What is a setter dog breed? Setter dog breeds evolved from spaniel dog breeds which began in Spain. When the advent of firearms changed the way people hunted, a different kind of dog was needed. And so evolved the spaniel and setter gundogs. The term setters came about because certain spaniel gundogs were taught to find game, then sit and wait for the hunter. Sitting, or setting, is no longer practiced. Setters working as gundogs today freeze when they find game, then retrieve it for the hunter.
The English Setter dog breed may be the oldest of the sporting dogs, perhaps as early as the 14th century. But modern cultivation did not begin until the 1800s in England. Edward Laverack is credited with developing the breed for show. Then Purcell Llewellin acquired some English Setters and re-developed them as gun dogs. Today, the show dog English Setter is larger, has a larger deeper muzzle, and only comes in what is called a belton pattern.
The belton pattern on the English Setter refers to the roan ticking of a color with white. There is a blue belton English Setter which is white with black ticking, lemon belton (white with light brown or lemon yellow ticking), orange belton (white with orange ticking, liver belton (white with brown ticking), and a white with black and tan ticking. The field dog English Setter can be belton colors but they can also be white with solid patches of color such as black, lemon, orange, liver, or black and tan (tricolor). The liver and lemon colors are rare in both the show and field English Setter.
The show dog English Setter stands about 24-25 inches high and weighs about 50 to 65 pounds. The field dog English Setter is generally about ten pounds lighter. Both varieties have an oval skull, long and lean head, dark brown eyes, and a long and square muzzle with pendant flews. His ears are low set and his tail is carried straght out and tapers to a fine point. The hair of the English Setter is flat and of medium length. He needs brushing every two to three days and clipping every few months.
Other than the shedding, the English Setter can make a quiet calm house pet if he is properly exercised. He is lively and playful and needs at least one hour of exercise daily. He is also affectionate, easy going, and relatively easy to train. The English Setter is good with other pets and does well with children. His friendly nature means he is good with strangers too so he does not make a good watchdog. He may also be inclined to have separation anxiety if left alone.
Like most big dogs, the English Setter is at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. This risk can be reduced with proper breeding so if you are considering buying an English Setter, be sure to thoroughly research the breeder. A good breeder will have hip dysplasia tested in both parents through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Another test which may have been done is an eye test as the English Setter dog breed also has risks of blindness. Deafness is also an issue and the predominantly white English Setter dog breeds are prone to skin allergies.
Whether you are looking for a show dog, gun dog, or house pet, the English Setter is a good dog. As a show dog, his belton coloring makes him a beautiful dog. As a gun dog, he loves to work. And as a house pet, he is a friendly companioin. To learn more about the English Setter dog breed, check out the “English Setter Comprehensive Owner’s Guide“.