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The breed’s origins go back to the 1500’s when it was known to be an affective bird dog. There are three different variations on the breed’s exact history. Some old writings suggest the breed is an offshoot of various Spanish land spaniels. Another theory is that the breed was created by crossings of the old Water Spaniel, the old Spanish Pointer and early Springer types.

However there is both editorial and pictorial evidence to suggest that spaniels and setters were distinctly different at that time these crosses would have occurred. The earliest known text which speaks of the setter breeds is a translation, (‘Of Englishe Dogges’ by Dr Johannes Caius) from Latin in 1576 by Abraham Fleming but even this is not absolutely clear on whether or not the writings refer to the ancestors of the modern day setter.

Edward Laverack is often credited as the founder of the modern-day English Setter. Around 1920 he acquired two dogs from Rev A. Harrison named Ponto and Old Moll. These lines had been kept pure for some 35 years. Mr Laverack succeeded in producing fine progeny that is today considered the key foundation of the breed. The first breed show to include English Setters took place in 1859 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and from this point on the breed’s popularity grew.


These are intelligent dogs that are easy to train but they can have minds of their own which has to be taken into account. Basic obedience training should begin as early as possible.

Show Characteristics

The head is long and reasonably lean, carried high with a well-defined stop. The eyes are bright, mild and expressive, between hazel and dark brown in colour. In liver beltons only a lighter eye colour is acceptable. The ears should be of moderate length, set on low with the upper part being covered in fine, silky hair. The jaws should be strong with a complete scissor bite. The neck is rather long, muscular and lean with a slightly arched crest and clean-cut where it joins the head.

The shoulders are well set back or oblique with very good depth and width between the shoulder blades. The front legs are well muscled and straight with rounded bone. The back legs are strong and well muscled with a good second thigh. The body should be of moderate length with a short, level back. The feet are well-padded, tight with close well-arched toes. The tail should be set almost in line with the back, of medium length and not reaching below the hock and the feathering should hang in long pendant flakes. It can be slightly curved or scimitar shaped but should not be curly or ropy or have a tendency to turn upwards.

Weight Height Range

Bitches measure between 61 – 65cms at the withers and weigh around 27kgs. Dogs measure between 65 – 68cms and weigh around 28.5kgs.


There are a few breed-specific problems and choosing a pup from healthy stock will reduce the possibility of these arising. These problems include hip dysplasia and PRA, which breeders are screening for. They are also quite prone to skin disorders and cancers.

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