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.

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