Choosing an English Setter

Choosing an English Setter

The English setter is one of three members of the setter family and is an excellent bird dog. The Irish setter is tall and originated in Ireland. The Gordon setter is the heaviest setter and was developed in Scotland. The English setter is the smallest with a stunning speckled coat.

History and Origin

The English setter is one of the oldest of the "gun dogs". The breed's history can be traced back to the 1500's where it was thought to have been developed from spaniels. Since the dog would almost sit when he discovered game, the breed became known as a setter. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, Sir Edward Laverack and Purcell Llewellin are credited with developing the look of the modern English setter through intense breeding programs. To this day, some people refer to English setters as Laverack setters or Llewellin setters.


The English setter is an elegant, medium sized dog with a beautiful speckled coat referred to as belton markings. The coat can be white with tan, brown or black speckles. Some may even be white with black and tan speckles. The hair is long, flat and somewhat wavy and the underside, tail, legs and ears all have feathers. The head of the setter is long with a long muzzle. The ears hang down and the tail is straight but tapers at the end.


The adult English setter stands around 23 to 27 inches at the shoulder and weighs about 45 to 80 pounds.


English setters are friendly and gentle dogs. They are quite energetic and need plenty of exercise. This breed is a good watch dog and will bark when intruders are detected. Some setters take this to the extreme and bark at every motion they see in the yard.

Home and Family Relations

English setters are wonderful pets for families with older children. They are active dogs and prefer to live in a home with a fenced yard. Apartment living may be difficult unless the setter is taken on lots of walks.


The English setter is a natural gun dog and can do well in obedience training if the owner is patient and persistent. Some setters can be stubborn and may be difficult to house train.

Special Concerns

To prevent mats from forming the coat should be brushed regularly. English setters are very active dogs and need exercise. If not provided with enough exercise, they may use their nervous energy in more destructive ways. Make sure their yard is secure and the fence is high since English setters can be prone to jumping fences.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the English setter is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint develops abnormally and can result in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Elbow dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint develops abnormally and can result in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Deafness can be present at birth or develop later in life.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
  • Atopy is an itchy skin disease of animals that is caused by an allergy to substances in the environment.
  • Epilepsy is a seizure disorder, which develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Ectropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes eversion of the eyelid margin. It most commonly affects the lower central eyelid.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the English setter is approximately 10 to 14 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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