Brought to the United States in the early 1800s, the Irish setter was a gundog who commanded great respect in the field and was one of the most commonly used dogs among the professional meat hunter fraternity.
It was back in 1874 when the American Field brought into existence what was called the Field Dog Stud Book, and that is where dog registry started in the United States. The FDSB is the oldest purebred registry in the United States. In the beginning, one could register a dog even if it was a result of mixing 2 different breeds. Around this period, the Irish setter ancestor came to life, which means that the Llewellyn Setter was bred with bloodlines from the Lavarack breeding of English setter and also bloodlines from native Irish Setters.
Therefore, Irish Setters that lived in the 1800s did not look as they do today. The AKC registered dogs of this breed in a myriad of colors. A 19th-century writer, Frank Forester, portrayed this dog breed saying, "The points of the Irish Setter are more bony, angular, and wiry frame, a longer head, a less-silky and straighter coat than those of the English. His color ought to be a deep orange-red and white, a common mark is a stripe of white between the eyes and a white ring around the neck, white stockings, and a white tag to the tail."
The Setter that was completely red, however, was preferred in the show ring so the breed followed this direction. However, a great concern came to the surface when some facts became evident--for almost a century (the period between 1874 and 1948), this breed created as many as 760 conformation champions, but contrary to this number, the field champions were only five.
This situation was a serious concern because the Irish Setter was running extinct from the field and this had to be remedied. Hence, to resurrect the breed, outcrosses represented the optimum solution. It was Ned LaGrange of Pennsylvania who invested a significant amount of money to get some of the last working Irish Setters into the States and to bring dogs from Europe. This is how he started to outcross red and white field champion English Setters.
Working Irish setter kennels today have numerous field champion dogs that claim lines from both the FDSB dogs and the AKC dogs. These working dogs are big. With a long coat that has a lot of feathering, this is a high-maintenance breed. According to the AKC, the average height for males is 24 to 26 inches and that for females is 22.5 to 24 inches. The average weight is 50 to 70 lbs (23 to 32 kg).
The Irish setter was trained in Ireland in the 1800s to hunt game. Since then, it has become more of a show dog than anything else. It is very intelligent and trainable, however, it needs constant activity. It needs something to occupy itself at all times, which makes it very suitable for active families. It is also extremely loyal and affectionate, and gets along well with children. This makes it an excellent family dog. Also, it is very alert and makes a very good guard dog.
If you are interested in keeping an Irish Setter then be prepared for a dog that has a lot of energy and needs good, firm training because it can be stubborn. And then there is always the shedding. This breed needs constant brushing or else you are going to find hair everywhere.
Something that is not so well-known about this dog is that it can come with white markings on the chest, feet, and face. It is not an abnormality, it's the fact that this dog is closer to its ancestors than the solid-red Irish Setter.