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All about the English Setter

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The English Setter is considered to be a very attractive and elegant gundog, classed as being one of the bird dogs.

This breed has excellent working ability combined with a pleasant temperament making it an ideal pet and companion for an active and lively family. The English Setter is a member of the Setter family which includes Red Setters, Irish Red and White Setters and the Gordon Setter.

History of the English Setter

The modern English Setter is descended from the ancient Setter breeds and there is evidence that Setters were used as bird hunting dogs as long as 400 years ago in Britain.

It is suggested that Setters were bred originally from crosses of the English Springer Spaniel, the Spanish Pointer and the Water Spaniel resulting in a dog with excellent bird finding and scenting ability.

The modern English Setter was developed and improved by the breeding programmes of Mr. Edward Lavarack and Mr. Purcell Llewellin in the 19th century.

english setter

English Setter temperament

English Setters are no different from the other gundog breeds in that they are high energy dogs that enjoy the outdoor life and running after their noses.

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Gentle dogs, that are ideal for family life, they are an intelligent and regal breed that can be mischievous and, at times, strong willed and a bit wacky.

For a family that can give them plenty of free running exercise and that are prepared to embark on training, an English Setter makes a great pet that is friendly, chilled out and enjoys being around people and other pets.

The English Setter (Popular Dogs' Breed S.)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Allan-Scott, Lesley (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 254 Pages - 03/01/1990 (Publication Date) - Popular Dogs Publishing Co Ltd (Publisher)

What do English Setters do?

English Setters are one of the ‘bird dogs’ of the gundog sector. They are typically used when hunting upland birds, such as grouse.

Whereas a spaniel will flush a bird or other game without hesitation, the Setters stop and point, indicating to the gun where the bird is sat. Setters operate at much greater distance from the gun than other hunting dogs.

When the gun approaches and is within range the dog will be commanded to flush the game, thus enabling the gun to take the shot safely.

In some cases the Setter will then be required to retrieve the shot bird to hand.

Unlike the spaniel breeds, who scent air and ground, the English and other setters are air scenting birds, holding their heads high to catch windborne scents.

Setters are natural and skilful hunters and are a valued team member on heather moors where birds can be difficult to scent and locate.

English Setter health

English Setters are not known for any serious health conditions although instances of deafness have been known.

The breed is currently on the UK Kennel Club’s Vulnerable Natural Breeds list – in 2019 only 267 litters of puppies were registered with the club.

English Setter intelligence

English Setters are intelligent dogs that enjoy training and are capable of learning skills that most other breeds can perform.

They can be a challenging dog to train if the training is not in a quiet and controlled environment as they can be easily distracted.

The English Setter is classed as 58th in Stanley Coren’s ‘The Intelligence of Dogs‘ – a position that places it as an above average working dog.

Do English Setters shed?

English Setters shed to some extent but with regular brushing and grooming this can be kept to a minimum.

The breed has a long coat with feathering on his ears, chest, legs, tummy, and on his tail.

The feathering and levels of shedding of an English Setter are similar to that of a spaniel, and the type of care and grooming of his coat should be the same.

To recap

The English Setter is a traditional gun dog bred for the hunting of birds on moorland and heather. 

As an intelligent and active breed, the English Setter makes a great pet or companion for the family or individual that spends time outdoors and is able to invest time in training and exercise to make the most of this great breed.

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