English Setter

Breed At A Glance


Sweet and intelligent, although not always easy to train

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
Males 24-27 inches; Females 23-26 inches

Average Weight
Males 55-80 lbs; Females 45-70 lbs

Coat Color
White with blue, lemon, orange, or brown speckling (some are tri-color)

Coat Length/Texture
Long, silky and a bit wavy

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as Laverack Setter, Llewellin Setter, Llewellyn Setter

General Temperament

The English Setter is an enthusiastic and affectionate breed that craves the attention of it’s family. They are patient and gentle with children, making them a great family dog. They are a people-oriented breed that loves to be inside with their family, or working with an owner/handler during hunting. Like most working breeds, they are happiest when they have a job to do.

English Setters can be somewhat willful and difficult to housebreak. However, they are very intelligent and can be trained to do just about any task (except for herding), although they can be easily distracted in outdoor environments. They are also a very sensitive breed, so training should never be heavy handed; positive reinforcement works best with an English Setter.

This breed is very lively and active and functions best with a large fenced-in yard. They like to roam, and are good diggers and jumpers, so care should be taken to ensure that the yard is securely and adequately fenced. They are relatively inactive indoors, and tend to be couch potatoes and good lap dogs. This breed loves to bark and makes a great watch or alert dog, although they are never vicious and therefore aren’t good for actual “guarding.” English Setters are generally good with other dogs, as they are a “pack” dog, but should not be trusted around smaller, more passive house pets. They can be good around cats as long as they are socialized with them from puppyhood.

Breed History

The English Setter originated over 400 years ago from crosses of Spanish Pointer, large Water Spaniel, and Springer Spaniel. The resulting breed was an excellent bird dog with proficiency in finding and pointing game in the open country. The modern English Setter is largely credited to the efforts of two individuals: Edward Laverack and, later, R. Purcell Llewellin.

Around 1825, Edward Laverack obtained two English Setters and began a rigorous breeding process to produce substantial, non-hunting specimens of the breed. Later, R. Purcell Llewellin created an extremely successful hunting strain of the breed that also prevailed in field trials. Nowadays, you may still hear the term “Llewellin Setter,” and although this is not a separate breed, it’s refers to a very specific and direct bloodline which can be determined by DNA testing. Often, the show-type is referred to as a “Laverack Setter” and the field or hunting-type is called “Llewellin Setter.”

Today, the English Setter is still used as a gun dog in the U.S., but have also enjoyed tremendous success in the show ring and as a lovable family companion.

Body Structure and Composition

The English Setter has been bred for a mix of endurance and athleticism. The chest is quite deep, but not wide. The head is long, and the muzzle is approximately half the total length of the head, and is fairly square. The eyes are large and brilliant with a sweet expression. The ears are moderately long and pendant ears, laying close to the face. The tail is straight and tapers to a small point. The tail, ears, legs, and underside are all heavily fringed.

The coat is long and flat with light feathering and requires regular grooming. The various speckled coat colors in English Setters are referred to as “belton.” Combinations include white with black flecks (blue belton) or with orange flecks (orange belton— depending on the intensity of the color, they might be lemon belton or liver belton), or white with black and tan flecks (tricolor belton).

There is a significant difference in the structure of show-type versus field-type English Setters. Field type setters are often smaller and are seen with less feathering and usually more distinctive spotting than show type setters. Both traits are beneficial in the field: fewer feathering makes getting burrs out of their coat easier and the spotting makes them easier to see in the field.

Medical Information

The English Setter is a relatively healthy breed, but they can be prone to Hip or Elbow Dysplasia (when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket, causing pain and arthritis-like symptoms). Approximately 10 percent of English Setters are affected with bilateral or unilateral deafness; a BAER test (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) can be performed when the dog is a puppy to confirm it’s hearing ability. There are also certain cancers that can affect this breed later in life.

Hypothyroidism is sometimes in English Setters, albeit rarely. This disease causes underactivity of the thyroid gland. This gland has a number of functions, but is most well known for regulating your dog’s metabolic rate. This can cause lethargy, weight gain, skin infection and hair loss, cold intolerance, chronic ear infections or severe behavioral changes. Hypothyroid dogs who receive proper treatment, including a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone, can have a normal life span and are able to maintain good health well into their golden years.

Along with daily exercise, the English Setter needs enough grooming to keep his coat free of mats and tangles. Special attention should be paid to the feathery hair between the pads and toes, which can form an environment for fungus and skin irritation if allowed to mat.

Anecdotal Information

The term “Setter” is based on the almost sitting position this breed takes when it points game.

The first dog listed in the American Kennel Club Stud Book, which was published initially in 1879, was an English setter.

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