The English Setter is a medium-size breed of dog.
It has served as a gun dog in England for more than 400 years and has been bred in its present form since about 1825.
It is part of the setter group, which includes the Irish Setters, Irish Red and White Setters, and black-and-tan Gordon Setters.
It is sometimes called the Llewellin setter or the Laverack setter for the developers of two strains of the breed.
Like the other setters, it locates birds for the hunter.
This breed’s standard temperament is best described as a “Gentleman by Nature”. However, it can also be strong-willed and mischievous, especially if coming from working/field breeding lines.
English Setters are energetic, people-oriented dogs, that are well suited to families who can give them attention and activity, or to working with a hunter, where they have a job to do.
They rank 37th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, being of above average working/obedience intelligence.
The average lifespan of the English Setter is 10 to 12 years.
Characteristically rugged yet aristocratic in appearance, it stands 61 to 63.5 cm (24 to 25 inches) and weighs 18 to 32 kg (40 to 70 pounds).
The breed was designed to hunt game such as quail, pheasant, and grouse so should be able to cover a lot of ground when seeking the airborne scent of the birds, carrying its head high.
The main body coat is short to medium length, lies flat and has a silky texture. Long silky coat – usually called “feathering”, forms fringes on the outside of the ears, neck, chest, down the back of the front legs, under the belly and on the back legs. The tail is also feathered with long coat. The body coat and feathering should be straight and flat but not profuse and never curly although a slight wave can be seen.
The base colour of the coat is white with differing coloured ticking also called flecks or speckling. The various speckled coat colours when occurring in English Setters are referred to as belton valid combinations are white with black flecks (blue belton), white with orange flecks (orange belton), white with orange flecks and lighter nose (lemon belton), white with liver flecks (liver belton), or “tricolour”, which is blue or liver belton with tan markings on the face, chest, and legs. The flecking should not form large patches on the body and the flecks should be distributed all over the body.
The use of the word “belton” was first coined by Laverack, who developed the breed in the 19th century, to describe his ideal for flecking and is also the name of a village in the extreme north of England. Puppies’ coats may not have all the markings that they have as adults.
There are artworks featuring dogs closely resembling the modern-day English Setter from as far back as the 15th century. The breed is widely regarded as being one of the oldest of the gundog breeds.
They were initially called Setting Spaniels and they would range out in front of the hunter on open ground and would then freeze and crouch down (set), or point, when they found their quarry. Hunters originally used nets to trap the bird, but the gun then replaced these during the 18th century. They became popular with the nobility that owned large estates.
While their exact ancestry isn’t known, it’s thought they may have resulted through the crossing of Pointing and Spaniel breeds. They’re known for being more gentle and slightly smaller than the Irish or Gordon Setter.
The modern English Setter owes its appearance to Edward Laverack (1800–1877), who developed his own strain of the breed by careful breeding during the 19th century in England and to another Englishman, R. Purcell Llewellin (1840–1925), who founded his strain using Laverack’s best dogs and outcrossed them with the Duke, Rhoebe and later Duke’s littermate Kate bloodlines with the best results.
Around 1826, Reverend A Harrison of Carlisle in Cumbria sold a male dog called “Ponto” and a female named “Old Moll” to Laverack and this pair formed the foundation of his English Setters. Laverack did not know the exact pedigree of these dogs but maintained the strain had been pure-bred for the previous thirty-five years. Laverack closely inbred to these two dogs for generations and his bloodline was successful in dog shows and as a working dog in field trials.
When the American Kennel Club was established in 1878, English Setters, together with eight other sporting breeds, were accepted as the first pure-bred registrations by the Club. The very first dog registered with the AKC and the holder of registration number one was an English Setter named “Adonis”.
In the 1930s one English Setter gained fame in the States. There’s now a sculpture of ‘Jim the Wonderdog’ in a park in Missouri. It was alleged that he could predict the future and understand several languages. Sceptics, quite fairly, claimed he was just an intelligent dog that had been taught certain commands and was primed by his owner.
English Setters were especially popular in the UK during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
The word “setter” refers to the almost-seated position the dog assumes when they have discovered game.
For a healthy and happy English Setter puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay between $800 and $1,200. The average annual price to properly care for your English Setter will be about $3,000.