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Reading the Irish Setter breed standard which states:


On head, front of legs and tips of ears, short and fine; on all other parts of body and legs of moderate length, flat and as free as possible from curl or wave. Feathers on upper portion of ears long and silky; on back of fore- and hindlegs long and fine. Fair amount of hair on belly, forming a nice fringe which may extend on to chest and throat. Feet well feathered between toes. Tail to have fringe of moderately long hair decreasing in length as it approaches point. All feathering to be as straight and flat as possible".


it seems that a large proportion of the IS's have very wavy if not curly coats; not that I have anything against that but we seem to be getting away from the breed standard?  I understand that coat is only a small part of the important make up of these beautiful dogs and conformation is more important.

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I will probably get shot down in pieces here but .....but still!

The few times I have been a spectator at Championship shows and 'the big one' Crufts, I have often pondered with the same question.

At Crufts a few years ago, I remember, a couple of dogs in particular caught my eye, not for their conformation but their extremely wavy (bordering on curly) coats.  Okay, they might have good bone and everything else going for them but their coats were... in my humble opinion.... pretty awful and what's with the ....'sweep the floor on the way around the ring' ....coats!


Oh...and then I almost forgot to mention the ones with a hackneyed gait as well......Argh!!!!


I wonder what the breeders of the 'originals' such as the Wendover, Cornevon, Brackenfield & Hartsbourne and many more great kennels would make of some of the Irish bred today!


I personally much prefer a coat which is medium length and slightly wavy like Irish Setters used to be.



I think there are more than a few deviations from the breed standard in any country (and as you all know the US is frequently pointed out -- sometimes quite rightfully -- for wandering off the path) but there are some things I would try to avoid long before curls in the coat. I can't disagree with Val (especially on the hackneyed gait, we see that in the US as well) but I'd take a few curls over sickle hocks, poor forequarters, over angled hind legs. . .just to name a few things.


Like most of the breed standard, the issue of coat goes back to the purpose of the breed. A correct coat, both in terms of texture and length, allows an Irish to hunt without bringing home the countryside. My boy, and many in his litter, do hunt and field trial as well as show. His sister was six weeks out of a successful field trial season and she went on to finish her show championship last weekend with a major - her hair is straight as can be. My boy carries a lot more coat than she, and also tends to get a bit wavy in the hindquarters, and he also goes in the field - I thank heavens every day for his lack of some of the fine stuff some Irish here have - I'd never be able to keep him presentable!


All of which is a long winded way of saying, there are some things that HAVE to be there, some things that SHOULD be there, and some things that absolutely should not be there. I can live with a few waves in the coat, but I cannot have poor structure under it.

WJ Rasbridge in his excellent article The Breed Standard published in the early 1970's writes ;


"Two faults are now to be seen in the breed, thin coats difficient in furnishings ("Pointer coats") and wavy coats.  I regard the former as much the more serious simply because a "pointer coated" Irish Setter not only fails in appearance but also functionally.  I have seen such dogs shivering in the wind, something no Irish Setter should ever do.  The breed does not show the same wide range of coat colour that it used to do, say 30/40 years ago.  The yellow and ultra dark liver coats are now seldom seen and taking the breed as a whole coat colour has never been so uniform as it is now.  The colour of a newly shelled horse chestnut remains the ideal.  Light feathering and linty ears detract from an Irish Setter's appearance.  How a judge regards thin coats, wavy coats and lighter "breechings", if he objects to them at all is a matter of personal taste.

Discussion of the Standard must close with a warning.  Although the Standard considers the Irish Setter feature by feature no dog should or can't be judged bit by bit.  It must be seen as a whole and assessed in the light of the overall impression it makes.........."


In my lifetime of dog showing (early 70's) there have always been Irish Setters with wavy coats, as there have been many with straight "pointer coats".  Those that have one or the other will argue for and against each type.  As the owner of C Concept who has a wavy coat I will always prefer movement.  There is a lusciousness and depth to this type of coat that just adds quality to the overall look which a "pointer coat" could never achieve.  However many a time have I stood in the ring on a windy day next to a "pointer coated" dog  and watched as Concept's feathers flew every which way while my neighbour's dog's coat did not move!!  In saying that I would not change it in a million years!!

We must never obsess about any particular part of an Irish Setter and the coat debate is certainly one that brings out the most extreme obsession in everyone.  We must take heed of Bill Rasbridge's words and look on it as a matter of personal taste.  We must also never make it the prime criterion by which we judge a dog.  

Please remember the coat doesn't run around the ring by itself.........there is a dog under it.


Interesting that only "wavy" or "pointer" coats are mentioned here? What about lovely straight coats with plenty of thickness and moderate length to give a beautiful finish to a setter?? There are almost no "pointer" coats in the ring any more, except possibly some field trial dogs!! And as WS Rasbridge says" It must be seen as a whole and assessed in the light of the overall impression it makes.........." therefore a VERY wavy or CURLY coat is incorrect as per the finished look of a setter! Its like saying a straight coat is OK on a curly coated retriever, as long as the dog underneath is correct, or a long coat on an english pointer is OK!! The standard is there for a reason! Coats are important to the overall look;o))

Whats the point of a breed standard if as you say 'no dogs could be or are judged by it' and surely it should not be down to a judges PERSONAL taste rather than the best dog or bitch who conforms to breed standard who wins a show..

I agree, a dog should be assessed and judged as a whole which means apart from having the correct conformation and movement, it should also have a coat as near to breed standard as possible.

If someone who entered a beauty competition had a hour glass figure, perfect skin and a smile to light up the room but had frizzy hair like wire wool do you think they would win?  My guess is that they would.... if their friends were the judges!


You nailed it there!

We have recently returned to "Showing" and after an absense of almost 10 years the wavy/curly coats are what struck me most!  Have seen some win when others with a more standard coat have lost out??

Guess at the end of the day it all comes down to the Judge.

Just my opinion!

I would like to bring the discussion around to coat quality. In my experience with Irish, the correct double weatherproof coat is more often than not found in dogs with movement in their coat. I can think of exceptions notably Jason of Andana of Clonageera who was always presented with a dead straight coat but with a depth that you could loose you fingers in. That said i could list many with weatherproof coats that have a wavey finish to them. If one part of the standard is to be taken out of context of the whole, I think the new KC buzz word is more relevant. 'Fit for purpose'

I agree that wavy and curly coats seem to be on the increase recently. I also agree with other posts that coat is just one issue when looking at the whole dog  - but it remains an important aspect of the breed and must be considered seriously when judging the dog to the breed standard. Personally I am not opposed to a bit of movement in the coat but it is - as ever - always a matter of degrees.

My own experience with both flat and curly coated Irish Setters is that the curly coats tend NOT to keep off the wet - quite the opposite! Those with waved or even curly coats quickly get wet down to the skin and take an age to dry, whilst dogs with the more sleek flat coat only need their topcoat drying off with a towel and underneath they remain dry - providing the coat has a good thickness and is not as termed 'pointer coat'.

So when it comes to working your dog in the field and or the wet bog give me sleek flat coats anytime!

Actually the worst case scenario is curly coated Irish Setter that needs to be spayed for whatever reason: I've got one at home now, Bramble: she looks like a grizzly bear!  Obviously this is hormone related but it still goes to show that from a practical point of view the flatter coats are a lot easier to manage.

I wont even mention preparation for the show ring here...



As always,  very well written ......

Susan, Interesting that you say in your experience wavy coats tend to get wet down to the skin and take an age to dry because even though I might agree with you on the latter I have found with my dogs, and Louis especially, that a drenching has not got through to his skin at all.  Yes presentation for the show ring is hard work with a wavy coat and the flatter coat is easier to manage but hard work has never put me off!! 

Carmel there are still pointer coats in the ring, I have seen many.  Wavy coats are one point to consider when judging a dog, upright shoulders are another, steep croups another......etc. etc.  All are not to the Standard.  Some judges will accept poor croups or upright shoulders as long as the coat is straight.......isn't that also to personal taste or opinion???

A friend of mine was told by a judge last year that her bitch was the best specimen in her class, She had the best head, the best conformation the best movement but she could not put her up because her coat was wavy.  Ergo the winner only had a straight coat to recommend her by otherwise she was inferior in all other respects.  Oh yes Val you have most certainly nailed it!!  

Maybe you should stop obsessing about coats and concentrate on improving the heads or the construction and movement on your dogs, or do you think they are already perfect in all respects!!  

You know when a dog with a wavy coat wins multiple cc's under judges, whether they be Breed specialists or all-rounders eventually you have to concede that no one has that many friends and maybe, just maybe merit might have played a big part.

I have never really considered coats when judging and have given awards to dogs with both straight and wavy coat for there are good and bad specimens in both. 

Bill Rasbridge said that the dog should be judged as a whole and not bit by bit.  He also said and I quote More important than any individual point is whether there is that harmonious relationship between the various parts which should characterise the typical specimen, what is usually referred to as balance and symmetry. 



Eva, I dont consider the coat the only important part of the dog!! Of course judging involves all aspects of the dog and no way would I put up a dog with bad shoulders or bad croup just because it has a straight coat!! My point is that very wavy and curly coats are not correct as far as the standard is concerned, just as upright shoulders, big feet, wrong eye colour, etc are also wrong!! My point is that the coat is just as important as all the other points on a dog!! It should not be glossed over as just the finish on a dog!

I have not seen "pointer" coats in Ireland recently!! I can only speak about the shows here!




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