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The Setters

I. THE ENGLISH SETTER.--In some form or other Setters are to be found
wherever guns are in frequent use and irrespective of the precise
class of work they have to perform; but their proper sphere is either
on the moors, when the red grouse are in quest, or on the stubbles
and amongst the root crops, when September comes in, and the partridge
season commences.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is supposed to have been the first
person to train setting dogs in the manner which has been commonly
adopted by his successors. His lordship lived in the middle of the
sixteenth century, and was therefore a contemporary of Dr. Caius,
who may possibly have been indebted to the Earl for information when,
in his work on English Dogges, he wrote of the Setter under the
name of the Index.

Though Setters are divided into three distinct varieties,--The
English, the Irish and the Gordon, or Black and Tan--there can be
no doubt that all have a common origin, though it is scarcely
probable, in view of their dissimilarity, that the same individual
ancestors can be supposed to be their original progenitors. Nearly
all authorities agree that the Spaniel family is accountable on one
side, and this contention is borne out to a considerable extent by
old illustrations and paintings of Setters at work, in which they
are invariably depicted as being very much like the old liver and
white Spaniel, though of different colours. Doubt exists as to the
other side of their heredity, but it does not necessarily follow that
all those who first bred them used the same means. Of the theories
put forward, that which carries the most presumptive evidence must
go to the credit of the old Spanish Pointer. Where else could they
inherit that wonderful scenting power, that style in which they draw
up to their game, their statuesque attitude when on point, and, above
all, the staunchness and patience by which they hold their game
spellbound until the shooter has time to walk leisurely up, even from
a considerable distance?

But, apart from the question of their origin, the different varieties
have many other attributes in common; all perform the same kind of
work, and in the same manner; consequently the system of breaking
or training them varies only according to the temper or ideas of those
who undertake their schooling.

Few dogs are more admired than English Setters, and those who are
looked upon as professional exhibitors have not been slow to recognise
the fact that when a really good young dog makes its appearance it
is a formidable rival amongst all other breeds when the special prizes
come to be allotted.

Seen either at its legitimate work as a gun dog or as a domestic
companion, the English Setter is one of the most graceful and
beautiful of the canine race, and its elegant form and feathery coat
command instant admiration. Twenty years ago it was known by several
distinct names, among the more important being the Blue Beltons and
Laveracks, and this regardless of any consideration as to whether
or not the dogs were in any way connected by relationship to the stock
which had earned fame for either of these time-honoured names. It
was the great increase in the number of shows and some confusion on
the part of exhibitors that made it necessary for the Kennel Club
to classify under one heading these and others which had attained
some amount of notability and the old terms have gradually been

Doubtless the English Setter Club has done much since its institution
in 1890 to encourage this breed of dog, and has proved the usefulness
of the club by providing two very valuable trophies, the Exhibitors'
Challenge Cup and the Field Trial Challenge Cup, for competition
amongst its members, besides having liberally supported all the
leading shows; hence it has rightly come to be regarded as the only
authority from which an acceptable and official dictum for the
guidance of others can emanate.

The following is the standard of points issued by the English Setter

* * * * *

HEAD--The head should be long and lean, with well-defined stop. The
skull oval from ear to ear, showing plenty of brain room, and with
a well-defined occipital protuberance. The muzzle moderately deep
and fairly square; from the stop to the point of the nose should be
long, the nostrils wide, and the jaws of nearly equal length; flews
not too pendulous. The colour of the nose should be black, or dark,
or light liver, according to the colour of the coat. The eyes should
be bright, mild, and intelligent, and of a dark hazel colour, the
darker the better. The ears of moderate length, set on low and hanging
in neat folds close to the cheek; the tip should be velvety, the upper
part clothed with fine silky hair. NECK--The neck should be rather
long, muscular, and lean, slightly arched at the crest, and clean
cut where it joins the head; towards the shoulder it should be larger,
and very muscular, not throaty with any pendulosity below the throat,
but elegant and bloodlike in appearance. BODY--The body should be
of moderate length, with shoulders well set back or oblique; back
short and level; loins wide, slightly arched, strong and muscular.
Chest deep in the brisket, with good round widely-sprung ribs, deep
in the back ribs--that is, well ribbed up. LEGS AND FEET--The stifles
should be well bent and ragged, thighs long from hip to hock. The
forearm big and very muscular, the elbow well let down. Pasterns
short, muscular, and straight. The feet very close and compact, and
well protected by hair between the toes. TAIL--The tail should be
set on almost in a line with the back; medium length, not curly or
ropy, to be slightly curved or scimitar-shaped, but with no tendency
to turn upwards; the flag or feather hanging in long, pendant flakes;
the feather should not commence at the root, but slightly below, and
increase in length to the middle, then gradually taper off towards
the end; and the hair long, bright, soft and silky, wavy but not
curly. COAT AND FEATHERING--The coat from the back of the head in
a line with the ears ought to be slightly wavy, long, and silky, which
should be the case with the coat generally; the breeches and
fore-legs, nearly down to the feet, should be well feathered. COLOUR
AND MARKINGS--The colour may be either black and white, lemon and
white, liver and white, or tricolour--that is, black, white, and tan;
those without heavy patches of colour on the body, but flecked all
over preferred.

* * * * *

II. THE IRISH SETTER.--Though this variety has not attained such
popularity as its English cousin, it is not because it is regarded
as being less pleasing to the eye, for in general appearance of style
and outline there is very little difference; in fact, none, if the
chiselling of the head and colour of the coat be excepted. The
beautiful rich golden, chestnut colour which predominates in all
well-bred specimens is in itself sufficient to account for the great
favour in which they are regarded generally, while their disposition
is sufficiently engaging to attract the attention of those who desire
to have a moderate-sized dog as a companion, rather than either a
very large or very small one. Probably this accounts for so many lady
exhibitors in England preferring them to the other varieties of
Setters. We have to go over to its native country, however, to find
the breed most highly esteemed as a sporting dog for actual work,
and there it is naturally first favourite; in fact, very few of either
of the other varieties are to be met with from one end of the Green
Isle to the other. It has been suggested that all Irish Setters are
too headstrong to make really high-class field trial dogs. Some of
them, on the contrary, are quite as great in speed and not only as
clever at their business, but quite as keen-nosed as other Setters.
Some which have competed within the past few years at the Irish Red
Setter Club's trials have had as rivals some of the best Pointers
from England and Scotland, and have successfully held their own.

The Secretary of the Irish Setter Club is Mr. S. Brown, 27, Eustace
Street, Dublin, and the standard of points as laid down by that
authority is as follows:--

* * * * *

HEAD--The head should be long and lean. The skull oval (from ear to
ear), having plenty of brain room, and with well-defined occipital
protuberance. Brows raised, showing stop. The muzzle moderately deep
and fairly square at the end. From the stop to the point of the nose
should be fairly long, the nostrils wide, and the jaws of nearly equal
length; flews not to be pendulous. The colour of the nose dark
mahogany or dark walnut, and that of the eyes (which ought not to
be too large) rich hazel or brown. The ears to be of moderate size,
fine in texture, set on low, well back, and hanging in a neat fold
close to the head. NECK--The neck should be moderately long, very
muscular, but not too thick; slightly arched, free from all tendency
to throatiness. BODY--The body should be long. Shoulders fine at the
points, deep and sloping well back. The chest as deep as possible,
rather narrow in front. The ribs well sprung, leaving plenty of lung
room. Loins muscular and slightly arched. The hind-quarters wide and
powerful. LEGS AND FEET--The hind-legs from hip to hock should be
long and muscular; from hock to heel short and strong. The stifle
and hock joints well bent, and not inclined either in or out. The
fore-legs should be straight and sinewy, having plenty of bone, with
elbows free, well let down, and, like the hocks, not inclined either
in or out. The feet small, very firm; toes strong, close together,
and arched. TAIL--The tail should be of moderate length, set on rather
low, strong at root, and tapering to a fine point, to be carried as
nearly as possible on a level or below the back. COAT--On the head,
front of legs, and tips of ears the coat should be short and fine;
but on all other parts of the body and legs it ought to be of
moderate length, flat, and as free as possible from curl or wave.
FEATHERING--The feather on the upper portion of the ears should be
long and silky; on the back of fore and hind-legs long and fine; a
fair amount of hair on the belly, forming a nice fringe, which may
extend on chest and throat. Feet to be well feathered between the
toes. Tail to have a nice fringe of moderately long hair, decreasing
in length as it approaches the point. All feathering to be as straight
and as flat as possible. COLOUR AND MARKINGS--The colour should be
a rich golden chestnut, with no trace whatever of black; white on
chest, throat, or toes, or a small star on the forehead, or a narrow
streak or blaze on the nose or face not to disqualify.

* * * * *

III. THE BLACK AND TAN SETTER.--Originally this variety was known
as the Gordon Setter, but this title was only partly correct, as the
particular dogs first favoured by the Duke of Gordon, from whom they
took the name, were black, tan, and white, heavily built, and somewhat
clumsy in appearance. But the introduction of the Irish blood had
the effect of making a racier-looking dog more fashionable, the
presence of white on the chest was looked upon with disfavour, and
the Kennel Club settled the difficulty of name by abolishing the term
Gordon altogether.

Very few of this variety have appeared at field trials for several
years past, but that cannot be considered a valid reason for
stigmatising them as old-men's dogs, as some narrow-minded faddists
delight in calling them. On the few occasions when the opportunity
has been presented they have acquitted themselves at least as well
as, and on some occasions better than, their rivals of other
varieties, proving to be as fast, as staunch, and as obedient as any
of them. A notable example of this occurred during the season of 1902
and 1903, when Mr. Isaac Sharpe's Stylish Ranger was so remarkably
successful at the trials.

It is very difficult to account for the lack of interest which is
taken in the variety outside Scotland, but the fact remains that very
few have appeared at field trials within recent years, and that only
about four owners are troubling the officials of English shows
regularly at the present time.

In France, Belgium, Norway, and especially in Russia this handsome
sporting dog is a far greater favourite than it is in Great Britain,
not only for work with the gun, but as a companion, and it is a fact
that at many a Continental dog show more specimens of the breed are
exhibited than could be gathered together in the whole of the United

The want of an active organisation which would foster and encourage
the interests of the Black and Tan Setter is much to be deplored,
and is, without doubt, the chief cause of its being so much neglected,
for in these strenuous days, when almost every breed or variety of
breed is backed up by its own votaries, it cannot be expected that
such as are not constantly kept in prominence will receive anything
more than scant consideration.

The Black and Tan Setter is heavier than the English or Irish
varieties, but shows more of the hound and less of the Spaniel. The
head is stronger than that of the English Setter, with a deeper and
broader muzzle and heavier lips. The ears are also somewhat longer,
and the eyes frequently show the haw. The black should be as jet,
and entirely free from white. The tan on the cheeks and over the eyes,
on the feet and pasterns, should be bright and clearly defined, and
the feathering on the fore-legs and thighs should also be a rich,
dark mahogany tan.

Amongst the oldest and most successful owners of Setters who have
consistently competed at field trials may be mentioned Colonel Cotes,
whose Prince Frederick was probably the most wonderful backer ever
known. Messrs. Purcell-Llewellyn, W. Arkwright, Elias and James
Bishop, F. C. Lowe, J. Shorthose, G. Potter and S. Smale, who may
be considered the oldest Setter judges, and who have owned dogs whose
prowess in the field has brought them high reputation. Mr. B. J.
Warwick has within recent years owned probably more winners at field
trials than any other owner, one of his being Compton Bounce. Captain
Heywood Lonsdale has on several occasions proved the Ightfield strain
to be staunch and true, as witness the doughty deeds of Duke of that
ilk, and the splendid success he achieved at recent grouse trials
in Scotland with his Ightfield Rob Roy, Mack, and Dot, the first-named
winning the all-aged stake, and the others being first and third in
the puppy stake. Mr. Herbert Mitchell has been another good patron
of the trials, and has won many important stakes. Mr. A. T. Williams
has also owned a few noted trial winners, and from Scotland comes
Mr. Isaac Sharpe, whose Gordon Setter, Stylish Ranger, has effectually
put a stop to the silly argument that all this breed are old men's

Many of the older field trial men hold tenaciously to the opinion
that the modern exhibition Setter is useless for high-class work,
and contend that if field-trial winners are to be produced they must
be bred from noted working strains. Doubtless this prejudice in favour
of working dogs has been engendered by the circumstance that many
owners of celebrated bench winners care nothing about their dogs being
trained, in some cases generation after generation having been bred
simply for show purposes. Under such conditions it is not to be
wondered at that the capacity for fine scenting properties and the
natural aptitude for quickly picking up a knowledge of their proper
duties in the field is impaired. But there is no reason why a good
show dog should not also be a good worker, and the recent edict of
the Kennel Club which rules that no gun dog shall be entitled to
championship honours until it has gained a certificate of merit in
field trials will doubtless tend towards a general improvement in
the working qualities of the breeds whose providence is in the
finding and retrieving of game.

Next: The Retrievers

Previous: The Pointer

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