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The Breed History
As the name implies, they are of English origin, and were renowned bird dogs that first came into the record in the late 1800s. Springer spaniel, Water spaniel and Spanish pointer breeds may have all contributed to this breed’s development. The term setter relates to the crouching posture (set) the dog originally took when they located the bird.
Breeding for Function
Bred as a bird-hunting dog, to set and retrieve, this dog has established himself as a top field trial performer. They are also prized as companion dogs. The modern field dog has a bit stockier and smaller constitution and less of a coat than the show or companion type. They do well in agility competitions.
Height at Withers: female 24″ (61 cm), male 25″ (63.5 cm)
Weight: females 60-65 lb (27-29.5 kg), males 65-80 lb (29.5-36.5 kg)
Coat: The flat long and straight to slightly wavy silky coat with feathers may be tri-color, lemon or liver belton, blue (black) or orange (tan) belton. Belton markings are a white background with flecking (speckles) or roan of these colors admixed. Flecking is preferred.
Longevity: 11-12 years.
Points of Conformation: Due to their origins as gundogs for vigorous hunting, this athletic, graceful dog is bred for function. They have mesocephalic skulls, with a well-defined stop and long square muzzle. The occiput is prominent, nose is black or dark brown, pendulous flews are present, and eyes are dark brown and round. Moderate-length ears are of thin leather, pendulous and set low. A long arched fine neck and level topline (can also slightly slope to the rear) are typical. Their deep chest is not broad, and a moderate loin tuck is present. Tapering, the tail finishes at the tarsus joint, and is carried horizontally. Forelegs are strong and straight, the feet are compact and toes are well arched. Dewclaws are often removed. The gait appears effortless, characterized by long, low strides with straight movement.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reports of this breed note that they possess an affectionate, docile disposition. They are high activity dogs though, and need regular exercise, and are thus not well placed for city living. They are generally quiet in the house, and are quite placid. Training should start early and they often have a streak of independence. They are alarm barkers. The coat just needs regular brushing; they are average shedders. They are good with children, and crave close contact with their families. If left alone for extended periods, they may engage in boredom vices such as digging and chewing. Their prominent flews result in some drooling.
Normal Physiologic Variations
English Setters may be more prone to developing eccentrocytes – RBCs that appear in a peripheral blood smear to have their hemoglobin shifted to one side of the cell.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 16.5% affected. Dorn reports a 1.49x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Reported 3.7x odds ratio for ununited anconeal process form of elbow dysplasia versus other breeds. OFA reports 15.1% affected.