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Did the breed change or not since the sixties?

Did the Irish setter breed change in half a century or not? In a topic elsewhere there is a statement  the breed did not change in fifty years.


What is your opinion? Did the breed change yes or no, if yes in what aspects (conformation, health, character, working capacities)? Can you document your opinion? Same for no changes in your opinion, can you document that?


Here is a kick off with an article on the Derrycarne Irish red setters, bred by Maureen Mc Keever, published in 2003 in The Leitrim Guardian, written by Kevin Mc Manus. Her activities cover a large part of the period mentioned in the statement. She bred more key Irish setters in both show and working nowadays Irish setters. Would these still be able to win - show and/or work?


Because there was some interest in Derrycarne history, on request a story is added on a daughter of Derrycarne Harp - Ailean O'Cuchulain. Its entitled Devils Dearest, written as a tribute.  On request as well a story Hartsbourne Flame was added. She was a shower of hail and littersister to IRCH Derrycarne Martini

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I think the most unlucky person not to have made up a dual champion in recent years must be Jane Osborne, with her beautiful Gordon bitch Ch Portroyal Swirl of Boyers, who well deserved both a Sh Ch and FTCh title, had had a first in an Open Stake, and more 2nd and 3rd places but that final 1st place still eluded her
And Jane Osborne is a good example of how hard one has to work at doing both, over 20 years of working at breeding a dog that can work AND be shown, and hard work training
Since then she has done very well in field trials with two younger Gordons, who have also been shown
Margaret,I do agree with you here. Ever since I saw Jane Osborne trial her Gordons they have always been lovely looking and of a very nice type.Over the years I have seen many Gordons who have been of nice types however their owners could not control them.Eileen Vielvoye and the late Barbara Beazley amongst others.Gordons who I would describe as exciting were Phillip O'Hallerns Lusca Bean Deas and my own litter brother Lusca Black Shadow of Porschet.I remember Phillip making the appropriate comment after an exciting run "I was'nt in the saddle for most of it!.These were small and very fast goers.

Eva, I have never asked Peter Heard why he was only awarded the second prize and not the first .I will ask him some time in the future! I think there are alternative views re withholding the first prize and awarding a second.One could argue that such a thing is not possible because you are second to what? Judges have to decide where they stand on this philosophy.If the dog does not come up to scratch or to the standard already set at a trial then perhaps the best course of action is to withhold all placings and award a certificate of merit instead.(Incidently I did'nt say it was a Champion Stake).
Colette........would love to know why Adriano had the first prize witheld from him. What a landmark that would have been if he had been awarded 1st and his Dual title! Apologies, by the way. I got the stake right in my first comment and wrong in my second.......no reason I can offer for that except brain damage perhaps.
It would be interesting to hear alternative views on the subject of witholding 1sts. It is a difficult one. In the ring not placing 1-3 in stud book classes if the dogs don't merit the entry is understandable but to withold in other classes when all you are really doing is placing in order of best to least seems a little pointless.
I don't recall reading an obituary for Mrs McKeever either. I am sure Henk will know, wrote Eva.

Don't know of any obituary for Maureen Mc Keever. In the last Irish book on Irish setters (so the second from Irish origin after colonel Millners book) she's mentioned only a few times. Maybe our Irish members know of one (repeated question)? In each case attached article here as published in an Irish daily brings her back in memory.
As we discuss the changes in the breed, we have considered how this beautiful breed needs to be “fit for function”. I have copied some information on the original function of IS as recorded in the book by Janice Roberts (published 1978) (Chapter 7 Setters at Work written by Auriel Mason).

”It is believed that the “setting” dog was bred in the time before guns were used. Apparently the dog hunted and pointed its birds as today, and as now would take its handler in to its quarry and crouch or “set” or sit while a net was flung over the birds – hence the name “Setter”.

“In essence, they hunt methodically and systematically to locate birds by scent, then point or “set” them and ultimately “flush” them, ie: put the birds to flight, all in such a manner that they can be shot.”

“The shot birds can then be picked up by a retrieving dog before the party moves forward to start hunting again with the Setter.”

There have obviously been changes the "working function" of the breed. I acknowledge that this may not fit within the confines of the topic "since the 1960's", but ......We all talk about how the breed has changed due to the showing of dogs, but the breed has also changed or adapted to suit the modern day hunter and field trailer as well. The dog has changed structurely from the original dog, but also an important part of this discussion is how it has changed from its original function?

I would be interested to know from the working dog fraternity as to how the Irish Setter has changed “function” since the the original dog!!
Setters generally were not called "setters" until the nineteenth century, although there are a few earlier references to "setters" as in John Gay's eighteenth century poems. They were known as setting dogs or setting spaniels. Some people continued to refer to them as spaniels well into the nineteenth century and it was still common useage in Ireland. So when you read old books about shooting and field sports from the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century that refer to spaniels , it not always clear whether they mean spaniels or setters. The same with prints and paintings
Shooting had superseded netting by the end of the eighteenth century. I have one account of netting with dogs early nineteenth century written by somebody who considered it an an interesting but very rare and antiquated survival even then
The earliest print I have showing setter/setting spaniel type dogs being used for shooting is dated as early as the 1670's

So in fact the function of setters used for shooting has changed very little since they were first used for shooting.
I have an account of training setters/setting spaniels for shooting dated 1760 which could be used today
Probably the biggest difference has been the change to a faster dog because of scarcity of birds. But the setter used in Ireland was always a fast dog (see Laverack's description)
Walked up shooting over setters is much the same as it was 150 years ago

But I also have a curious account of training those early dogs written by a keeper on the Mid Mar estate in Scotland which describes the dogs circling the birds and driving them back towards the gun, just like the old netting dog
Phew 616 posts....

Interesting for topics timeline is influence of author T.H. White. His hate and anger about decline of Irish setters as Arabs of bird dogs generated a book entitled The Goshawk (1951). This is forgotten history (the Irish setter part). Without it, no Harry Potter and much more art, maybe even Elton Johns Candle in the Wind.

So Irish setter tragedy is responsible for quite some poetry.

For Cheryls question: maybe The Goshawk co-generated return of falconry, it was on its way to extinction in Whites days but now popular in quite few cultures like his own (UK). Beneath netting, this was probably the eldest practice: waiting on scenes, birddog points, bird of prey kills.

In my eyes biggest change sixties-now in function is use of Irish setters besides field trialing, shooting, falconry for preservation of birds becoming nearly extinct or even saving lives of animals before machines go into fields (ref Erfahrungen mit Setter autobiography of Hilde Schwoyer).

Other change is a steady decline of habitats (moors) and species (partridge, grouse) where Irish setters can excel in their original purpose and change of shooting methods - driven shoots instead of one man and his dog scenes. An average working Irish setter may make use of beaters useless, it can do all work alone.

For the average hunter in cultures where habitats and species of birds decline but populations of wild boars etc. rise, the working Irish setter might just like the Stones sang become Out of Time. In fact it already has become in most dominant cultures (USA&UK) a Candle in the Wind.
Thanks Margaret and Henk for providing this insight into the function of IS today. It is very interesting to see how the breed has adapted to work in different environments..

I am also interested in the retrieving aspect of their function. I see many photos of IS carrying birds, etc and I presume are trained for retrieving. As the original function of IS did not include the retrieving of birds.... only the seeking and flushing of birds, I would be interested to know how much retrieving the IS now does as part of the hunt and or field trial sports.
Setters dont retrieve in Irish and UK field trials. But some people who shoot over setters find it convenient to let the dogs retrieve. Russell's"The Whole Art of Setter Training "published in 1930 which is about training for the gun, not trials, has a whole chapter of retrieving.
In some European countries however they are required to retrieve, Polly had to pass a retrieving test in Italy to get her Italian FTCh title
I find that retrieving instinct is quite variable in setters, some will do it willingly, others have no interest. But even with those who will retrieve they dont have the endless enthusiasm to retrieve that a springer or labrador has. They will do a few retrieves but quickly get bored if you keep them at it, where a springer will manically retrieve for as many hours as you can throw dummies or shoot for them
Polly who has been trained to retrieve and passed a retrieving test, has been taken out picking up by my son, but he found that after each retrieve she wanted to go out and hunt for live birds , and when stopped from doing this, she very quickly lost interest , and after a few retrieves would give up in disgust and take herself back to the Landrovers :))
On the other hand ,she marks extremely well, and when she sees a dummy or a shot bird fall, she is out like an arrow dead straight to the spot where it fell, doesnt rely on her nose to find it.
If you want to train a setter to retrieve, that's fine but dont over do it. Three or four retrieves in a day are enough
There is a school of thought that says , if you want a FT setter,dont let it retrieve, or it may get into the habit of of rushing out to retrieve when the bird falls, rather than staying steady to wing and shot. People who shoot may be less bothered about the dog being absolutely steady to shot , and waiting until told to retrieve.As long as the dog is steady to wing, it doesnt matter too much if the dog takes off to retrieve after the shot has been fired and the dog has seen the bird fall
I envy my friend whose Gordon has the mentality of a Border Collie and will retrieve a ball all day for you. Mine are the Setters who will happily run out after a thrown article, clearly indicate it and then look round as much as say "could we have a retriever up here NOW please?"
Thanks Margaret, that's excellent information.

This confirms for me why my first IS was not interested in retrieving dumbells and even my old boy who just passed this year refused to retrieve when my son threw a ball, etc. He would stand there as if to say "You threw it, you can fetch it!!!"
You are all right about the non-retrieving thingy and the loss of interest. I gave up throwing balls and sticks years ago! Got fed up having to retrieve them myself. Well they are not HPRs..........




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