English Setter Dog Breed

Happy English Setter Running
iStock.com/Barbara Cerovsek
  • Other names:
  • Laverack
  • Llewellin Setter
Overview

Pronunciation: [ En·glish set·ter ]

The English Setter is a remarkable-looking hunting dog breed that is steeped in British history. These dogs are revered for their performance in dog shows and field trials alike. They are also highly prized for their ability to point out game from far away.

English Setter Breed Details

Breed Specs
TypeLifespanHeightWeight
Purebred10-12 yrs.23-27 in.45-80 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

English Setters are hunting dogs with a specific purpose, but they can be trained to do most any farm or field work except herding. They have also been long-bred to be family companions, and while they are fine pets, they do require a good amount of responsibility. Families with kids, other dogs and even cats are fine for this breed. For very patient first-time dog owners, they can work out well. To avoid some of the more common English Setter problems, however, they are best for experienced dog owners who have a background with hunting dogs. They grow old gracefully and when older, are best for slightly sedate lifestyles.

Here are some English Setter facts:

PROS

  • Friendly
  • Very smart
  • Love children
  • Extremely elegant
  • Great with people
  • Outstanding hunter
  • Wonderful companion
  • Get along well with other dogs


CONS

  • Love to dig
  • Habitually obstinate
  • Might bark frequently
  • Sheds moderately to a lot
  • Obesity can easily happen
  • Prone to separation anxiety
  • Heavy grooming requirements
  • Tendency to chew on everything
  • Require very strongly fenced yard
  • Some obedience training may be difficult
  • Will give chase to most small animals and all birds
  • Can be very expensive to adopt, maintain and groom

English Setter Breed Description

Although there are two distinct variations of this breed — the show and the field English Setter — they differ only in performance and looks. They were first bred when English society preferred dogs to be singular in their tasks, which is why there are two varieties. Both styles are elegant.

English Setter dogs 101 is understanding that these are very smart dogs. The English Setter is ranked no. 37 in the universally accepted "Intelligence of Dogs" list by Stanley Coren. This means these dogs are above average intelligence and require fewer repetitions to learn things. They have an amazing memory and if properly trained, will never forget how to do things.

On the other hand, it won't take long for a bad habit to form. English Setters can also be obstinate, and if you attempt to force them to do something they don't desire, they will lock their legs and refuse to move.

These are highly active dogs. While the English Setter field dog may require more exercise due to being bred as true gun dogs, both types need a good amount of daily activity. More English Setter breed info about the two types can be found in the Variations section.

English Setter Breed History

There are three distinct Setter breeds, and the English one is not only the oldest of the three but one of the oldest hunting dog breeds. English Setter history goes back at least to the 14th century. These dogs were originally called "setting dogges" for the way that they set themselves in a crouch as they pointed out fowl to hunters. It is widely believed that they were produced by crossing English Springer Spaniels, Spanish Pointers, and large Water Spaniels.

They were first written about in a 1576 book, Of English Dogs, by Johannes Caius. It is the earliest known publication about dog breeds. Around this time, the other two Setter breeds were produced: the Gordon (in Scotland) and the Irish Setter. There are also records of the English Setter found in art works that depicted setting dogges at work.

In 1825, Edward Maverick started breeding the English setting dogges, and the breed's development took a huge leap forward. He named the breed English Setter and produced a variation called the Laverack Setter. They are the English Setter types often seen in dog shows.

Toward the end of Laverack 's breeding career, Purcell Llewellin acquired what he felt were the best specimens of Laveracks. With this bloodline that had been kept pure for 35 years, Llewellin crossed the Duke/Rhoebe bloodlines. These became known as Llewellin Setters, and they remain prized for their superiority in field trials. In the early 20th century, he exported this strain to the United States. The story of Llewellin setter history is widely known.

There were a number of American breeders of note, but perhaps the most notable was George Bird Evans. His estate, Old Hemlock, was the home to a decades-long training, observation and breeding business. An illustrator by trade who loved to hunt, Evans' English Setters and his books about them are said to be excellent.

English Setter Coloring

There are six basic colors to the coats of English Setters. Save for the rare all-white English Setter, these colors are all with Belton. This is a color marking unique to English Setters. The term was coined by Edward Lavarack, and he did so in honor of his home village of Belton. All English Setters have white in their coat.

Blue belton, orange belton, and tri-colored English Setters are common. The rare colors are the liver and lemon English Setters. Some people may call them other colors such as red, brown, or chestnut, but those are not accepted color names.

These are the English Setter coat colors:

  • White
  • Blue belton
  • Liver belton
  • Lemon belton
  • Orange belton
  • Blue belton and tan
  • Liver belton and tan

English Setter Size

The English Setter size is a medium height and weight regarding dog breeds. Males and females, fully grown, differ in both aspects. Mature males get to anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds, and females are between 45 and 70 pounds. In height, males grow to be 24 to 27 inches tall whereas females are a fair bit shorter at 23 to 26 inches.

Average Adult Height

23-27 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

45-80 lbs

English Setter Variations

There are basically two English Setter types. Varieties and bloodlines are a significant discussion within the Setter community, one that was started approximately two centuries ago. That was when Edward Laverack purchased two dogs that became the founding stock for the English Setter breed. His dogs, which were and remain preferred for show, were later improved for field trails by Richard Purcell Llewellin.

The English Setter you typically see at dog shows is the bench-type that is often called a Laverack Setter. As Laverack was thorough in keeping his bloodlines pure, they were highly prized but may have suffered in performance. In any case, this variety is more easy-going and needs less exercise than field-type Setters. While all English Setters are tall, the Laverack varietal is extremely elegant with a narrower head and strikingly silky hair. They are the long-haired English Setters and they need a lot of grooming.

The later-established variation, known as Llewellin Setter, are those you'll see in field trials and which are far better suited for hunting and work. They are smaller in size than the Laveracks, and they have a wider head. They are the short-haired English setters you may see. While they are beautiful dogs, they are less showy than the older Laverack line from which they came. King Llewellin Setters in the USA is one of the older kennels with this bloodline.

As there is a mandate regarding purity, the Llewellins are defined by having exclusively 100% Duke/Rhoebe-Laverack bloodlines — and no other. The Duke/Rhoebe is a Setter bloodline that is not entirely a variation like the two mentioned above. The discussion that delves into the various other bloodlines is a deep and long one, and it is best researched by picking up any one of the many books on English Setters.

English Setter Temperament

Of the three Setter breeds (described in the History section), the English Setter temperament is the most easy-going one. They are gun dogs that have been carefully bred for two centuries to be extremely doting, loyal and playful home companies when not in the field. They are perpetually alert and will bark, but they are not yappers unless anxious. They don't make good guard dogs — unless the house is being overrun by hamsters, birds or bunnies!

They do have an independent streak, however. This requires careful socialization when raising them, and dedicated training. They are highly dependent on human companionship, and this can be levied in training them.

Keep in mind that one of the more appealing English Setter characteristics is their memory. They never forget a person, and they train quickly when done properly. The English Setter behavior is best disciplined by only rewarding them when they do well, whereas punishing them them may prompt bad traits to develop.

English Setter and Children

Although known for their hunting, pointing and show prowess, many people may still ask, Are English Setters good family dogs? Indeed, they are. If the ideal situation of a rural area with young children and English Setters is the case, there may be fewer perfect family pets than these dogs. They are extremely playful as puppies, they mellow with age, and they are mild-mannered their entire life. They can be trusted around children too. While they are great watchdogs who can be calmed quickly and easily, perhaps the only drawback is they are not good guard dogs.

Living Requirements

Having English Setters as pets is rewarded by the shared responsibility that starts with you. These dogs fetch high prices and can be difficult to acquire. Grooming, constant companionship and the right type of home depending on which type you adopt are things that should be anticipated. Both types are prone to separation anxiety but don't bark much — unless they are anxious, which must be quickly resolved lest they start chewing and digging too. They are extremely friendly for the most part.

Owning an English Setter is best when they have a lot of outdoor space. They are not recommended for apartment living. They can handle suburban homes fine. English Setters do have a desire to roam, to dig and to chase small animals, so they must be restrained at all times.

These dogs are not hypoallergenic. One type has shorter hair and is easier to manage, but all English Setters shed a fair amount and have seasonal coat blowouts.

English Setter Health

English Setters have far fewer health issues than many dog breeds, especially those purebreds which were for a long time restricted to in-breeding for bloodline purity. There are a few problems, however, and some are genetic while others may develop over the dog's life or even from injuries while hunting. Be sure to get the necessary health clearances and tests from the agencies that oversee the various English Setter health aspects.

Here are many of the health problems that may affect English Setters:

  • Tumors
  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Eye diseases
  • Hemophilia A
  • Heart disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Congenital deafness
  • von Willebrand's Disease
  • Lysosomal storage disease
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD)

The average lifespan of an English Setter is 10 to 12 years.

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