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irish setterErin Go Woof: The Story of The Irish Setter
by Marjorie Dorfman

The Irish setter, where did this beautiful dog originate and why are they difficult to train? Read on for some russet-colored, not necessarily Irish or green information.

Irish SetterSurely the "Errol Flynn" of the dog world (if there could be such a thing), would have to be the dashing and intelligent Irish Setter with its silky red coat and ebullient personality. Most people do not know that this beautiful canine from the Emerald Isle was originally a red and white dog with shorter legs. In the early part of the 19th century, the solid red color became a desirable quality among the Irish Setter breeders. They then became known as "red spaniels" (the dogs, not the breeders). The ancestry of this fine creature is lost in the mists of time, but it is thought to be the result of a spaniel-pointer English and Gordon Setter combination. Some experts claim that the Irish Setter is even older than its cousin, the English Setter. The Gaelic name for the breed was "Modder Rhu," which translates to "red dogs."

irish setter The primary environment for the Irish Setter was rural Ireland in which it flourished until the late 19th century. Even today, the breed fares best in a country setting as it has a high activity requirement and needs a great deal of exercise. Around 1875, the breed moved to America in search of more opportunity and freedom. American breeders received the beautiful dog with open arms. One of them, a Mr. Charles Turner, did much to further the breed in America. The dog became so popular that the Irish Setter has the distinction of being one of the first breeds to be registered in the United States.

During the 1890s the environment of this magnificent hunting dog changed. Taken out of the fields and transported into the show ring, the Irish Setter was now bred to increase its size, showiness and even its magnificent coat, though it is difficult to imagine that could be improved upon. The end of World War One found more of these dogs in the show ring than on the fields. This trend has continued to the present day. The Irish setter is both a pointer and a retriever, which makes him particularly good for hunting game birds.

field dog
But breeders in America soon came to realize that the field qualities of this dog in their own way were just as important as the show qualities. They began to develop two distinct types of Irish Setters. The field type was smaller and lighter- boned while the show dog counterpart was larger, heavier-boned and carried much more coat. The "correct size" of the Irish Setter is and probably always will be a moot point. Field fanciers maintain that the increased size found in the "show setter" reduces its capacity to work quickly and efficiently in the fields. On the other hand, show breeders claim that the dog can work efficiently in the fields, regardless of its size.

There is agreement in both camps, however, on the general description of the classic Irish Setter. He is a friendly, intelligent animal with a silky chestnut or mahogany coat whose height at the shoulders is usually about 27 inches. The average setter weighs within the 60-70 pound range. The dog is a part of his fun loving culture and Irish to the core. He is gentle, lovable, bold and beautiful. Some owners claim that a trained setter can think as fast if not faster than its owners. Sporting dogs need assignments for their unfettered energy, whether in the field or show ring.
pointerAlthough it can be difficult to begin training an Irish Setter because they are slow developing dogs and possess an independent spirit, once they are trained they remain so for life and are a joy to own (or be owned by). They are loyal and lovable companions, whether on the field or in the show ring. They can, however, get out of control if their energy is not properly directed and contained.

The setter’s life expectancy is about 11-15 years. The breed must always be able to run free and have plenty of exercise. Otherwise, the dog can be restless and difficult to manage. Setters must be groomed daily with a brush and comb to keep their magnificent coats in excellent condition, free of tangles and burrs.

And so, my friends, on this St. Patrick’s Day, do not only pay homage to the wonderful Saint who rid the lush green land of Erin of its pesky snakes. Lift your glass and make a toast to this beautiful red dog that so embodies the spirit of that brave and beautiful land. Wait until everyone else is finished saying "Erin, Go Brach" and under your breath with a great big smile, envision that beautiful dog, clink your glass and whisper,

"Erin, Go Woof!"
saint patrick
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who wear green on this special day and even to all those who don’t.

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Here's a book that should be in the library of every dog lover:

The Official Book of The Irish Setter

by Connie Vanacore

The Official Book of The Irish Setter

The Official Book of the Irish Setter covers all facets of the breed, including its colorful and illustrious history in the show ring, its accomplishments in the field, and its popularity as a loving and personable family pet.

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