Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopaedia – The Irish Setter


From the above cover illustration it can be seen that Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopedia was a weekly magazine that dealt with all aspects of dogs from breed descriptions to veterinary advice. In parts 25 and 26, published in 1934/35, the Irish Setter was one of the breeds given prominence.  The article covers the breed’s structure, raising, field training, show dogs and early history. The following is a reproduction of that published content.  Bridget Simpson.


Although not the oldest breed of dog in existence, the Irish Setter is purer than any other of the Setter varieties, and there is no question of its lineage, which can be traced as far back as the fifteenth century. Almost everyone will agree that there is no more beautiful dog than the typical “ Red Irishman “ and it is certainly the most elegant and athletic of all dogs used for shooting. Let us take a glance at the animal as a whole before considering the details. It is a racily built , active dog , standing well up in front , built not only for speed , but for the strain that its work necessitates. Just look at it waiting at the edge of the field for orders ; at a sign it is off , and as it gallops at full speed mark how those powerful hindquarters , with well bent hocks , propel it forward.

What the Irish Red Setter’s ancestors were, history does not record , but the old name , “ Red Spaniels “, by which they were known in the earlier part of the last century , and which lingers still in some districts  gives a clue . In Gaelic , they were called “ Modder Rhu “ ( Red Dogs ) . In the eighteenth century , the Irish Setter – or Red Spaniel – must have been at its best. For over a hundred years nothing occurred to interfere with the sporting pursuits of Irishmen. From the time of the Immortal William to the unfortunate rising of 1798 , rural Ireland was the fairest field in the civilized world for manly sports , and the inhabitants , rich and poor , were as they remain today , the best of sportsmen. What wonder then that their charming shooting companion should have prospered under such favourable conditions, acquiring its master’s rollicking love of sport and gradually developing in to the king of sporting dogs?




Miss C. Methuen of Epsom Surrey owns Irish Setters but the affix Matsonhouse belongs to Mrs. P.G. Selwyn


A Daughter of  Wizbang Buccaneer, Tessa is the mother of  Nutbrown Sorrell, the noted winner  bred by Miss P.M. Manuelle in 1932

Since pace is one of the leading essentials in an Irish Setter, the dog must be built on galloping lines.  It should have well laid-back shoulders, straight forelegs and strong pasterns, deep chest, well sprung ribs, strong loin, well-bent stifles, and well let-down hocks.  For show purposes the head should be long and lean, and the muzzle fairly deep and square at end. From the stop to the point of the nose should be long, nostrils wide, and the jaws of nearly equal length.  The colour of the nose should be dark mahogany or dark walnut, and that of the eyes rich hazel or dark brown.  The ears ought to be of moderate size, fine in texture, well set and hanging in a neat fold, close to head.  The neck should be moderately long, very muscular, but not too thick, slightly arched and free from all tendency to throatiness.  The shoulders should be fine at point, deep, and sloping well back.  The chest should be as deep as possible, rather narrow in front. The ribs well sprung. The loins should be muscular and slightly arched, and the hindquarters wide and powerful. The hindlegs from hip to hock should be long and muscular, from hock to heel short and strong.  The forelegs should be straight and sinewy, having plenty of bone, with the elbows free.  The feet should be small and very firm, toes strong, close together and arched.  The tail should be of moderate length, set on rather low, strong at root, and tapering to a fine point, which should be carried as nearly as possible on a level with or below the back.  The coat should be as free as possible from curl or wave, and on the head, front of legs, and tips of ears, the hair should be short and fine.  The feet should be well feathered between the toes.  The tail should have a becoming fringe of moderately long hair, decreasing in length as it approaches the point.  All feathering should be as straight and as flat as possible.  The colour should be a rich golden chestnut with no trace whatsoever of black.  White on chest, throat, or toes, or a small star on forehead, or a narrow streak or blaze on the nose or face does not disqualify.


This Kennel is situated on the shores of Lake Derwentwater high up on the side of Catbells. The name “Ogden” is, of course famous to the tobacco world.

Mrs. Ogden is seen feeding her chickens, her Irish Setter puppies taking a keen interest in the procedure, presumably in anticipation of their own dinner-time.

It is in the earlier stages of Puppyhood that the training of the Irish Setter should take place.  Up to five or six months, very little is required beyond feeding and general care, including exercise and kennel requirements in general.  The puppy should at any time after six months be trained to drop, indoors or in a yard or run.  All puppies, at whatever age, are obstinate in this, as in other matters, but their obstinacy can quickly be overcome by a little perseverance.  When first the puppy is ordered down by the word ‘drop’ or ‘down’ (always, of course, you must use one or other of the above words without change), it may be pushed down gently and held so for a short time, repeating meanwhile whichever word of the two be chosen.  The first few lessons should be short, until the puppy begins to understand a little about them; after frequent short lessons the puppy will eventually drop at word of command, and by degrees can be got to remain down for a considerable time, even though the trainer may temporarily disappear from sight altogether.  The above method will form the only sure and proper ground-work of a good training.  It can, of course, he carried further by training the dog to drop to whistle, in the following manner: on every occasion that the trainer drops his dog by hand he could give simultaneously, say, a short, sharp blow of the whistle, to which his dog will soon lean to drop without the hand being raised at all.  When the Setter has reached nine months it may at this stage be taken with a properly trained dog, and both dropped, first together, then at the reasonable distance apart.  The gun may now be taken, and if the dog is timid, or if there is any reason to suspect gun shyness in any degree, it will be enough, at first, to use only an empty case, ordering the dog down promptly when it is used.  If the animal takes to it, a little powder may afterwards be used and gradually increased until the use of a fully loaded charge can be arrived at.  This will minimize the danger of gun-shyness and also accustom the dog to drop to shot, and, of course, to remain there until told to go.

When the young Setter is first brought on birds its trainer should be careful to accustom it to snipe to begin with, because if brought on grouse or pheasant, these, being so much larger and with a greater scent, would attract its attention so much that it would ignore snipe altogether.  On the other hand, if first trained on snipe, it will be quite an easy matter to accustom the youngster to heavier birds afterwards.  In other words, if first trained on grouse or partridge it will freely gallop over all the snipe it meets, still looking for the former quarry.

Backing is a very useful and necessary part of any properly trained dog’s education, and there is nothing pleasanter or more fascinating to any man of a sporting character than a properly trained pair of Irish Setters backing each other.  The accomplishments of this does not form a very difficult part of a dog’s training.  Any measure of success cannot, however, be hoped for in training young dogs to back, except they have already been carefully and successfully coached through all the various stages already explained.  Almost all dogs are jealous of one another, and in their first experience of being brought together on birds, the latter weakness, if not firmly and carefully handled, will constitute a great danger of undoing all the past, not merely with one but with both dogs, and might easily lead to a bad system of flushing and chasing as well.


Bred in 1923 by Mr. G. C. Bennett, this outstanding dog became the property of Mrs. Barnard Yeoward.  In 1925 it became a champion.

From then onwards its success was remarkable.  It became a triple International champion of England, Ireland and the United States.  Finally it was sold to America for 300 guineas.


The last and most important stage of the dog’s education is when it is being shot over and unless great care be taken it will run riot in spite of all previous good behaviour.  The surest method is to shoot over a young dog by itself, previous to its being shot over with another; and, in the latter case, the second should be an old dog whenever practicable.  The unusual sight of birds falling near a young dog may give it fits of momentary excitement, enough to cause it to lose hold of itself for the time being; but much, if not all of this, will depend on the attitude of the man or men behind the guns.  For instance, a hasty movement towards a fallen bird, or a race after a runner will have a serious effect on the patience of the dog during what is, to it, a trying ordeal.  Whether a bird may fall winged, and thus escape altogether matters little in comparison with the damage a hasty movement may do to the dog in such circumstances.  No movement, commotion, or excitement of any kind, should be displayed on such occasions.  When the dog first points, the gun should move leisurely to it and the bird should be flushed in the manner previously described.  If it falls, a keen eye is to be kept on the dog; the guns, meanwhile, to be leisurely reloaded and all forward movements of any kind to be strictly avoided.

The dog may next be allowed to move slowly up and to point the dead bird to you, for this, using the words ‘dead’ or ‘seek dead’.  When it is found the dog may be allowed to smell it by way of encouragement, but the latter process carried to any unnecessary length increases its anxiety to mouth, and to get to the fallen bird too quickly.  If the bird escapes, the dog, after having remained down for the necessary time, may be waved right or left with the hand, repeating a few times the word ‘gone’

If the dog’s nature is given due consideration, a mutual understanding between it and its master will result in the animal understanding the master’s desires, and the master understanding what to expect from the dog; which latter, if treated and coached properly, means to range well without breaking fence or view; to set staunch and well; to drop to gun, wing, and hand; to remain down until told to go; to be perfectly steady in every respect; to back well; to seek dead; to go in whichever direction the hand be waved; to do its work by the hand without a word being spoken.  If it can do all this, it may in all honesty be called a trained dog.


         A group of Miss Manualle’s Irish Setters, including “Nutbrown Trojan”, “Buck”, “Tessa” and “Trilby”

                                             “Tessa” is the noted mother of the famous “Sorrell” 

Before the time of dog shows, Setters were bred solely for use; and the breeders of the past selected the best field dogs they knew in their respective districts from which to breed.  Colour can scarcely have been considered of any great importance, but climatic and local influences appear to have affected all Irish sporting dogs.  The Water Spaniel, Wolfhound, and Terrier all have shades of brown for their prevailing colour, as also have some of the hounds.  This is possibly accounted for by the reddish hue of the bogs over which so much of the sport of Ireland takes place.


                                            Bred and owned by Mr. E. Walker, and born in February 1930, the sire being Rheola Benedict and the dam Hartsbourne Jewel,

                                     Vanity made her appearance at Cruft’s in 1931 when only one year old.  She is a very good type of Irish Setter  

 Pedigrees of dogs were rarely kept in Ireland prior to the institution of dog shows, consequently, it is difficult to trace the breeding of Setters of that period, except with a few well-known Kennels.  The pedigrees of the early show winners often refer back to certain strains, designated as celebrated – no doubt from memory, which lends enchantment.  These strains were: The French Park Setters, Lord De Freyne’s; the O’Connor Setters, from which came La Touche and Miss Lidwell’s strains: Lord Rossmore’s strain; Lord Waterford’s strain.  How far back these strains go is difficult to determine, but some of them can be traced to the eighteenth century – before the rising.  The Irish peasantry usually remember dates by reference to some principal event of the year, such as:  The year of the great wind. 1839; the famine year, 1848. the year of the rebellion 1798.  The so called celebrated strains were simply the Kennels of well-to-do sportsmen  with one or more dogs, which occasionally bred a litter of good puppies.  Lord Rossmore’s red and white Setters would appear to be one of the oldest distinct lines.


Mrs. Yeoward, the owner of this excellent bitch, says that Barberry, to the best of her knowledge, is the only Irish Setter Field Trial Champion who has also won championship on the Show bench.

This great dog is here seen at work in typical surroundings.  The powerful hindquarters, with well-bent hocks, are worth special notice. 


Mrs. Ingle-Bepler has one of the strongest Irish Setter Kennels in the world.  Her Rheola Bryn is seen third from left, accompanied by some of its distinguished progeny at Henley Show.  Bryn was born in 1921.      

 At the Dublin Dog Show in 1875 there were 66 entries of Irish Setters, of which 23 were red and white; at the Cork Show in 1876 the entries numbered 96 of which 36 were red and white.  The fashion for all reds was at its height in the middle of the last century, and the red and white has now disappeared as a show dog.  As far back as 1860 a class was set apart for Irish Setters at the Birmingham Show, and in the ‘seventies the character of the breed was raised by its successfully competing in Field Trials.

The Irish Setter is probably the hardest working and one of the most intelligent and enduring of all gundogs.  Once it is thoroughly trained, and provided it is carefully handled when shooting, so that no mistakes are passed over without correction, as some shooting men are wont to pass them for the sake of the bag, there is no more tractable or obedient dog.  It has been held that the English Setter is quite as enduring, but for hard all-round work the comparison is overwhelmingly in favour of the Irish specimen.  Indeed, for shooting over snipe in the western marshes in Ireland, the ‘red coat’ has been known to work from Monday until Saturday, and with Sunday’s rest, be as fresh for work as if it had not been out of its kennel in weeks.


 The intelligent expression of Mr.C. Ward’s brace of Irish Setters is a marked characteristic of the Breed.  They are noted for their free ranging movement  


Mrs.E.K. Walker’s Hartsbourne Kennel of Irish Setters is a very important one and is constantly exhibiting. Here is the head of a six month old dog puppy from this kennel .


The Irish Setter puppy is a most engaging little personality. 

Muller’s Daughter is the property of Mrs. Marshall, whose  Kennel affix is Mermario.


Bred by Major R. O’Kelly in May 1925, this dog in 1926 won its first Field Trial,

being equal  second at the Irish Red Setter Club event. 



A characteristic show scene, where a class for Irish Setter puppies is being judged at the Sutton and District Society’s Open Show at the Crystal Palace in 1934.

In show definitions the word “puppy” means a dog which is between six and nine months old on the day of the show.

During recent years progress in the Irish Setter world has increased enormously.  The Irish Setter on the whole has improved; it is not that the dogs in the first flight today are better than the best of former days, but taken all round, the quality is much higher.  Many of our best specimens have been exported to the United States, where so many Irishmen themselves have migrated; for this country the breed seems to be well adapted, and today excellent specimens are found there.  Plenty of good material is still to be found in the ‘Old Country”, however and all that is required is more enterprise among our English and Irish friends to husband the resources of the two countries and keep this beautiful breed at the top.  That the ideal should be maintained and continue to be maintained rests entirely in the hands of the exhibitor and the Field Trial devotee.  The exhibitor, while trying to obtain physical perfection, must not coddle the dog, but must accustom it to use its nose and its intelligence and to be steady to shot – always bearing in mind that it is not only a Setter but a gundog.  The keen sportsman, while striving to develop the dog’s natural working abilities, must not let it deteriorate physically either in size or in the points that have been standardized.


                 Bred by Mr. E. Farnsworth and born in 1928, this bitch was at first named “Lady O’Shaughnessy”.

                          In 1931, as Flower of Ardagh it won, amongst other prizes, two Challenge Certificates.

                                        In 1933 again shown by Mrs. H.E Whitewell, it became a Champion


This is “Shandy Gaff” an Irish Red Setter puppy, entered for the photographic competition arranged by Hutchinson’s Dog Encyclopaedia

  To sum up, the Irish Setter is a thorough gentleman and a great sportsman, and today stands as thorough-paced all-round gundog, capable of holding its own in every branch of sport.  As a loyal companion it has few equals, and no superior.  A charming nature, tractability, handsomeness, and, last but not least, its utility, have carried it so far in the esteem of the present generation of dog lovers that today it is one of the  most popular of all breeds.