Irish Setter Dog Breed

Irish Setter Running Outside
  • Other names:
  • Red Setter
  • Irish Red Setter

The Irish Setter, famous for her beautiful mahogany red coat, was originally bred in the 18th century as gundogs for bird and fowl hunting in Ireland. The breed is affectionate, loving, very smart and extremely energetic. Their intelligence and high energy may be too much for some families, as they require quite a exercise each day plus plenty of patience to train. Red Setters are not hypoallergenic and will require a medium amount of effort to groom. All of these requirements are doable if you are an active owner and the breed is very much worth it!

Irish Setter Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred11-15 yrs.25-27 in.60-70 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.

Irish Setters will ideally find homes as gundogs or with an active, outdoorsy family-- the more space you have for them and the more time you can spend with them, the better! For hunters, this is a dog that can do it all: track via scent in the air as opposed to the group, point and retrieve. The cover land by quartering which refers to the zig-zag pattern they follow while picking up the scent of birds in the air. It's a fact the Irish Setter is an excellent family dog and will be a beautiful, loving addition to the household, even if you have other pets! There's a reason why this breed was the favorite of two US Presidents and at one point was the third most popular dog in America. Consider the pros and cons of the Irish Setter to get a better idea if this could be the best breed for you:

  • Pros
  • Stunning, unforgettable looks
  • Excellent with kids
  • Friendly with other pets
  • Friendly towards visitors and strangers
  • Will bark to alert you
  • Great exercised buddy
  • Affectionate, loving and devoted
  • Highly intelligent and excels in many activities
  • Generally healthy
  • Naturally not a messy dog
  • Cons
  • Very high exercise requirements
  • Patience required to train
  • Needs a large property or fenced yard
  • Not suitable for small apartments
  • Noisy
  • Moderate grooming required weekly
  • Can be destructive if not exercised enough
  • Can suffer separation anxiety if left alone too long
  • Not hypoallergenic

Irish Setter Breed Description

The Irish Setter is a considered a large dog breed. Adults stand 25-28 inches tall from ground to shoulder and weigh between 60-70 pounds. Their size and energy levels make the Irish Setter an unlikely candidate for families that have limited space for a dog such as those in apartments or condos. Irish Setter were bred for field activities so a extensive property or, at the very least, a medium sized fenced yard is ideal.

Irish setters are good dogs for children and most household pets. Since they are a bird dog, they will have a strong prey drive for pet birds. Although the breed is good with children they can be a bit too rambunctious for toddlers and smaller kids due to their size and energy. Because of this it is recommended to monitor the breed when they are around small children.

Irish setters are known for their beautiful coats so owners should try to highlight this feature of their dog with proper grooming. The breed's coat is actually not too difficult to manage. It needs to be brushed once every two days and bathed as needed to keep it clean and free of odors. Most of the dog's maintenance will need to be their exercise regime. Irish setters have a high amount of energy and need a minimum of one hour of exercise each day. Owners with large fenced-in yards can use this to their advantage by letting their dog burn off some excess energy in the yard before going for a walk.

Irish Setter Breed History

The Irish Setter origin is not completely known-- surprising for such a well established breed. It's history begins in Ireland, as the name implies where a swift and enduring companion was needed to aid hunters tracking game birds. Not only can they track by scent in the air but also point and retrieve! Experts believe that sometime during the 1700s the forerunner of the Irish Setter, the Red and White Setter, came into existence from the inter-breeding of Irish Water Spaniels,  Irish Terriers, Pointers, Setting Spaniels and Gordon Setters. During the 1800s this Red and White Setter emerged as a breed of its own, and from it purely red individuals were born. These red coated Setters were thought to be superior hunting companions to the others and were bred until enough differences existed to claim it a separate breed.

By 1882 the breed had become popular enough that the Irish Red Setter Club was formed in 1882 and a breed standard inked in 1886. The breed did make its way across the pond shortly thereafter and is a member of the AKC sporting group. Due to their high intelligence, beautiful looks and eager-to-please temperament the Irish Setter has won no less than 11 times in the Westminster Kennel Club's sporting dog events. Notable owners of Irish Setters include Presidents of the United States Truman and Nixon. Interestingly, although they remain moderately popular in the US now, at the time Nixon had his Red Setter in the White House the breed became the third most popular in America!

Irish Setter Appearance

The Irish Setter is a stunning, memorable canine. Some call them elegant and graceful-- aristocratic even, and it's rumored that many prominent artists have claimed them to be the most beautiful of all dogs. What, then, does an Irish Setter look like? First and foremost, you will notice the Irish Setter's coat. It is a beautiful mahogany to chestnut red and it is long, fine and silky. The Red Setter, as the name implies, is always red; white spots are permitted on the toes, chest, throat and skull. The hair is longer and referred to as "fringe" on the chest, belly and tail while silky feathering is seen on the ears and back of the legs.

Overall, they are large and athletic but in a very light, refined way (maybe elegant truly is the best word). Ideally, they will reach 25-27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 50-60 pounds. Breaking down the body, Irish Setters have dark hazel to dark brown eyes that have a keen, intelligent yet affectionate look to them. They have low set, long and thin ears that reach almost to the end of their thin face when measured. Other notable features include a long body, deep chest and small feet.

Irish Setter Coloring

The Red or Irish Setter is so named because of its stunning mahogany to chestnut colored coat. There are no black, white or brown Irish Setters; black is prohibited in the coat via the breed standard. White is allowed in small amounts on the toes, chest, throat and in a steak on the head but they should never appear spotted. The breed did originate from the Red and White Setter but has since emerged as a dog all its own, therefore, Irish Setter colors are limited to shades of red.

Irish Setter Size

Surprisingly, the Irish Setter size is not strictly defined in the breed standard (unlike most purebred breeds). They are large dogs with an athletic build, but they are special due to a certain elegance and grace they possess. Ideally, an Irish Setter's height will be 25 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh 60-70 pounds. The size is certainly something potential owners should consider since they are also very energetic dogs.

Average Adult Height

25-27 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

60-70 lbs

Irish Setter Variations

The Irish Setter breed is not one of many variations. Size, coat, etc. are pretty similar among individuals, however, we will cover the most common two subjects below:

Many people have an interest in smaller versions of large breeds, however, there is no "Miniature Irish Setter" accepted by any kennel club-- nor is there a toy or teacup type. Breeding such a large dog down to a teacup size would cause an enormous amount of health issues. Any Irish Setters advertised as one of these small varieties is most almost certainly not a purebred.

Now we will consider the coat: it's mahogany-colored, long and silky. Most short haired Irish Setter are either the result of the owner trimming/clipping the long coat due to the maintenance it requires or are of mixed breeds. The coat is not rough and Irish Setters are not wirehaired, however, certain mixed breeds such as the popular Irish Setter Doodle may exhibit a rougher, curlier coat.

Irish Setter Temperament

The Irish Setter temperament makes it a top contender for an active owner or family. Whether you're looking for a gundog or a hiking companion these dogs are simply superb in every way. They track, point, retrieve moving swiftly through fields with immense stamina. They love to roam, walk, hike, and train. Red Setters are sweet, affectionate and desire to be part of the family-- they will happily take car rides and partake in family vacations. Families with children, other pets and frequent visitors need not worry, these dogs are friendly with anyone and any pet. Keep in mind they are not shy about being vocal and are not considered quiet dogs; for example they will alert you to anyone approaching the door.

The Irish Setter personality can easily turn into a lot to handle if they don't get the appropriate amount of exercise. We do not recommend this breed for couch potatoes or those who simply spend a large amount of time indoors. Ideally, they should get two hours of outdoor activity daily. A large, fenced yard is appreciated as they love to roam around following their noses. This also means a large home is preferred to a small apartment.

Another characteristic of the Irish Setter you should consider is that they require plenty of patience to train as well as the gentlest of methods. These sweet, sensitive dogs are so devoted to their owner that harsh words or treatment can severely affect their moods. Irish Setters are notoriously intelligent and enthusiastic to please you, however, as with other super smart breeds this also means that they are always a step ahead of you and are easily distracted if not challenged enough.

Irish Setter and Children

This is where we answer the question on every parent's mind: "Are Irish Setters good family dogs?"  The answer is absolutely! These dogs are definitely one of the top choices for active families-- we stress the word ACTIVE. Red Setters are high energy dogs that will remain active and playful into old age. They make excellent playmates for kids that are steady on their feet; they may pose the accidental hazard of knocking over an unsteady toddler but, otherwise, the Irish Setter breed temperament is wonderful.

Irish Setter and Other Pets

Irish Setters are dog friendly-- in fact, they're everything friendly. This breed is eternally playful and is known to get along very well with other dogs. Irish Setters and cats are known to coexist peacefully as well, especially socialized with them early and trained not to pester them as a puppy.

Irish Setter Photos

Below are pictures of the Irish Setter dog breed.

2 Month Old Irish Setter Puppy
Irish Setter
Adult Irish Setter
Mahogany Irish Setter
Irish Setter Profile
Irish Setter Running Outside

Living Requirements

Owning one of these pups in extremely rewarding and you will have an affectionate best friend for life, however, the Irish Setter dog breed comes with a few major living requirements.

First, they need a very high amount of exercise-- experts recommend around two hours per day! This is not an easy task. A medium-large yard is ideal and they are much better suited to large homes than small apartments but their sweet temperaments allow them to live indoors as long as they are properly exercised. Bonus points if you are a hunter that has an extensive property!

Next you will need a ton of patience. Sure, Red Setters are intelligent dogs and eager to please. They have won at least 11 Westminster Kennel Club dog shows (Sporting category), however, this level of intelligence means they must be trained early and with patience for all the many distractions that having such a keen nose provides. A baby Irish Setter trained and socialized early is one of the most enviable of all canines! Just make sure to be very gentle-- no harsh tones or treatment-- because their loving devotion to you causes them to be quite sensitive!

Finally, this breed is not hypoallergenic. The long, silky red coat will likely cause problems for allergy sufferers. This coat also ensures you will need to spend a moderate amount of effort to keep them looking good. The hair should be brush at least twice per week to keep it free of mats and tangles.

Irish Setter Health

Irish Setters have quite the varied lifespan with most individuals living anywhere from 11-16 years. They are generally healthy dogs and most owners agree they retain their youthful energy into old age. A few major health concerns to familiarize yourself with are:

  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy
  • Eye Diseases such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  • Bloat

The best ways to monitor for these issues are to spend daily time with you dog. If you notice any changes to behavior or activity level-- make an appointment with your veterinarian. Don't skip your regular checkups just because your Red Setter puppy seems fine. Additionally it's always best to break up feedings into smaller meals instead of one large, daily meal. Large dogs are prone to bloat, which can be deadly, and monitoring their meals can help prevent that!

  • Bloat
  • Cancer
  • Canine Leukocyte
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans
  • Panosteitis
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • View all 10...

Irish Setter Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Irish Setter as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Canine Registry
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 15...