Gordon Setter

AKC Sporting Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

The Gordon Setter was originally developed in Scotland in the 1600s and was later made popular by Duke Alexander the 4th of Gordon in the late 1700s. It was one of the first breeds recognized by the AKC, in 1892. This breed has an outstanding sense of smell and makes a fine bird dog, pointing when he finds a bird scent and then retrieving the felled bird to hand. The Gordon Setter is not fast compared with other hunting dogs, but he has good stamina and can hunt in adverse weather on both land and water. The Gordon Setter is a methodical, dependable hunter, and a fine one-man shooting dog. The beautiful and loyal Gordon Setter has also achieved success as a show dog and home companion.


The only black and tan setter, the Gordon is a sturdy, yet slender dog of square proportion with a thick feathered coat. The head is long, chiseled, and more massive than most setters, with a very pronounced stop and a large-nostrilled black nose. The long muzzle is squared off, is not pointed, and should be approximately the same length from nose to stop as the skull is from stop to occiput. The teeth may meet in a scissors or level bite, but a scissors bite is preferred. The long, slightly pointed ears hang flat beside the head. The oval eyes are dark brown. The topline slopes gently downwards from the withers. The deep chest should reach to the elbows, but should not be too broad. The well-feathered tail is thick at the root, tapering to a fine point. The front legs should be large-boned and straight. The feet should be catlike, with arched toes well furnished with hair. Dewclaws may be removed. The soft, glossy coat may be straight or slightly wavy, with profuse feathering on the legs, underside, ears, and tail. The tail feathering should create a triangular silhouette, with the hair gradually growing shorter as the tail tapers. The color should always be black with clearly differentiated tan markings. The location of the markings is important and clearly specified in the official standard.

Key Facts

  • Height:  24 to 27 in. (male); 23 to 26 in. (female)
  • Size:  Large
  • Weight:  55 to 80 lbs. (male); 45 to 70 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  May take some effort to find
  • Talents:  Hunting, tracking, pointing, watchdog, guarding, and agility


This is a fairly healthy and hearty breed, but pet seekers should beware of hip dysplasia and buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance. A DNA test for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is recommended for all breeding stock. A bit willful, so train firmly and early before bad habits set in. Likes to roam. Puppies may seem somewhat uncoordinated. Field lines are often smaller and lighter than show lines, but both make good pets.


Devoted, polite, gentle, and sensible. Intelligent and willing. A methodical hunter that seldom errs about a scent. Courageous, merry, and affectionate. Needs lots of exercise, or may become hyperactive. Very loyal to the family, but tends to be reserved with strangers. May be jealous of other pets.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Reserved with strangers
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Moderately dependent on people
  • Dominance:  Moderate
  • Other Pets:  Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive 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:  Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Gordon Setter Breed Standard


Gordon Setter Breed Club


Search for a Breeder


Rescue Organizations


Books about the Gordon Setter


Gordon Setter Gifts