The Irish Setter: Everything You Need to Know

Originating from Ireland, the Irish Setter is a lively and unique-looking dog that was initially developed for bird hunting. Today, it is an excellent family pet and companion.

In this article, we will take a closer look at this fascinating Irish Setter and provide you with everything you need to know to decide if it is the right breed to bring to your home. 

A Brief History of the Irish Setter

The precise origins of the Irish Setter are difficult to trace due to a lack of reliable historical records. However, it is believed that the breed developed in Ireland in the early 1700s, where it was used for hunting game birds, particularly red grouse.

Origins of the Breed

The Irish Setter, also known as the Red Setter or the Irish Red Setter, has a long history dating back to the eighteenth century. The breed was created by using a mix of English Setters, Spaniels, Pointers, and Gordon Setters.

It was primarily bred for bird hunting and was renowned for its excellent retrieval skills and ability to work in harsh weather conditions. The dog’s job was to show the huntsmen it found birds by “setting” down on its tummy. 

Famous Breed Members 

One of the most famous Irish Setters was Palmerston, who won many prestigious dog shows throughout his life. Palmerston was known for his beautiful red coat and was also a beloved family pet and was known for his gentle and loyal nature.

Another famous Irish Setter is the fictional character featured in the novel “Big Red” written by the American writer Jim Kjelgaard in 1945. 

The Modern Irish Setter

The Irish Setter was first introduced to America in the 19th century and quickly became a favorite among hunters and dog enthusiasts. Today, the Irish Setter is a popular breed worldwide and is known for its beauty, intelligence, and loyalty.

Irish Setters make excellent family pets and are also highly regarded as hunting dogs. They are energetic and require plenty of exercise, but they are also affectionate and love spending time with their human families.

Physical Characteristics of the Irish Setter

Size and Weight

The Irish Setter is a large dog. Males are typically larger than females, with an average height of 27 inches, while females are around 25 inches tall. Males weigh around 70 pounds and females 60 pounds.

Coat and Color

The Irish Setter’s coat is one of its most striking features. It is long and silky, with feathers on the legs, chest, and tail. The coat’s color ranges from red to chestnut to mahogany. 

Some Irish Setters have a small amount of white on their chest, but the all-red coat is the preferred color for this breed. Caring for an Irish Setter’s coat requires regular grooming to keep it looking healthy and shiny.

Brushing the coat several times a week can help prevent matting and tangling. It is also recommended to trim the hair around the ears, feet, and tail to keep the dog’s appearance neat and tidy.

Distinctive Features

The Irish Setter has long, floppy ears that hang down to its shoulders and almond-shaped eyes that are typically brown or amber in color. These features give the Irish Setter a gentle and expressive appearance.

Irish Setters also have a long and lean body and a graceful, athletic gait. They are known for their boundless energy and love of exercise, making them an excellent choice for active families. 

Personality and Temperament

General Temperament

The Irish Setter is playful and affectionate. It is a very friendly breed that enjoys spending time with people and other dogs. It has a high level of energy and loves to play and run around.

Breed members have outgoing personalities and are not shy around strangers. These traits make the Irish Setter breed an excellent choice for active individuals and families. 

Intelligence and Trainability

The Irish Setter is an intelligent breed and responds well to positive reinforcement training methods. It is eager to please its owners and enjoys learning new things.

However, some Irish Setters have a stubborn streak and can be easily distracted, so consistency and patience are essential when training. With time and the right approach, they can learn anything. 

Socialization and Interaction

Socialization is critical for the Irish Setter to ensure they become a friendly, well-behaved dog. They need to be introduced to a variety of people and situations from a young age.

Breed members also thrive on human interaction and need plenty of attention and affection from their owners. The Irish Setter does not do well alone and is prone to separation anxiety. 

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Some of the most significant health risks for the Irish Setter include: 

  • Hip Dysplasia: An orthopedic condition where the hip joint does not properly fit into its socket, causing lameness 
  • Bloat: A condition in deep-chested dogs where the stomach fills with gas and then twists, which can be life-threatening
  • Ear Infections: The breed’s ear canal traps dirt and moisture creating the perfect environment for infection development 

Lifespan Expectancy

The average lifespan for an Irish Setter is between 12 and 15 years. However, with proper care, some Irish Settlers have been known to live into their late teens.

Tips for a Healthy Irish Setter

To keep your Irish Setter healthy and happy, make sure they have regular check-ups with their veterinarian, a balanced diet, and plenty of exercise. Additionally, maintain good dental hygiene and groom them regularly to keep their coat healthy and shiny. 


The Irish Setter is a beautiful and lively breed that makes an excellent companion for families and dog lovers. It is affectionate, playful, and outgoing, and its unique personality is sure to steal your heart.

If you are considering bringing an Irish Setter into your home, be prepared for a loving and devoted furry companion that will fill your life with joy and happiness for many years to come.

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