15 Facts About English Setters

These 15 facts about English setters will get you to know these dogs better, and some may even surprise you. English setters are wonderful dogs, but they need to be deeply understood.

15 Facts About English Setters

These 15 facts about English setters will get you to know these dogs better, and some may even surprise you. English setters are wonderful dogs, but they need to be deeply understood.

Adrienne is a certified professional dog trainer, dog behavior consultant and former veterinarian assistant for an AAHA animal hospital.

These facts about English setters will quench your thirst for knowledge as you get to discover several unique traits of this breed. English setters are fascinating dogs with a long history and many intriguing features which make them the special creatures they are.

Ready to learn some fascinating facts about English setters? The English setters, along with several other setter dogs, have been working partners for many years and deserve a spot of honor for carrying out many tasks as cherished gun dogs.

Interestingly, these dogs have many impressive traits that are worthy of discovery. Did you know, for example, that there are several different types of setters? Yes, that includes the Gordon setter, the Irish setter, the Irish Red and White Setter and the English setter.

The following are several interesting facts about English setters.

1. English Setters Are a Sporting Breed

The American Kennel Club lists English setters under the sporting dog group. There are four basic types of Sporting dogs included in this group, namely, spaniels, pointers, retrievers and setters.

The term "sport" in this case, is meant to depict the trend of hunting as a form of entertainment for members of the nobility and elite classes, a trend that was particularly popular in England.

All the setters were selectively bred for hunting down feathered game and share the fact that they are highly trainable and most require lots of regular, invigorating exercise.

2. They Were Bred to be "Bird Dogs"

Because setter dogs specialized in hunting birds, they were often referred to as "bird dogs."

Indeed, English setters were utilized for hunting birds such as quail, grouse and pheasant in areas of rugged, stony terrains despite adverse weather conditions.

English setters are, therefore, naturally inclined to show interest in birds, a trait that has often been described as being "birdy."

An old antique illustration depicting hunting dog setters (public domain)

3. English Setters are Known for "Setting"

The English setter is known for having a distinctive hunting style that is common to the other types of setters.

Basically, rather than chasing birds as many dogs would do by instinct upon spotting them, setters would crouch low, a posture known as "setting." This low posture came in handy in the past when hunters would toss a net to trap the birds.

4. They Made Good Gun Dogs Too

Eventually, in Europe, the practice of using nets to catch birds was replaced by the use of guns.

Despite the shift, the versatile English setter dogs still turned out to be handy. These dogs would hunt by pointing so that the birds could be "flushed" out of dense bushes and then be shot by the hunter.

The pointing versus setting also worked well for safety. With the setter standing versus crouching low, setters were more easily seen.

5. English Setters Use Their Noses for Air Scenting

English setters are silent hunters blessed with powerful noses used for detecting smells.

Unlike hounds, though, who typically track smells while keeping their head low to the ground, setter dogs will carry their heads up as they search for birds by analyzing scent molecules wafting in the air.

6. They Have Feathering and Fringes

Feathering is a term used to depict the longer hairs found on several parts of the dog's body. In the English setter dog breed, feathering is expected on the ears, chest, abdomen, underside of thighs, back of all legs and on the tail.

In particular, the feathering on the tail is expected to be straight and silky, hanging loosely in a "fringe."

An orange belton English setter puppy

7. The English Setter Coat Comes in Unique Patterns

If you are in love with English setters, you will need to familiarize yourself with a special color pattern in English Setters known as "Belton."

The word Belton derives from a village in England where Edward Laverack, the breed's founder, used to spend time hunting.

The term is used to depict the coat of English setters, which is white with colored specks, also known as "ticking."

The level of ticking may vary from very light ticking (meaning the dog is mostly) to very heavily ticked (roan) to some levels in between.

In particular, the Belton coat pattern includes the following:

  • Blue Belton: a black and white English setter
  • Orange Belton: an orange and white English setter
  • Lemon Belton: a lemon and white English setter
  • Liver Belton: a liver and white English setter
  • Tricolor: a blue Belton with tan on the muzzle, over the eyes and on the legs

8. They Are Born Almost Completely White

Yes, sort of like Dalmatians, they gain their spots as they mature. It is possible though to denote the presence of an eye patch or mask early on.

It generally takes several weeks to have a better idea of what color the puppies will turn out, which can be a pleasant surprise!

A young English setter puppy with developing spots

9. English Setters Show Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism is a term used to depict differences found between two sexes within a species that goes beyond the appearance of their sexual organs. In other words, size, color and markings are often the most distinguishing secondary sexual features.

Sexual dimorphism is often seen in birds (like the difference between male and female peacocks), insects and plants, while in dogs, it seems to be more prevalent in certain dog breeds compared to others.

The English setter dog breed features males who look decidedly masculine while females look decidedly feminine. How classy is that?

On top of looks, the personality between males and females is also distinct. According to the English Setter Association of America, males tend to be mellow fellows who love to be cuddled and get along well with other dogs, while females are mellow too but may test their owners "to see how much they can get away with."

10. There Are Two Types of English Setters

Namely, the original field/hunting type, sometimes referred to as the "Llewellin Setter," and the "bench" or "show" type.

As the name implies, the field/hunting type is blessed with strong hunting instincts and requires a good amount of vigorous exercise.

The bench or show type instead is more laid-back and suitable as a companion, although still needs its daily walks and opportunities to run around. This latter type also has more hair, is quite tall and has a long narrow head.

11. They Are Nicknamed "The Gentlemen of the Dog World"

Temperament-wise, the American Kennel Club's standard for the English setter describes these dogs as being "gentle, affectionate, friendly, without shyness, fear or viciousness."

The gentle and affectionate personality has therefore granted this breed the nickname "the gentlemen of the dog world."

English setters are also very sociable dogs who enjoy being around people and other dogs.

12. English Setters Tend to Be "Mouthy"

In other words, English setters can be "orally fixated." They like to eat, as well as to chew.

This can lead to counter surfing, raiding the trash can and chewing up items around the home if you don't teach them manners, like the leave it and drop it commands.

In particular, young and adolescent English Setters tend to become rambunctious when bored and understimulated, and this may lead to destructive chewing.

13. They Sleep in Odd Positions

Many English setter owners report their setters sleeping in odd sleeping positions. This is likely due to the fact that English setters need proper angles for flexibility in their line of work so they can effectively collapse into their "setting position."

A Setter sleeping in an "odd position."

14. English Setters Do Best With Positive Training Methods

English setters are very intelligent dogs and can be trained to perform pretty much any task. Versatility is their second name.

They can be used in a variety of dog sports, employed in fieldwork and can even be trained to become therapy dogs.

However, being smart doesn't always translate into being easy to train. With a history as bird dogs, they are naturally drawn to chase fleeting critters such as birds, lizards and squirrels. This means that they can be easily distracted outdoors, and it may not be easy to grab their attention.

English setters have a rep for having a stubborn streak. This "stubborn streak" derives from their past as hunters who worked at a far range from the hunter, often making decisions on their own.

However, despite their "stubbornness," they also are sweet-natured and rather "soft." This means that harsh methods may impact them emotionally.

Positive reinforcement training using praise, treats and toys works best with these dogs (and virtually all dogs, really!).

Creating positive associations with touch in a young English setter

alexadry, all rights reserved

15. English Setters are "Forever Young"

English setters are the Peter Pans of the dog planet. They indeed seem stuck in acting forever young for quite some time. This is refreshing for those folks who feel that dogs age too quickly.

An English setter doesn't typically slow down until they reach nine years old, and they typically live up to 12, although some may even reach 13-14 years of age.

© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli


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