Irish Setters are the oldest of the setter group and they originate in Ireland. The Irish Red Setter Club was formed in Dublin in 1882, prompted by the breeding programme of The Earl of Enniskellen, who developed the signature solid red coat. However, major show winners in the late 1800s, still had some markings of white or black.
In the 1940s the breed was nearly decimated by the eye disease Progressive Retinal Atrophy, better known as PRA. This disease is a non sex-linked genetic illness that causes night blindness. Thankfully, it is now known how to DNA test to identify carriers and thus, eliminate them from a breeding programme. And the breed has recovered and the incidence of PRA has dropped significantly.
The Irish Setter is a highly intelligent dog and early obedience training is essential in order to get this dog to come back if it ever gets off the lead. Being a hunter, although an easily distracted one, it will follow a scent all over if not trained to come back to its owner. With patience and kindness, The Irish Setter is easy to train and can even compete in obedience trials. It is a sensitive breed though and will not respond well to harsh correction. This breed matures slowly, both physically and mentally and should never be pushed too far too fast. They are can be very, stubborn and independent.
Physically, to be of show standard the long, lean head should be twice the length of the width between the eyes. There should be a distinct stop and a well-defined occiput, so that in profile the head appears slightly domed with a deep muzzle which is fairly square at the nose. The jaws should be of nearly equal length, with a perfect scissor bite, and a black or dark mahogany which adds to the aristocratic appearance. Almond shaped eyes of a dark to medium brown. Feathering begins at the ear tips, on ears set back and low, in length, almost long enough to reach the nose.
They should have a long, very muscular not too thick neck. The shoulder blades should slope well back over a deep, rather narrow chest. A slightly sloping topline is completed by the plumed tail, which should be held level with the topline. Strong, well-boned legs support the dog. Muscle should be evident in the hindquarters and the hocks should be nearly perpendicular to the ground. This anatomy should produce the graceful and efficient gait that helps make the dog so showy in the ring.