Exploring Different Types Of Setters: A Comprehensive Guide

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Let’s explore the world of setter breeds, perfect for active families, hunters, or anyone seeking a loyal companion. Meet the Irish setter, Gordon setter, English setter, and Irish red and white setter dogs – each excelling in the field and at home.

While they all share a talent for hunting and family-friendly nature, each breed also boasts its own distinctive qualities.

Setter Breeds Characteristics

Setters, also known as gun dog or bird dog breeds, are large, intelligent hunting dogs used to track ground birds like quail. They locate prey with their keen sense of smell and then crouch, or “set,” without catching the birds.

Their name comes from this behavior. Setters have silky coats, playful personalities, and expressive eyes.

Types of Setter Dog Breeds

There are four recognized setter breeds.

Height 23-27 inches
Weight 45-80 pounds
Life expectancy 10-12 years

The English Setter, a silky, wavy-coated bird dog from Great Britain, is known for its deep chest, lean body, and small feet. It has a feathered tail that aligns with its back and soft-tipped ears.

This calm and affectionate breed is prone to obesity and needs controlled feeding. Females may experience false pregnancies. Not suited for apartments, they need regular exercise and grooming for their easy-to-maintain coats. Their coat colors vary, including white with brown, lemon, orange, or blue mottles.

The English Setter excels in setting, retrieving, and pointing and is a decent watchdog.

More moderate than Irish Setters and friendlier than Gordon Setters, they are sociable with both humans and animals. Though mild-mannered, they can be stubborn, responding best to firm, kind training.

English Setters make loving family dogs but tend to bark and dig, habits that should be managed from a young age.

2. Irish Setter

red setter
Height 25-27 inches
Weight 60-70 pounds
Life expectancy 12-15 years

The Irish Setter, also known as the red setter, is recognizable by its rich red coat. It has a long muzzle and a noticeable stop at the forehead. Its coat is shorter on the head and front legs, and it has a low-set, feathered tail.

This hunting dog breed, originating in Ireland in the 1700s, is likely descended from the Gordon setter and Irish water spaniel. They are active and not suitable for apartment living. They’re ideal for active pet parents who enjoy jogging or biking.

To prevent bloat, feed them small meals throughout the day. Irish Setters live longer than other setters and have a beautiful coat that requires daily brushing but minimal grooming.

The Irish Setter is a lively and energetic dog with a playful and curious personality, making them a great family dog. These graceful, sweet-tempered dogs are great with children and adults alike and get along well with other dogs.

Known for their eagerness to please, Irish Setter dogs respond well to positive training. They’re tall, with long legs that suit their high energy, needing at least an hour of activity daily.

Originally bred for bird hunting, Irish Setters have a strong prey drive and love exploring. They prefer company and can experience separation anxiety if left alone for too long.

3. Gordon Setter

setter breeds
Height 23-27 inches
Weight 45-80 pounds
Life expectancy 10-12 years

Gordon setters, black and tan bird dogs named after Scottish nobleman Alexander Gordon, date back to the 1600s. It’s the only setter from Scotland, descended from collies and bloodhounds.

Gordon setter has a silky coat with tan markings on its muzzle, eyebrows, throat, chest, legs, and vent. They need plenty of exercise and space, so they don’t make for an ideal apartment dog.

The Gordon Setter, with its shiny black and tan coat and wise brown eyes, is a striking and intelligent dog. They are confident and skilled in bird hunting.

Regular grooming is sufficient for their coat. Gordon setters mature slower than other setters, often appearing clumsy in youth. This energetic and strong dog can be aloof with strangers and sometimes aggressive towards other dogs. Early socialization helps mitigate these issues.

Although they may remain distant from strangers, training teaches them to cope with new situations. They are excellent companion dogs, fiercely protective of children, and deeply devoted to their families.

4. Red and White Irish Setters

tri color english setter
Height 22-26 inches
Weight 35-60 pounds
Life expectancy 11-15 years

The Irish red and white setter, related to the Irish setter, almost went extinct due to the popularity of the red setter.

Originating in 17th century Ireland, its distinctive red and white coat made it easy for hunters to spot in the field.

The solid red Irish setter was later developed from the Irish red and white setter through selective breeding, resulting in separate breed standards.

This breed is strong and athletic, heavier than the Irish setter, with a well-muscled back, neck, and hindquarters. It has a distinctive coat, white with red patches and some flecking, requiring daily brushing.

This dog has very high energy levels, requiring at least one hour of exercise daily, with more being even better. The Irish Red and White Setter are perfect for active, sporty individuals or families who love outdoor activities.

This dog is affectionate and great with children but not suitable for apartment living.


What is the calmest setter breed?

The calmest setter breed is generally considered to be the English Setter. Known for their mild temperament and gentle disposition, English Setters are typically less excitable and more laid-back compared to the more energetic Irish Setter or the sometimes aloof Gordon Setter.

Which is the best setter dog?

Determining the “best” setter dog depends on your specific needs and lifestyle. Each setter breed has unique characteristics. Your choice should be based on which breed aligns best with your lifestyle, activity level, and what you’re looking for in a dog.

Are Setters good family dogs?

Yes, setters are generally excellent family dogs. Each setter breed has its own unique qualities, but they all share certain traits that make them well-suited for family life.


Setters are a diverse and delightful group of breeds, each with its own unique qualities. From the energetic and playful Irish Setter to the gentle and affectionate English Setter, the loyal and protective Gordon Setter, and the spirited Irish Red and White Setter, there’s a setter to suit various lifestyles.

These breeds share a common heritage as skilled bird dogs, and today, they excel as loving family companions. With their stunning looks and endearing personalities, setters not only bring joy and activity into homes but also embody a rich tradition of canine grace and versatility.

Whether for active outdoor adventures or as affectionate partners in family life, setters are truly remarkable dogs.

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