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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'm wondering whether comparing living dogs to sketches as a measure of perfection is a bit like putting the cart before the horse? I realise that is probably a whole other (very interesting!) debate, but still...

If you rely on a sketch to determine your measure of perfection in a breed, then you are relying on ONE artist's interpretation of either a) what dogs of the breed they've seen in the flesh (and then must trust that they've represented that accurately on the page) and b) the accuracy of the artist's ability to represent the correct anatomy and bone structure which in turn determines the shape and function of the real animal.

We've all seen plenty of sketches and paintings of Irish Setters which, although the artist meant for them to be interpreted literally, clearly could not (or hopefully should not) be taken as accurate, as some of these dogs pictured would have been very poorly-made and certainly would not have functioned as either working or show dogs. One has only to look at old paintings of galloping horses to see that these animals could not possibly have been made the way they were represented on the canvas. Now, of course you can find individual examples to show that SOME artists have got it close, or even correct. But in every instance? In the sketches you're relying on?? Are you always so sure?

Art follows life, and not necessarily the other way around. Sculptures and sketches are usually based on one subject, and I think it is bordering on dangerous to use a single sketch, or interpretation of a single sketch, to determine the direction of an entire breed. The artist may have an idea of how to build a frame beneath the coat of a dog, but are they aware of how that skeleton should be put together to create the ideal functioning animal? Unlikely.

Just a thought, anyway.
Setters that lead me in this circus were pieces of art. Ailean was. Art is what I see on fields, poetry in motion. Right, bird dogs on point were favorites for painters through the centuries. I wanted to know who, where, why, when and how this art was thrown away, To learn this is an art, but I did thanks to you all! Ailean and the likes were joie de vivre and luckily they don't need this playground to survive!
Iar, only Henk is claiming to have the real McCoy........You are right and we are well brought down to earth!!!!!
I don't work my dogs, I don't have the time or the facilities. Call it a replica, or a mimic or what you will. I am so hooked on this breed that I would rather have a mimic than nothing at all.
No Eva, Ailean was never mine... She was wild & exciting. I understood all of that. Makes a bond forever!
Lar I totally agree with your statement. An Irish setter is a working dog end all. It is really not right to even call a bench setter and Irish Setter. It is absolutely a replica of an Irish Setter. An Irish Setter hunts. If it doesn't hunt or have the confirmation to hunt it should not be called an Irish Setter. The dog totally changed.
I just came across this message board. I have been an owner of an American Red Setter out of FT lines. Unfortunately she just passed away. I never trialed with her but we hiked about 4 times a week. What I have read about the original Irish Setter is that it they had an incredible nose and were extremely fast dogs. In the Irish moores grouse and snipe were less prevalent then in Scotland and England. They needed a dog that was able to withstand very bad weather conditions and run all day. They needed to beable to run the moores at great speeds with wide ranges. The red dog had more stamina then the other three setters. The dog was much smaller then the bench dog, had much less of a coat and had much shorter ears. The gate was much racier then the dog today. The Irish were quite poor at the time and were not able to spend as much money on their dogs as the English. The lack of money detered them from advancing the breed. Most pointers and setters have been crossed at some point. The reason the IS and the IRWS have been so controversal is due to the show people. They changed the breed so much that it became an unfunctional dog. All breeds need to be functional. No dog should be represented as a sporting dog unless it can do the job. When the setters and pointers first arrived in the US the red setter was a great hunter. The pointer was not allowed in the trials. The pointer field emthusists crossed the pointer with field trial English Setters. Again it was under the table. Because it was not as obvious as the setters they were all considered AKC. All the setters have been crossed at some point. The IS in Europe were gorgeous. The majority had white on them The show people didn't think they were pretty enough so they created the bench dog. The dogs head was immediately changed. But the brain size stayed the same. When a head is enlarged the way the bench IS's was their intelligience is effected. The long ears and coats were absolutely not realistic in the field. Due to thier size they were unable to keep up with the pointers and llewellin setters. Sadly to say the setter was just about off the field. In my opinion there is nothing more beautiful then seeing any of the setters working. I once ran into an Irish woman she immediately told me watching a Red Setter in the moores and bogs is just magical. A group of IRS enthsiasts refused to let the breed go. Through careful breeding they created the AFBRS. Of all the dogs in the show ring I feel the setters are the only dogs that don't look like hunting dogs. Even the Vizsla that will be the next dog off the circuit look functional. Who ever said that the bench people don't want their dogs mixed with IRS's is not properly informed. I know as a fact that bench breeders are adding field lines to their breeding. They want to beable to compete in the events. They want to bring the speed and hunting instinct back to the breed. I follow field trials the bench dogs maybe wins one out of every 500 trials. They only compete in AKC trials. They could never compete in any serious trials against pointers and english. They do not even attempt it. In my eyes the bench setter folks should be proud to see their dogs trialing with some of the best english and pointers. All breeds have a show and field dog. It really is not fair. If you ask a hunter to breed his dog with a show dog they absolutely will not do it. They feel they spent years trying to gain respect on the field. Only puppy mills do it. Look at the German shorthairs you will notice all the big field trialers have a large amount of white on them. The GS is a great hunter and very versatile but it was not bred for speed and stamina. It was crossed with the AFBP in the 70's. All of these dogs are AKC. I will include some pictures of various dogs. This will help people see the difference in the setters over the years. For me it is good for others it is not. I feel a dog is healthy and gets less of everything when it is left to what it was bred to do. I don't mean to insult anyone but it is just reality.

Original Irish Setter- Aside from the low tail it looks very much like an American red setter.


Bench Red Setter. Looks like a totally different dog. Does not look like a hunting breed. Nothing like the original Irish dog. Notice the large head.


American Red Setter - A side from the high Tail she looks like shes Irish.


Mix European- American


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Exclusively Setters Chat | 8 Online
This viewpoint seems to be a narrow one as there has been no consideration for worldwide circumstances.

It would be great if everyone had ready access and the time to pursue such a wonderful sport with their dogs. It would be a real buzz to see your dog doing what it was bred for. Drawing and sketches can't account for fit for function and neither can a dog without the correct structure, so angulation is an important part of that structure.

Living in Australia challenges the ability for everyone to be involved in field work and I am personally unable to participate. Due to the vast environment we live in, a 7 hour drive (one way) just to train and learn and then to compete makes the sport unachievable in consideration of other work-life commitments.

Instead, we see people using these brilliant smart dogs for other purposes ie: obedience, agility, tracking and endurance work. My boy has a brilliant nose and is doing really well in tracking and we will compete in endurance and formal obedience when he is older which I can achieve for him within the circumstances of life.

He is not a replica or a mimic of the breed, He is an IRISH SETTER but his "fit for function" has been directed at achievable goals.
Hi Cheryl,
I am sure your dog is a great dog. Everyone loves their dogs. The Iris Setter in Austalia is being mixed with the IS from Britain and Irish field lines. That is probably where his great nose is coming from. But because he is so large again his competition ability with IS's from Ireland would be doubtful. A real hunting dog would not beable to participate in agility. They would be very uninterested in the sport. They are instinctual. They want to find birds not go through an obstacle course. Border coliies and other herding dogs do great in these sports because they are bred to work with people. Between the spedd and nose of a bred field dog they would eventually run off. That is unless there is a shock collar being used. The way setters won field events againt the Pointers was there ability to run through brush. They tear through brush amazingly.The pointers are a bigger dog so it is harder for them. A large dog with long hair and long ears would not beable to do it.

Beautiful ISD's


Check this out.

Dear Henk
May I please remind you that in 1974 'your' nearly perfect Irish Setter was my 'Tanya'!!
Perhaps not only the dogs have changed but your way of looking at them?
As 'Tanya' was most certainly not a working dog but an extremely successful show dog who never workded (my fault) even if her descendants do work and show;
Perhaps not only the dogs have changed but your way of looking at them? wrote Frances.

Yes ofcourse Frances. Life is permanent education.

There were many types of Irish setters those days and in most I had a few favorites. A wealth of broad lineage as well. You could still find in one showring those that were not related for twenty or more generations and quite a few with a movement like a bomb, remember Agapei Mou Brandy now.

In a nutshell what changed for me sixties / now is my first was never sick, got only a few inoculations in a lifetime, was strong and smart, a one in all. So somewhere on topics timeline some things went wrong. What exactly, is topics question. Whats your answers. Did the breed change yes or no for better or for worse.
I cant speak for the European dogs, lol, but did the dogs change. One US setter that beat the pointers over and over again. Another that did it occasionally. The first one you will tink is ugly as sin. The second I am not sure about.
Art is, as it has always been, in the eye of the beholder. The danger is when art becomes the ideal...an ideal then used to subvert what is an always unpredictable reality - especially where the breeding of dogs is concerned.

To take your point, playgrounds are areas where children go to create, to idealise, to dream and to pretend. They are also areas where children share, where they help each other, and where they work together to achieve amazing things.

Which playground are you in, Henk? Or are you locked outside? There is room for everyone in this sandpit.

Or does your playground discriminate?
Thanks Kristi for your comments, however, you misread my post as I don't do agility with my boy.

You have made quite a few assumptions about Clancy’s height, his ability to range and compete against other dogs and also his ear length and coat?!

In tracking he is definitely showing his instinct to find (even though it's not birds, it is scent work). He is also a great retriever. To see him run through the paddocks in very long grass, weeds and other foliage in tracking and forge ahead to find scent is great to watch. He shows natural ability and he is extremely agile and shows his stamina.

Yes, I have over many years had my dogs distracted during obedience to run off to flush or chase birds who happen to come into close range of the competitions. This, I accept as the natural instinct of the breed takes over. I don’t use a shock collar and nor does anyone who doesn’t work in the field!!!!




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