Hunting dog profile: The Regal, Elegant English Setter

The English setter is a kind, regal dog at home and a tenacious but patient dog in the field. Read on to find out more about this versatile breed.

There is something confusingly royal about the English setter. Perhaps that feeling of royalty lies in the breed’s ancient origins – it is nearly 500 years old. Or it could be the elegant outline of the dog. That too is beautiful and imperative.

However, the overall package of appearance, behavior and usefulness makes the English setter a shining partner, on site or at home. Read more about this fabulous breed below.

Meet the English Setter

Photo credit: Minko Peev.

The American Kennel Club classifies the English setter as a medium-sized breed ranging from 23 “to 27” and 45-80 pounds, with females at the lower end of the weight and height scale.

An athletic and sleek shape combines with a regal head and larger ears, often adorned with waves. The coat is long and partially silky and requires more grooming than many bird watching breeds.

Often, hunters cut off coats before hunting. The spotted look is known as the Belton, with some people referring to the spotted breed as the Belton English Setter.

The English setter is more sensitive than a typical retriever and requires a steady but steady hand during training. In turn, the breed is wildly devoted, friendly, and easy to live with.

Even though they are mature at home, they need them daily exercise for fitness and stimulation. And, like most hunting dogs, their instincts can shake if left to their own devices.

However, English setters are known to be far more willing than tenacious. And their natural affinity for humans and other creatures makes them a pleasure to live with. Positive reinforcement will continue to imbue this breed with good manners.

Breeders have maintained high quality bloodlines over the centuries. Because of this, the English setter tends to be a healthier dog than the more popular breeds.

However, it is still imperative that breeders review and test health issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, genetics for blindness, and more. The life expectancy of an English setter is around 10 to 12 years, similar to most retrievers.

Chasing the English setter

Hunting english setterPhoto: Bridge Photography, Shutterstock

Many bird dogs came from the great mansions of Western Europe, and the English setter is not an outlier. Obviously, the breed originated in the UK and it is for this reason that some historical names follow the breed. More on that in a minute.

This bird dog was intended to be a cross between Spanish pointers and water spaniels and preceded today’s hunting dogs, largely because they preceded guns. Initially, setters were bred to set.

That is, when they refined their quarry, they would sit down rather than sit down. The hunter then threw a net over the dog and birds, and the hunt continued in this manner until the weapon overtook the net.

As soon as firearms came into play, the breed was again honed for upright pointing behavior rather than on the set. English setters are less than your average pointer and will stay closer instead of getting lost.

A setter can also be trained to rescue waterfowl, although they are best known for their job as highland hunters.

The Llewellin Setter Debate

In the 19th century, some bloodlines diverged, as was the case with many hunting breeds. In England, a line developed by a man named Edward Laverack evolved into a larger, more noticeable show type of the breed. Meanwhile, R. LL. Purcell Llewellin developed a field performance line that is coveted to this day.

A heated debate is raging among gun dog owners as to whether a Llewellin setter is a breed of its own. There is a fab article in Outdoor Life that discusses the matter. Another great article in Gun Dog Magazine refers to the line as “type of English composer”.

You will surely find people promoting their English setter Puppies as the Llewellin Setter. And with that, you can be sure that this is a line that is deeply concerned with the development of hunting dogs.

The Llewellin line tends to be a bit smaller, has a high level of stamina and is a team-oriented partner on site and at home.

If you are looking to add an English setter hunting into your household, the llewellin bloodline is certainly a great place to start your research. Definitely prepare for a stunning and wonderful partner for all of life’s adventures.

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