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Irish Setter Facts

Origin: Ireland
Lifespan: 11-15 years
Breed Group: Sporting
Coat Type: Silky and flat
Coat Colours: Mahogany, chestnut, or red
Temperament: Friendly, Energetic, Outgoing
Height: 58-67 cm (23-26 inches)
Weight: 25-32 kg (55-71 lbs)


The “Irish Setter”, also known as the “Red Setter” and the “Irish Red Setter” is a majestic and friendly purebred hunting dog, renowned for its intelligence and gentle nature. As a member of the Sporting or Gun Dog category, it boasts a large size, high energy levels, and a striking appearance. The Irish Setter’s size and appearance are influenced by its parentage, which we’ll explore further in the upcoming sections.

This social and inquisitive breed is known for its athleticism, graceful build, and a penchant for playful antics, including exuberant jumping, especially during its youthful years. Despite occasional stubbornness and impulsive behaviour, their soulful eyes and amiable disposition make them easily forgivable.

The Irish Setter thrives on human companionship and is highly trainable, always eager to please. They tend to be peaceable with other dogs and animals, relishing opportunities for social interaction and spirited play.

This enthusiastic and outgoing breed requires an active lifestyle filled with activities like running, hiking, swimming, and engaging in various canine sports. Their boundless energy and friendly personality make them a delightful addition to any family seeking a loyal and playful companion.

A Brief History

The history of the Irish Setter is steeped in the verdant hills and rich folklore of Ireland. Also known as the “Red Setter,” these dogs were originally bred for their exceptional hunting skills. Their roots trace back to the 18th century when Irish gentry sought to develop a breed that could excel in pointing and retrieving game birds.

The Origins of the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter, initially bred in Ireland for hunting the rugged moors, has a fascinating history that involves the evolution of its coat colour and specialization into different breeds. This section explores the breed’s roots and development.

Early Days in Ireland

The Irish Setter’s ancestry includes a red and white variety. However, during the early 1800s, the all-red coat variety gained popularity, leading to the separation of the two groups into distinct breeds: the Irish Setter and the “Irish Red and White Setter.”

Division into Show and Field Lines

In addition to the coat colour split, the Irish Setter breed is further divided into show and field categories. This decision had implications for their health and utility as working gun dogs. Recent efforts by breeders aim to combine the beauty of show lines with the health and versatility of field lines, creating a more well-rounded Irish Setter.

Oldest Among Setters

The Irish Setter holds the distinction of being the oldest among the setter group of canines. Despite its superb sense of smell, this breed’s playful and mischievous temperament has occasionally diverted its focus when more enticing distractions are present.

Competent Bird Dog

Nonetheless, the Irish Setter remains a competent bird dog, pointer, and retriever, even though other breeds have gained favour in these hunting pursuits. Historians believe that the Irish Setter’s descendants include breeds like the English Setter, Gordon Setter, Springer Spaniel, Pointer, and Irish Water Spaniel.

Introduction to American Hunting

During the 1800s, the first Irish Setters were imported to the United States to serve as gun dogs for pointing and retrieving game birds, including duck, teal, ruffed grouse, partridge, pheasant, prairie chickens, quail, and woodcock.

A Legendary Setter

In 1875, a legendary Irish Setter named “Elcho,” imported from Ireland to the United States, achieved success both in the field and the show ring, showcasing the breed’s versatility.

The Signature Deep Red Coat

The iconic deep red coat of the Irish Setter can be attributed to William Cole, the 3rd Earl of Enniskillen. He not only played a pivotal role in developing the coat colour but also instigated the formation of the Irish Red Setter Club in 1882.

Challenges Faced

Unfortunately, in the mid-1900s, many Irish Setter enthusiasts began prioritizing style over hunting skills. Additionally, the breed faced a severe threat in the form of “Progressive Retinal Atrophy,” causing night blindness. At that time, there was no DNA test to identify carriers, and the breed’s population suffered.

Recovery and Health Improvement

Since the discovery of this genetic condition, there has been significant progress in mitigating its impact. A known DNA test has enabled breeders to identify carriers and remove them from breeding programs, resulting in a remarkable recovery of the Irish Setter breed and a substantial reduction in health issues.

Recognition and Temperament

Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1878 and by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1914, the Irish Setter stands out as an athletic and friendly breed. With its loving disposition and sweet temperament, it continues to be a cherished companion for many.

Irish Setter Puppies

Before delving deeper into the breed’s characteristics, let’s talk about the irresistible allure of Irish Setter puppies. These bundles of joy are born with a creamy coat that gradually transitions into the mesmerizing mahogany hue that defines the breed. Their floppy ears and expressive eyes will melt your heart instantly.

If you’re considering bringing an Irish Setter puppy into your life, it’s essential to choose a responsible breeder. Puppies should be well-socialized, have proper veterinary care, and come with appropriate documentation, including health records and pedigrees.

Size and Weight

Irish Setters are known for their graceful stature and athletic build. Here are the size and weight specifications for this breed:

  • Height (at the shoulder): Approximately 58-67 cm (23-26 inches)
  • Weight: Around 25-32 kg (55-70 lbs)

These measurements may vary slightly between males and females. Irish Setters possess a sleek and streamlined appearance, making them agile and swift, perfect for their historical role as hunting companions.

Coat & Colours

The most distinctive feature of the Irish Setter is undoubtedly its luxurious coat. This breed sports a rich, chestnut-red coat with feathering on the tail, ears, and legs. The lustrous red coat is like a fiery cascade, flowing gracefully as the dog moves.

The deep red colour of the Irish Setter’s coat symbolizes the lush landscapes of Ireland, with its rolling hills and vibrant flora. This coat is not only a testament to the breed’s beauty but also its heritage.


The most prevalent and recognised colour variation of the Irish Setter is a solid, vibrant shade of red. Commonly referred to as “Mahogany Red” or simply “Red,” this striking red coat is the breed’s standard colour. It is this eye-catching hue that defines the Irish Setter’s appearance and sets it apart.

Dark Red

Within the realm of red variations, there exists some diversity in shade. Some Irish Setters boast a darker or deeper red coat, often termed “Dark Red” or “Chestnut.” These individuals display a coat leaning towards a deeper, almost mahogany or chestnut brown hue, lending them a distinctive look.

Light Red

Conversely, some Irish Setters exhibit a lighter red shade in their coat. Their fur tends to be closer to a golden or amber hue, earning them the designation of “Light Red” or “Golden Red.” This variation offers a subtle difference in appearance while retaining the breed’s characteristic red coat.

White Markings

In addition to the red spectrum, certain Irish Setters may feature white markings on their chest, paws, or face. These white accents fall within the breed standard and add a touch of individuality to their appearance. The quantity and pattern of white markings can vary among individual dogs.

While the Irish Setter is primarily renowned for its rich red coat, there exists a range of shades within this colour palette. Whether it’s the standard deep red, the darker or lighter variations, or the inclusion of charming white markings, each variation contributes to the Irish Setter’s allure and individuality.


Irish Setters are renowned for their friendly and outgoing nature. Their exuberance is infectious, making them excellent family pets. Here are some key characteristics of their temperament:

  • Affectionate: Irish Setters thrive on human companionship and are known for their loving nature.
  • Energetic: These dogs have boundless energy and require regular exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Intelligent: Irish Setters are intelligent and respond well to training when it’s done with patience and positive reinforcement.
  • Social: They get along well with other dogs and are generally good with children, making them a great choice for families.
  • Playful: Their playful demeanour adds joy and laughter to any household, and they have a mischievous side that can be endearing.

Irish Setter for Sale Ireland

If you’re enchanted by the Irish Setter’s charms and are eager to welcome one into your home, you might be wondering where to find these delightful dogs in various Irish counties. While adoption is always an admirable choice, some responsible breeders across Ireland offer Irish Setters for sale. Here are some notable locations where you can potentially find these gorgeous dogs:

1. County Dublin

Dublin, the bustling capital of Ireland, is home to several reputable breeders. Keep an eye on local classified ads or visit dog shows and events in the area to connect with knowledgeable breeders.

2. County Cork

Cork, with its picturesque landscapes, also has its fair share of Irish Setter enthusiasts. The county hosts various dog-related events where you can meet breeders and fellow Irish Setter aficionados.

3. County Galway

Galway‘s charming countryside provides an ideal setting for Irish Setter breeders. Look out for breeders who prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs.

4. County Kerry

Kerry, known for its rugged beauty, is another place to explore if you’re searching for Irish Setters. Be sure to visit breeders who prioritize responsible breeding practices.

Living with an Irish Setter in Ireland

Ideal Irish Settings

When sharing your life with an Irish Setter in the scenic landscapes of Ireland, it’s essential to provide them with suitable living conditions that align with their energetic nature. These settings typically include spacious homes with access to a securely fenced backyard.

The Irish Setter’s Need for Activity

The Irish Setter’s vivacity calls for a lifestyle brimming with daily outdoor activities, ensuring both mental and physical stimulation. In the Irish countryside, where lush fields and rolling hills are abundant, taking your Irish Setter for disciplined walks becomes a delightful experience.

Daily Exercise Routines

To keep your Irish Setter content and in excellent health, a fully grown one will require a release of pent-up energy through a regimen that involves at least three brisk walks lasting 30 minutes to an hour each day. In counties like Cork, with its beautiful trails, or Galway, known for its stunning landscapes, these walks become more than just exercise; they are opportunities for your Setter to revel in the beauty of Ireland.

Engaging in Canine Sports

Irish Setters thrive when given the chance to partake in canine sports amidst Ireland’s breathtaking surroundings. Whether it’s agility courses in Dublin, a game of fetch along the shores of Kerry, or a swim in the clear waters of County Clare, there are endless possibilities for your Setter to indulge in.

Social and Family-Oriented

In Ireland, where a sense of community and togetherness is cherished, your Irish Setter will naturally want to be part of your family’s activities. From exploring the charming streets of Kilkenny to joining a friendly gathering in County Mayo, these social interactions contribute to your Setter’s happiness and balanced demeanour.

The Perils of Solitude

Leaving an intelligent, friendly, and highly social Irish Setter alone for extended periods can lead to their discontentment. This breed forms strong bonds with their guardians, a trait exemplified by their tendency to accompany you everywhere. Leaving them isolated in a quiet Irish cottage in counties like Donegal or Wexford for many hours can be torturous for these affectionate dogs.

Preventing Boredom

In such situations, an Irish Setter may resort to creating their own amusement or expressing their displeasure through activities like destructive chewing or loud barking. The vibrant culture and friendly communities in Irish counties provide ample opportunities to engage your Setter’s mind and body, helping them avoid boredom and destructive behaviour.

In essence, living with an Irish Setter in Ireland is a harmonious blend of embracing the country’s natural beauty, engaging in outdoor activities, and relishing the warmth of Irish hospitality. By understanding and catering to their need for exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation, you’ll ensure a contented and well-balanced life for your beloved Irish Setter in the heart of Ireland.

Pros of Irish Setter Ownership

When considering Irish Setter ownership, you’ll find numerous compelling reasons to welcome this breed into your life:

  • Loyal, Protective, Intelligent, and Loving: Irish Setters are renowned for their unwavering loyalty and protective instincts. They are highly intelligent and form deep bonds with their guardians, making them affectionate and loving companions.
  • Proficient in Canine Sports: Irish Setters excel in various canine sports, showcasing their agility and athleticism. Whether it’s agility courses, obedience trials, or flyball, they’re up for the challenge.
  • Excellent All-Round Bird Dog: With their innate hunting instincts and superb sense of smell, Irish Setters make exceptional bird dogs. Their skills in pointing, retrieving, and tracking are truly impressive.
  • Beautiful, Elegant, and Graceful: The Irish Setter’s stunning appearance is a standout feature. Their beautiful, mahogany-red coat and elegant physique make them a sight to behold.
  • Highly Energetic and Willing to Learn: These dogs are bursting with energy and enthusiasm. They are always eager to learn new tricks and tasks, making training a rewarding experience.
  • Friendly, Sweet-Natured, and Gentle: Irish Setters are known for their friendly and sweet disposition. They get along well with children, seniors, and anyone lucky enough to cross their path.
  • Good with Children and Seniors: Their gentle nature and patience make them excellent companions for both children and older individuals. They have a knack for forming strong bonds with family members of all ages.
  • Social and Good with Other Dogs and Pets: When properly socialized, Irish Setters are friendly and welcoming to other dogs and pets. Their sociable nature contributes to a harmonious household.
  • Suitable for First-Time Dog Guardians: Despite their energetic nature, Irish Setters can be a suitable choice for first-time dog owners. Their loving demeanour and adaptability make them manageable for beginners.

Cons of Irish Setter Ownership

While Irish Setters offer many advantages, it’s important to consider the potential challenges of ownership:

  • High Activity and Exercise Requirements: Irish Setters are incredibly active dogs with great stamina. They demand significant daily exercise or engagement in activities to stay physically and mentally healthy.
  • Shedding: This breed is known for shedding, which may not be suitable for individuals with allergies or those who prefer low-shedding dogs.
  • Escape Artist Tendencies: Some Irish Setters may possess a talent for escaping enclosures if not properly secured. Vigilance is necessary to prevent their Houdini-like antics.
  • Avoiding Loneliness: Irish Setters are highly intelligent and thrive on social interaction. Leaving them alone for extended periods can lead to boredom and separation anxiety, resulting in undesirable behaviours like destructive chewing, barking, whining, howling, digging, or escape attempts.