent large sums of money buying Irish Setters in America that were still working breeds. Ned LaGrange also added to the collection of dogs by importing additional work dogs from abroad. This led to the outcross for the red and white field champion English Setters.

Shortly afterward, the National Red Setter Field Trial Club formed to analyze the dogs and to support additionally breeding for a dog that could indeed effectively compete with against the white setter dogs. Out of this new breeding the modern day Red Setter brought about and the debates begun.

Before 1975 there was a relationship among the AKC group and Field Dog Stud book for registration where both parties would qualify dog registration with the other group. However, in the year 1975, the Irish Setter Club of America formally requested that the AKC deny registration with the Field Dog Stud Book group and the AKC complied with the request.

There are allegations by opponents of the AKC compliance that the group was forced to comply with the petition because of bench-show fanatics who strongly opposed the outcross that took place in the National Red Setter Field Trial Club. However, there are still many field champion dogs that declare their lineage from the FDSB registered dogs and the AKC registered dogs.

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