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Posts Tagged ‘red and white setter’

These are from a John Emms painting from 1876:

Note the large Amounts of white on one of these dogs. The one on the far right really looks like a certain golden retriever.

These are the Irish setters that would have been around when the Tweedmouth strain was developing. These dogs are an important source for the white markings we get with some lines of golden retrievers.

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Old-type Irish setters had shorter feathering and broader skulls than the modern dog. The white markings on the dog at the right were also very common. These white marks appear in golden retrievers, too, which they inherited from the setter.

Old-type Irish setters had shorter feathering and broader skulls than the modern dog. The white markings on the dog at the right were also very common. These white marks appear in golden retrievers, too, which they inherited from the setter.

Red Irish setters were once much more like retrievers than they are today.  By the 1970’s, the narrow headed Irish setter with much longer legs was becoming common. You can see these traits in Richard Nixon’s dog, “King Timahoe.”

Keep in mind that there was a long period in which the majority goldens were more setter-like, and you can understand the confusion that many lay-people once had about golden retrievers. I’ve read many accounts of the first goldens being trialed in the United States, and it rather remarkable many people wondered how they had trained a setter into a retriever.

Of course, the confusion continues today with field bred golden, including this blog. Luckily, this reference has been corrected.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s, American Irish setters were bred for much longer coats than the originals. Their ears were lengthened (although the real ear length is exaggerated through breeding for more ear feather). The skull was made very narrow, and soon sportsmen who used index dogs stopped using them. A common refrain is  that the show-breeders bred the head too small that there was no room for a brain.

There are a few working Irish setters around today, and these dogs are bred for a slightly different conformation than the show dogs, more skull, less feathering, and, usually, smaller size. There is also a separate registry for the working red setter in the United States, and these dogs have a lot of characteristics in common with the old-type Irish setter. Because these dogs are trialed as hard as the English and Llewellin setters, though, they are developing the body type of those dogs. (If you’ve ever seen Llewellin setter or a field bred English setter, they don’t look anything like the show dogs. At all.) Of course, some traits of the old setter can also be seen in the original Irish setter, the Irish red and white setter.

This Irish red and white setter has the broad retriever-like skull that was once common in all Irish setters of both colors.

This Irish red and white setter has the broad retriever-like skull that was once common in all Irish setters of both colors.

One of the good things about the Irish setter getting a reputation for stupidity is that its popularity dropped. Only serious setter people wound up owning these dogs (well, by and large.) Even the show-setters began to develop a little differently. People worked on increasing trainability in the show-stock. And now a show Irish setter is pretty decent pet to have, if it is exercised. However, is not generally a good field dog, especially if it comes from American bloodlines. The breed’s reputation is still too bad in the United States for many people to seriously trial AKC Irish setters, although there are a few mavericks out there.

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The National Red Setter Field Trial Club maintains a registry and runs field trials for the working strain of Irish setter that was imported to the United States during the nineteenth century. The interesting history of these dogs and their registry can be found here.

But what I find interesting is what the dogs look like. Check out their hall of fame. Note the broader heads and shorter ears. They are more moderately built. They are not long-legged in the least. I could easily mistake these dogs for dark golden retrievers. Some these dogs have white marking, which appears in golden retrievers, too. Keep in mind that the original Irish setters were red and white, and that the red and white strains almost went extinct (They existed only in Northern Ireland and were saved by a Protestant minister named Noble Huston. More on the red and whites here.)

In Europe there has been an attempt to keep a dual purpose Irish setter. Again, I’m not opposed to this attempt, but my guess is that once competition gets too high in both arenas, type variances are inevitable.

Here’s a video of a Russian Irish setter from West European bloodlines. I had read somewhere that the Soviets actually maintained lines of working Irish setters that were not dissimilar to the American red setter registry lines (broad head and moderately boned and feathered). However, this dog is not one of them. It’s a dual purpose dog.

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