Irish Setter

AKC Sporting Group


Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo Copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Red and white setters were first selectively bred in Ireland in the 1700s, with the first exclusively red setters appearing in the early 1800s. By the mid-1800s, Irish Red Setters, as they were called, came to America. The breed proved to be a fine all-around hunting dog. He is fast, with an excellent nose, and is good on any terrain. His technique for finding game is to run quickly back and forth in front of the hunter. The Irish Setter is both a pointer and retriever, particularly good for hunting game birds. Because of his handsome looks, however, many breeders have selected for beauty rather than hunting ability. So today’s Irish Setter is usually a show dog and/or family companion, though he sometimes still serves as a hunting dog.


The energetic, aristocratic, and beautiful Irish Setter has a distinctive glossy, silky, fringed mahogany coat. Small spots of white on the chest, toes, and forehead are allowed in the show ring. Black is not permitted. Some young dogs have silvery-gray hairs behind the ears and legs, but these might disappear as the dog matures. The dog is slightly longer than tall. The chest is deep and fairly narrow. The head is long and chiseled, with a well-defined occiput and stop. The muzzle is also long and rectangular when viewed from the side. The nose is dark, either black or brown, and the eyes are brown. The long pendant ears are fine textured and triangular. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite. The long plumed tail is carried straight or curving slightly upward, level with the backline.

Key Facts

  • Height:  26 to 28 in. (male); 24 to 26 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  Averages 70 lbs. (male); 60 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Might take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, retrieving, pointing, watchdog, agility, and competitive obedience


Best suited to country rather than city life, as he has high activity requirements and needs a lot of exercise. Easily housebroken. Beware of hip dysplasia and PRA. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance and current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Prone to bloat. Professional grooming two or three times a year will help the Irish Setter look his best. In between, a good weekly brushing should suffice. Both field lines and show lines make good pets, though the field lines are generally smaller, with shorter coats and a much higher activity requirement.


Giddy at times, very lovable, and impulsive. Outgoing and happy-go-lucky. Energized. Can be high strung. Some are more reserved. Train firmly and early to prevent development of bad habits, as this breed tends to pick up bad habits quickly. Important to train for good house manners. Responsive yet sensitive. Needs to be well exercised or might become destructive. Good with other animals.


  • Children:  Good with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Easy to train
  • Independence:  Needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Friendly with other dogs
  • Noise:  Not a barker
  • Indoors:  Very active indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  Skilled trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Feathered coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Exercise:  Vigorous daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Moderately long lived (12 to 15 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Irish Setter Breed Standard

Irish Setter Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Irish Setter

Irish Setter Gifts