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Are showbred red setters ‘just red dogs, not setters’?

The showbred Irish setter is under fire. In his recently published book ‘The Irish Red Setter’, Raymond O’Dwyer states they “lack the conformation of a galloping dog that is clearly required of a setter”.

According to the author, chairman of the Irish Red Setter Club so motherclub of all FCI-countries, responsible for the standard in most of the world, differences in colour, size, conformation, energy and mental attitudes between showbred Irish setters in the English speaking world and workers/duals are “enormous”. He warns for the effect when this policy is continued.

What is your opinion? Is the showbred animal “just a red dog” and not an Irish setter anymore, like the book suggests?

More info on the book with reviews: http://www.corkuniversitypress.com

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Replies to This Discussion

Do I think that differences in colour, size, energy and mental attitudes between the two types is "enormous" ? YES!

Do I think this means the show-setter is no longer the "real" thing? NO!

Do I think the diversity within our breed is a bad thing? NO!

Do I think Henk will come down on me like a ton of bricks? YES!:-)
Hey I'm not a ton of bricks:-)

The Irish Red Setter Club is for all FCI-countries authorized to define what an Irish setter is. Ursula if you disagree on that, can you provide you definition of an Irish setter, what makes it Irish and what a setter in your eyes?

Hey I appreciate your honesty about enormous differences, that’s why in many showrings nowadays it is stated the Irish setter is not Irish, neither a setter. But not publicly admitted in forums, so your definition is appreciated!

My definition of an irish setter is the type of dogs I have.
Your definition of an irish setter is the type of dogs you have.
The american breeders definition of an irish setter is the type of dogs they have.

They are all irish setters to me...although they may differ in type.
I may not like all the types, but that is an entirely differant matter.

We have actually gone over this quite often and I still feel that things are never static, everything changes and so do our breeds.
This is nothing that only affects the irish red setter.

My honesty? I will publicly admit to anything I belive in!
As you may have noticed before..:-)
Ursula your definition of my definition is wrong.

I’ve seen and enjoyed many thousands of Irish setters since boyhood and the ones I favored for a lot of reasons were in a lot of cultures (or: types).

As for your own definition of an Irish setter that’s definitely an Ursula Wilby definition. Hey does that change as well, you say things are never static….
Ok Henk, lets see if I have understood you correctly: What you appear to be saying above, is that the setters you have ,are in fact not what you would call an irish setter?

So you like other types of setters (as well as your own I presume). Fair enough, I feel the same way. (I detect that we agree - probably not on type- but on liking other setters as well as our own).

Does what I like change, as nothing is static?
Yes...I used to fancy Eric Clapton when I was younger...I saw him on the TV the other day and realised I had gone totally off him. :-)

And yes, sticking to dogs, I do think we change our ways of looking at things, at least slightly. It would be terrible if we did not!
Well try a Clapton scene in setters. Get yourself a trip by helicopter to the north of Sweden. Theres a lot of them doing these trips. Take a few trained setters with you and enjoy being alone with them in mother nature.

Thats how to follow footsteps of men like O'Dwyer. Read what he has to say about bonding with setters and about communication going through the eyes. Or the setting setter as the "ultimate wolf" in bonding with a man....

Many experiences out there fuel me for long times. Like that day out training in Poland getting lost in a snowstorm two redheads working in front of you. And like Start me up goes: never stop, never stop.

After that, step into a showring....
But Henk, now we are talking about totally differant things!
No longer are we discussing the TYPE of setter, but rather the type of WORK these dogs/any dogs are doing.

As I am not a great fan of confirmation-shows, I will agree with you 100% that the experiance of working with your dog as a team goes far beyond being in a showring for me. But I have that experiance WITHOUT having a FT-setter. And I can also understand that shows are fun for other owners (although not me I am not patient enough for all that waiting around).

You can check out my website (I finally got round to getting that fixed) and there you will not find a single dog in a showring. http://www.ursulawilby.se

But rather working dogs of NON-FIELD-TRIAL-lines.
And yes, I have been up in the north with hunting setters. So I have tried, but found that there are other parts of working with dogs that I (personally) prefer. We dont all like the same...
Heres bridging.

Where most agree the essence of an Irish setter is a freespirited galloping dog, shows where this is not tested, are a threat to the healthy survival of this athlete on four legs.

This threat is biggest in show-only cultures. Appararently small misinterpretations of the standard may lead to big effects on a galloping dog, because its total weight and size comes down on just one foot.

Got not so much to do with type (there are lots of types within working worlds as well), but everything with lack of knowledge and logic in show-only systems.
Well done Henk, and full marks for the bridging-effort!
But now this is a different (I think I will spell it like that for a change) discussion.

We are NOW talking about "should irish setters be show dogs only".

As I hope to breed workable setters, never the less most of my dogs end up in homes were a few puppy-classes are all they will get in the line of "work". But our lives have changed. There are few people about that will have the time (and knowledge) to train their dogs. Does that mean they should not have dogs?
Or at the least not setters?
If people love going to shows, I think thats great!
I think anything you do TOGETHER with your dog is great. Be it shows, hunting, obedience or whatever.
Yes there are the extremes when it comes to shows. And yes, what judges want HAS changed the breed.

But dont try to tell me this does not apply to the hunting world!

Fast dogs have become faster, and faster...smaller to speed things up even more. So even there judging has played its part.

Just as shows have their downside so has hunting (and whatever else you may do with your dog were competition is part of the deal).

I think the great thing about irish setters is the fact that you can do so much with them.
Versatile dogs that are kind and friendly enough to "just" be companions. And I dont think that is a bad thing. :-)
I read the book over Christmas. I was horrified by some of the comments which are extremely one sided . It is very obvious that if you look at some of the photographs of Irish Setters of the 1900's you will understand why these dogs were being shown as well as worked!( I had the chance of meeting Mrs Nagle and talking at length with her on the subject!) Unfortunately you could not put a working dog in the ring today but some of us do qualify our show-champions in the field so that they can have the title of full champion.
Catherine Carter
Hey Catherine I’ve read your reaction twice now, and still don’t know why you qualify some of the content of O’Dwyers book as “horrifying” and “one-sided”. For the benefit of a good debate, can you name these and provide your opinion on them?

Thanks for bringing in duals in the debate. The UK had many great ones, but thats long ago. Last one I knew of was Kylenoe Crystal Spirit, were there more and in what percentage of show champions?

Good you bring up Florence Nagle. She called the breed in the UK ruined and Rasbridge used the term “degenerated from its 1930 standard”. Interestingly both said about movement the same as what in O’Dwyers book is noted. Do you disagree?
Funny yes its always better to laugh.

Well I once phoned Sybil why this happened can’t quote exactly but the essence was that having your Irish setter trained in the UK became too expensive, the market was gone and hunters were active in driven shooting so not much man/dog work anymore.

So they didn’t miss it at the time – especially since the Show Champion title was accepted in the UK. Both main kennels Wendover and Hartsbourne stopped testing in fields.

But modern science tells us, even with no hunting possibilities anymore, you should still have testing facilities on mental/physical stuff. So I wonder why they don’t pick it up again. And yes its quite easy to build it up again. The sporting Irish setter seems to have times on his side if you see how many people nowadays are buying old books like Big Red, Colonel Millners book and O’Dwyers – see the British Amazon com.

And for your sure …… the average sport in Irish setter would become more of a challenge than it is now and those mono-cultures of either show, trial or hunt or whatever.




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