By Dr. Watuwa JamesDr. James Watuwa Last updated: 27th November 2023

Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is a medium-sized setter famed for its agile and sweet-tempered nature. This breed comprises of the AKC recognized show-bred setters, and the Field Dog Stud Book recognized field-bred Red Setters. A quick-moving hunter, the Irish Setter is elegant in build with a long, lean head, almond-shaped eyes, low ears set well back, moderately deep muzzle, somewhat long neck, straight forelegs, wide, muscular hindquarters, and a tail with a broad base set in line with the croup.

Irish Setter Pictures

Quick Information

Other Namessotar rua or Red Setter, Irish Red Setter
CoatShort, fine on forelegs and head, long, silky feathering on ears, thighs, and forelegs, fringe of hair on chest, belly, and tail
ColorRich chestnut, tan, mahogany without black, white marking on chest, throat, toes, or skull may occur
Breed TypePurebred
GroupGundog, Sporting, Setter
Lifespan12-15 years
WeightFemale: 55-65 lbs
Male: 65-75 lbs
HeightFemale: 22-25 in
Male: 23-27 in
Size of LitterAround 8-12 puppies
TemperamentAffectionate, active, independent, playful, sweet-natured
Good with ChildrenYes
BarkingBarks when necessary
Country Originated inIreland
Competitive Registration/ Qualification InformationACA, AKC, ACR, ANKC, APRI, CCR, CKC, DRA, FCI, KCGB, NAPR, NZKC, NKC, UKC

Video: Two Weeks Old Irish Setter Puppies



Irish hunters of the 18th century probably combined English Setters, Pointers, Spaniels, and Gordon Setters to produce their sleek, powerful Setters that can move quickly and freely, covering ground in the lush green countryside. Those first Setters were called the red spaniels, and they often had a mix of red and white instead of the commonly seen solid dark red coat. During the early 19th century, Irish breeders like Sir St. George Gore, Jason Hazzard, and the Earl of Enniskillen started the breeding of solid red dogs.

The first Irish Setter, named Elcho, was brought to the United States in 1875. The breed attained fame as an energetic and efficient worker in the hunting fields, and because of its elegant looks, it became the conformation champion since the beginning of the dog sport during the 1870s. Its popularity soared during the 1960s and 1970s, because of the movies and books that featured an Irish Red Setter named “Big Red” and also due to President Nixon’s pet “King Timahoe.”

Temperament and Behavior

The Irish Setter has a loveable, friendly, and happy personality. Being fun-loving, playful, and boisterous by nature, it is always ready for fun. It is an outgoing dog that becomes attached to its people and thus likes to stay close to its family. It becomes unhappy when left alone for a few hours, which can result in destructive behavior.

It has the energy and hunting instinct of its ancestors, and it enjoys doing new things as well as going to new places. Although not known to be a guard dog, it will protect its people when the need arises. It makes an excellent watchdog and will warn its owner of intruders with a loud bark. It is slow to mature and usually retains its puppy enthusiasm for many years.

Being affectionate, loyal, energetic, and eager to please, the Irish Setter loves having a job to perform. The Irish Setter can live peacefully with other animals and children, but it can be too overwhelming for a toddler who can accidentally be knocked over by this lively dog.


The Irish Setters are often trained to serve as therapy dogs in hospitals and schools. In hospitals, the therapy dogs are allowed to visit the patients, and in schools, they sit beside the students while the children continue to read.



Being an energetic dog, it needs an hour of regular exercise. It likes to run alongside a bicycle and can make an excellent jogging companion. You may as well allow it to run in a large, fenced yard. Playing fetch, long walks, swimming, and hunting are some of the ways to exercise an Irish Setter. It can be trained to participate in dog sports like tracking, rally, agility, and obedience.

Eight weeks to four months old puppies should be allowed to play for 15-20 minutes in the yard. Four to six months old puppies require regular half-mile walks along with playtime in the yard. From six to twelve months of age, playing fetch with a Frisbee or ball for 40 minutes, as well as half-mile walks.


Its coat needs moderate maintenance including brushing 2-3 times a week using a soft-bristle or pin brush. A long-toothed metal comb may be used to work out mats or tangles that are starting to form. Trim its nails once a month and occasionally bathe it using a gentle dog shampoo.

Health Problems

The Irish Setter is a healthy breed, but some individuals may be affected by certain health conditions including canine leukocyte (CAD), hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy, bloating, panosteitis, and HOD.


Positive, reward-based training with consistent and interesting methods is needed so that your dog does not get bored.

Because of its hunting instincts, it is important to socialize your Irish Setter to other animals during its puppyhood. Invite visitors over to your house frequently, and take your pup to parks and stores that allow animals, as well as on leisurely strolls so that it can meet your neighbors and their pets.

Crate training
Encourage your Irish Setter to enter the crate by dropping some food treats near the crate door and inside it. After a successful introduction, feed its meals in the crate. If your dog has its regular meals inside the crate without showing fear or anxiety, you can confine it for short periods while you are home and increase the interval regularly so that it can learn to stay in its crate for a long time. Crate your dog and leave some toys and tasty food treats in the crate when left alone. If your dog does not like being crated, you may confine it to a room behind a baby gate.


Give it 2-3 cups of high-quality dry food appropriate for its age, size, build, and activity level, and make sure to divide the food into smaller meals. Since it is prone to bloating, you should not take your dog out for vigorous exercise or play around mealtimes.

Interesting Facts

  • The Irish national bus company, Bus Éireann, uses the Irish Red Setter as the corporate logo.

Comparison of Irish Setter with Golden Retriever and English Setter

Irish SetterGolden RetrieverEnglish Setter
Height22-27 in21-24 in23-27 in
Weight55-75 lbs55-75 lbs45-80 lbs
Energy LevelVery HighHighHigh
SheddingLow to MediumMedium to HighMedium
Apartment DogNoYesNo
Kid FriendlinessVery HighVery HighVery High
Pet FriendlinessVery HighVery HighHigh

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