Irish Red Setter

Other names: Red Setter, Irish Setter

Irish Red Setter

Originating in Ireland, Irish Setters first appeared as gundogs. Their popularity soon spread, not only because of their enthusiasm as working bird dogs, but also because of their stunning, mahogany coats. This breed is very friendly and excel in many activities and canine sports. With a high energy drive, this dog is quite boisterous and bold too. He loves anything to do with sporting birds and has a strong hunting instinct.

Key facts about the Irish Red Setter

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Affectionate Playful Hunter

Size :

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Origins and history

The Irish Setter, as his name suggests, comes from Ireland. The breed was developed there during the 18th century, when Gordon Setters, Pointers, Spaniels and English Setters were likely combined. Some of the first of the breed were known as Red Spaniels, or the Gaelic version of red dog, “Modder Rhu”. Many setters with either solid red coats or red sprinkled with tiny white dots were bred during this time.

The first Irish Setter imported from Ireland to the United States in 1875 was named Elcho. This famous dog was a star, not only in the hunting field but also in the show ring. Likewise, in 1878, Admiral was the first of the breed to be registered by the American KC.  During the 60’s and 70’s, popularity rose for this breed of dogs, notably due to Big Red, a famous Irish Setter who had a movie and books named after him. The dog’s popularity remains stable in present times.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 7 - Pointing Dogs


Section 2 : British and Irish Pointers and Setters

Physical characteristics of the Irish Red Setter

  • Irish Red Setter
    Irish Red Setter

    Adult size

    Female : Between 22 and 24 in

    Male : Between 23 and 26 in


    Female : Between 40 and 51 lb

    Male : Between 44 and 55 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    This active dog has a long, lean head shape, with an oval, domed skull shape. The dog’s body is longer than it is tall. His nose is either brown or black. Almond-shaped eyes are set wide apart on the dog’s face. Thin, low-set ears are triangular shaped. The dog has straight front legs and a long tail, quite thick, that tapers to a point at the end. With a shiny, usually mahogany or deep red coloured coat, with feathering that is longer in appearance. Some young dogs can have a silver-grey shade hair behind the legs and ears, however as the dog grows, this usually disappears.

    Good to know

    These good-looking, Irish Setter dogs are a very popular breed, not only in the UK, but worldwide too. This means that puppies from established breeders can be sold to a high price. As with all types of dogs, when choosing a new puppy:

    • Beware of scams online selling and advertising puppies. These false sellers might show you fake images of gorgeous Irish Setter pups they are selling, at budget prices. Always visit the breeders home before you commit to buying a puppy, or you hand over any money. 
    • Be aware also, that some amateur breeders choose to breed from a female dog too many times, which is not only very cruel but also means that the resulting pups may not be in the best of health. 
    • When deciding to buy an Irish Setter puppy, always ask to see details of the dog’s lineage, proof of their vaccinations and microchipping.


    Irish Red Setter

    Irish Red and White Setter


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      Certainly an affectionate dog, very outgoing and people-loving. Although the breed isn’t known as a guard dog, he will step up and protect his owner if needed.

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      The Irish Setter is a very playful and fun-loving breed. He is always ready for a prank, and can be quite mischievous at times, usually when you are least expecting it.

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      A very active dog, who is usually looking for fun. This breed is generally quite slow to mature, so will keep their puppy playfulness often throughout their adulthood.

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      This Irish Setter is a very sensitive dog, but also certainly very intelligent. Because of their sensitivity, they don’t respond too well to being corrected, or to harsh training schedules.

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      With his hunting dog heritage, he is certainly capable of seeking out and hunting down a game bird. With a strong hunting instinct, once he is trained in this routine, he won’t ever forget and need re-training.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      Usually happy to greet visitors or strangers with a nuzzle and a wag of the tail. This dog is generally a people-person, and loves nothing better than socialising with adults and children.

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      Look no further than the Irish Setter for an independent pet, with a great personality. A very smart dog, but also a very independent thinker. Training can often take a sense of humour and lots of patience. He still may resist what you ask him to do, as he can be quite stubborn too.

      Behaviour of the Irish Red Setter

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        Tolerates solitude

        These are certainly people pets, loving nothing more than to be in your company and be entertained by you. He is also an animal with high energy levels, and won’t take too well being left home alone for long periods of time.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        Certainly, Irish Setters are very responsive to training, however, often quite mischievous. As he loves to spend time around people, he will enjoy the extra time you spend on training sessions. Very capable of learning many skills including complex and advanced ones, especially if you begin these routines from puppyhood.

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        Providing your Irish Setter receives sufficient physical and mental stimulation, barking won’t be too much of an issue. However, some dogs from this breed do tend to bark, particularly when they discover new sounds or sights, or when they need to command your attention.

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        Tendency to run away

        On a routine dog walk, your pet will stay close to you and be happy to do so. However, as he has hunting dog heritage in his blood, should he spot a rabbit scurrying in the distance, he might just run off after it, giving chase.

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        Provided your Irish Setter is kept occupied and very busy with many tasks and activities, he won’t be destructive at all. However, when left alone for long periods throughout the day, boredom will soon set in and you might just find the table legs or the rug have been chewed.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        Not necessarily a greedy dog, but because of his high metabolism, he will certainly need an adequate amount of food, more than a medium sized dog of a breed that is less active.

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        Guard dog

        This breed of canines love people and are quite outgoing. They aren’t guard dogs, although in certain situations will protect their owners if needed. However, they are certainly brilliant watchdogs, who will bark to alert you to any intruders or strangers in the home.

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        First dog

        Yes of course, this intelligent dog is an ideal choice for a first dog. Very intelligent, curious yet playful, they make fantastic companions too.

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          Irish Red Setter in a flat

          These large dogs are best suited to larger homes, rather than a flat. They also need sufficient outside space to allow them to run around to burn off their endless energy.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          As a hunting dog, it’s no surprise, that in order to stay healthy and happy, the Irish Setter needs lots of exercise. Your dog will require a minimum of around 2 hours exercise each day, even more if your schedule allows for this. In addition, lots of games and mental stimulation to expand his abundant energy levels.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          As quite a large breed, rather more difficult to transport in the boot of your car. They do, however, love being around people, so occasional outings on public transport will be fine, although he will probably want to greet all the other passengers.


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            Irish Red Setter and cats

            Irish Setters can be fine with cats if they have been introduced to each other as small puppies and kittens. Certainly keep in mind that these dogs have hunting in their ancestry, so may not be good to keep around small pets.

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            Irish Red Setter and dogs

            If the dogs are reared together, there shouldn’t be any problems with them getting along. Sometimes same sex dogs can be quite boisterous together, but generally they won’t fight aggressively.

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            Irish Red Setter and children

            Irish Setters make wonderful friends for older children, but they may be too high-spirited for toddlers. Likewise, with his exuberant demeanour, it will be all too easy for him to knock a small child over. While they aren’t usually aggressive, keep in mind that he won’t enjoy being teased or handled roughly, so it’s a good idea to teach all children, regardless of their age, how to interact and handle dogs.

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            Irish Red Setter and the elderly

            This breed of dog is probably not a suitable companion for an elderly person. This is due to the dog’s lively and boisterous character. In addition, his need for lots of daily exercise could eliminate his from this age group.



            The average price of an Irish Setter dog in the UK, is £860 for a dog registered at the Kennel Club and £810 for a dog that isn’t.

            As a rough guide, the cost to feed, insure and care for an Irish Setter, including annual veterinary check-ups, will be around £80 to £100 each month. This however, does not include the initial buying cost of your pet.


            Regular brushing is needed to keep the Irish Setter’s coat tangle-free and shiny. When he’s been out on a walk, check for debris that can attach itself to his feathering. A bi-annual bath should suffice, unless of course, he rolls in something really smelly. Care should be taken with his ears to keep them clean and free from infections.


            This breed is known for its glamorous and shiny, deep mahogany coat, but yes, they do shed hair. Regular grooming and brushing will keep the dog’s coat in great condition, and also keep the shedding hair under control.

            Nutrition of the Irish Red Setter

            Twice daily feeding, of a good high-quality, nutritious dog food is advisable. Rather than leaving his food out during the day, offer his food bowl, allow him to eat and then lift the bowl. This will prevent him from constant grazing and the prevention of obesity. A fit and energetic Irish Setter should have a noticeable waist shape. You should be able to run your hands along his spine and feel his ribs, but not have visible rib shape.

            Health of the Irish Red Setter

            Life expectancy

            As fairly healthy dogs, providing there are no unexpected health conditions, they will live to between 12 and 14 years on average.

            Strong / robust

            If you take into account that this is a hunting breed, who can run over rough terrain for many hours, he is certainly a robust dog.

            Withstand heat

            As a hunting dog that is bred to spend most of his time in the sporting field, he loves being outside, no matter the weather. Saying this, however, he is also quite happy to spend time indoors, especially if this involves playful activities with his family.

            Withstand cold

            The Irish Setter is happy to spend lots of time hunting and exercising outside, in all chilly weathers. Likewise, he loves nothing better than to dive into water for a swim, even though the water may be cold!

            Tendency to put on weight

            As a very agile and energetic canine, providing adequate exercise is offered, the dog won’t easily put on any excess weight.

            Common illnesses

            Health conditions that affect this breed of dog are:

            • Hip dysplasia
            • Epilepsy
            • Rickets
            • Bloat
            • Progressive retinal atrophy
            • Reproduction issues
            • Wheat sensitive allergies
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