Originally known as 'Setting Spaniels' because of their natural tendency to crouch when tracking, the breed became popular during the Elizabethan period, although some conjecture suggests the Setter was not introduced to England until the early 1800s. The Setter was traditionally bred as a working gun dog, first developed in France in the 1500s although the breed is referenced in literature and pictorials dating back to the 14th century. Often described as the most glamorous of the working breeds, the original English Setter combines traits of both the Spanish Pointer and the French Pointer. The emergence of the popular Laverack and Llewellin strains took place in the 19th century, being first introduced to dog showing in Newcastle in 1859.
The hunting instinct remains strong in the breed, and English Setters rely on their keen senses for tracking, retrieving and pointing. Whilst being smaller than the Irish Setter and Gordon Setter, the English Setter is impressive in stature, possessing lean limbs, a defined muzzle, large hazel eyes and a deep chest. The wavy coat of the English Setter is feathered on the ears, back of legs, chest, belly and tail, and is common in colour variations of lemon white, blue white, brown or tricolour tan, with belton speckling. The deep-chest enhances lung capacity for stamina when hunting and tracking, meaning the English Setter is a highly energetic breed requiring regular exercise.
Generally a calm and gentle dog, the English Setter has a tendency to become authoritative, thus benefiting from obedience training from an early age. Thriving on human company, the breed is a great choice for families, being compatible with children and other house pets. In line with its early tracking heritage, the Setter is determined when on the trail of a scent, so ensuring it is only let loose to wander in safe areas is essential with this breed. The average English will weigh 25-35 kg depending on its gender, with a life expectancy of 10-12 years when cared for accordingly.
Although typically healthy, as with any pure breed the English Setter is susceptible to certain genetic diseases, including congenital deafness and allergies. More serious health complaints specific to the breed include lysosomal storage disease, hypothyroidism and mast-cell tumours. Easy weight gain is common with the English Setter so feeding human foods is not encouraged for this reason.