English Setter Dog

A lively bird dog that loves to hunt.

English Setter picture

Breed History

The English Setter is one of the very oldest breeds of gun dogs mentioned in European literature since the 14th century. It's ancestors are believed to have been sporting spaniels of Spanish origin. The breed got its name setter, from the manner in which it reacts when confronting game. It has a distinctive crouch, a stop motion, a freezing instead of the more natural instinct of chasing or flushing the game. Long before the advent of shotguns, this trait was made use of, to "set" the game for the hunter's net. The breeders of those early specimens were only interested in how good a bird dog it was, not how good looking and they never kept breeding records. Needless to say early English Setters were a far cry from the elegant specimens of today.
Dog Height:  About 25 in. (63 cm) at the withers.
Dog Weight:  60 - 65 lb. (27.3 - 29.5 kg).
Bitch Height:  About 24 in. (61 cm) at the withers.
Bitch Weight:  50 - 55 lb. (22.7 - 25 kg).
Field Type Weights:  About 10 lb. (4.5 kg) less.
With Strangers:  Excellent.
Watchdog Aptitude:  Very good.
Protection Aptitude:  Rather low.
With children:  Excellent.
Life Expectancy:  10 - 12 years.
In the year of 1825, an Englishman, named Edward Laverack (1800-1877) began to refine the breed by careful selective close breeding, in-breeding, and for half a century developed what became known as "Laverack Setters," later to be called English Setters. He wrote the first breed book in 1875 and drafted a breed standard which, except for small changes, is still in use today. Another breeder in England, Mr. R. Purcell Llewellin (1840-1925), purchased his initial stock from Mr. Laverack, and bred outstanding English Setters by crossing them out to different lines to produce very successful field trial dogs that today, still bear his name, the Llewellin Setter. Mr. Llewellin was interested in producing a more successful bird dog and had no interest in creating beautiful specimens. The two different approaches to breeding led to the main schism in the breed today. The Llewellin Setter has a separate registry in the United States with its own Field Stud Book. Today, one still hears the term Llewellin Setter. They are not considered a separate breed, just a separate, pure bloodline which only DNA can differentiate. The English Setter was a popular breed on both sides of the Atlantic even before the founding of the Kennel Club in England (1873) and was among the first breeds admitted to the registries both in the U.S. and there. The first show for English Setters was held in 1859 at Newcastle, England. Admiration for the breed soared as dog shows became increasingly common.

Breed Temperament

It is the temperament which has won the English Setter so many friends in the world of dog fanciers. It is a mild, sweet, soft, lovable dog, intelligent, and affectionate, good with children, making him an ideal family companion. Fear or viciousness is never condoned. They can be strong willed and mischievous, often distracted by the natural bird dog hunting instincts, but they can be trained by gentle methods, patience and rewards, to do almost anything. They are very sensitive to criticism, and might be unwilling to repeat an event, out of fear of disappointing the trainer. They are true people dogs, needing attention and some outside activity in a good fenced yard. Inside, they are more biddable, laid back lap dogs that enjoy cuddling. As with so many breeds nowadays however, there are specimens which do not have the good temperaments expressed above, due to careless selfish breeders breeding from inferior breed stock. True English Setter fanciers only breed from sound, healthy, friendly, kind and gentle stock.

Health Issues

Generally speaking, the English Setter remains a vigorous, healthy breed, but there have been a few documented cases of elbow and hip dysplasia, deafness and others. Learn more breed information at the Health Issues page.