A Brief History
Ch Palmerston circa 1880
Irish Setters, also known as Red Setters, are the oldest of the setter group the country of origin being of course Ireland. Opinions differ as to the exact origins of the breed but some believe it 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.
The change of the Irish Setter from working to show dog began in the 1860s and was largely the result of a particularly elegant Irish Setter named Palmerston. Labeled as being too pretty to be a worthy hunting dog, Palmerston was abandoned by his owner and adopted by another man who appreciated this unique setter. Palmerston became phenomenally successful as a show dog, and sired countless offspring – so much, in fact, that virtually every modern Irish Setter can be counted among his descendants.
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.
Ch Garryowen owned by J J Giltrap son of Ch Palmerston circa 1900
In the 1940s the breed was nearly decimated by the eye condition Progressive Retinal Atrophy, better known as PRA. This condition is an autosomal recessive gene that initially causes night blindness leading to total 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 there have been no known incidence of PRA rcd1 in the UK since 1995.
Sh Ch Wendover Gentleman owned by Mr & Mrs L C James circa 1965
The popularity of the breed increased until in the 1970’s it was regarded as one of the most popular breeds both here and in the United States.Today the breed enjoys still enjoys great popularity as a family pet, a show dog and also in the field.
Sh Ch Caspians Intrepid
Energetic, intelligent and good-natured,with it’s distinctive chestnut coloured coat, the Irish Setter is a wonderful companion. The adventurous spirit and limitless energy makes this a loving and loyal companion although considerable exercise and entertainment is required to keep this breed content. A firm, consistent, and kind approach is needed in training but when this is achieved being owned by an Irish Setter can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences.
Points of the Dog