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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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"rolling on the floor laughing my ass off. I have always wondered how you can laugh your ass off but there you go"

Something that setters do when they think their owners are behaving strangely?
Mine are doing so as we speak!!!!! God I love these little asides, a bit of light relief........
Ladies, great conversation and debate! You all crack me up. I am enjoying this discussion so much. A discussion that has to be!
Well, a few statistics on IRWS judges in the UK

Out of around 50 on the A1 breed specialist list who give tickets at Ch shows

Around 40 are women
Only one lives in Ireland (Trudy Walsh)
Only one is an experienced field trialler (Mary Tuite)
Half of them dont currently even own an IRWS
But then am I not right in thinking that the breed club's committees have the "power" to put them on their judging list. It looks quite innoffensive ti; you look behind the figures at the implications.

How many of them are now relishing the prospect of a day spent at a working trial?
Hello TerryWe debate the pros and cons of showing or working IS all the time an believe me, no matter what I write, and it is mainly to encorage debate, I have the utmost respect for the breeding of working gundogs and I totally understand your commitment. I, personally, learn an aweful lot from it. I have always show IS and have never had the time to work my dogs, and there are many like me. I judged my first open show in 1979, I judged my first championship show in 1989. Entries in IS were big then and the general benchmark was about 2 1/2 minutes per dog. It hasn't changed even though entries are very much down on what they used to be. At a recent champ show it took a judge about 5 hs of solid judging to get through an entry of 105 dogs (discounting absentees). This includes assessment, placing, change of class etc rtc. A full day with a bigger entry.
Eva do you not think some judges make a real "meal" of their day in the ring nowadays?

Numbers are champ shows are down a lot since I came into my first breed (Gordons) and I wonder if today's judge - averaging 60 or so - would manage to finish if they were looking at 100 - 120 in the way they may have done in the early nineties. When they have a small entry, they seem to wander around and adopt that classic "I am thinking carefully about my decision" pose and then back to the table and then back out again and then back for the cards.

Worst of all I see a lot of judges making puppies stand for ages. But a lot of it is training and fast tracking this new breed of judge that doesnt live with the breeds they judge, owns it in partnership.... wait stop me this is a soapbox of mine and I am getting off before I say something I shouldnt!!
Iar, please don't treat this as a criticism but I always thought that you bred the dog to suit the standard not tailored the standard to suit the dog or present day requirements. Isn't this what has happened to the American Standard, which is why their dogs are prepared and presented so differently to ours and why they they like em big with coats and ears down to the ground and why their working setters are a small, light bodied and boned dog with a tail carried bolt upright like a flag..... forgive me but didn't we just say we hated all this.......
Ossian, the particular judge was a first timer so I am sure you can allow a bit for nerves.
When I started in Irish there were many experienced judges, stockmen and women. There was nothing they didn't know about dogs and were happy to impart their knowledge to novices who were willing to learn. A judge would pass among the benches after the judging and discuss the day with the exhibitors. These people and those days are long gone. Today the judge disappears after the days judging before they get lynched by the exhibitors cos, of course, they know best!!!!!
The emphasis on Group and BIS wins wan't that important and winning the Breed was what exhibitors concentrated and were satisfyed with. Now winning the breed is just a stepping stone to further glory.
I think many of us share your soapbox Ossian...........and, oh I have many soapboxes too..........
Anyone analysing changes in the breed will quickly find objective answers in comparing all standards and changes concerned. Best example is provided by changes in the standard for Irish setters in the USA: 1886, 1895, 1908, 1919, 1960 and 1990. Another: split working/show registries (1975) there.

Objective changes within FCI/UK cultures is more difficult to find, because they are not supported by relevant changes in the standard. There are a few documented other changes : the Show Champion title (UK) in the fifties, gradually reducing numbers of field tested show champion Irish setters to almost zero. Another is changes of showjudges - from much to nearly no experience with work.

A galloping setter is a true test of theory (standard). Any faulty personal preference or -interpretation of misty standard descriptions (like well bend ), will show its results. You can't test for all of that in a 2,5 minutes assesment in a showring. Likely is that you will select for you favorite TYPE of Irish setter, a misty thing built on mix of objectives/personal preferences. That might explain comments on dogs like IRCH Derrycarne Alcoholic at topics start, she would have no chance now.

What will be the result? Is FCI/UK-culture heading for a 1975 USA scene - definitive split? Or is there still any chance of bridging scenes for the benefit of both?
Henk, in conparison to the changes in the USA standard for Irish Setters the UK standard has change only twice. The first time in 1986 and then again in 2008 just with the addition of......."and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog's ability to perform its traditional work." Which suggests that the idea is to bring the show and working setters closer together rather than splitting them further apart. Interestingly it is the field trialers in this discussion who have been questioning the reasons for the breed standard and its discriptions and it is they who have suggested the standard be modified to suit the modern hunting dog. So, has the field trial setter changed more in the last 50 years than the show setter. Well maybe it has...........becoming smaller, lighter, less bodied than the original. And all because it needs to be quicker.

Field trailers have stated that they like to see a fast working dog. Well that is a personal preference which could be argued as faulty too, as speed is not covered in the standard but could be the misty interpretation for "tremendously active with untiring readiness to range and hunt under any conditions" Incidentally "stifle and hock joints well bent" is not a misty standard description but an actual one which the working fraternity could pay more attention to.

2.5 minutes is quite enough to go over a dog and watch it move..........time yourself and see. Is 15-20 minutes enough to assess a dog's ability to find birds? You have all said that it would have to go like the clappers to do so.

All new judges now have to attend a field trial and watch the dogs working as part of their qualification to award challenge certificates so, hopefully, show judges will now gain this experience and attain better understanding of "the dog's ability to perform its traditional work"

The working and show setter has been split for nearly 100 years. It would be optimistic to expect the two disciplines to come together without compromise. I suspect neither would be prepared to do this. Let's just hope the two worlds don't move further apart then they are already........as has happened in the USA.
USA conformation standards were fairly close to the FCI/UK until 1960.

All changes came AFTER trends in show winners, as depicted in Irish Setter in word and picture (Richmond/ VA, 1954) and The New Irish Setter (note new) both by William C. Thompson (NewYork, 1968).

Both books are considered by more of our experts in all fields as the best for understanding changes in the breed.

Apart from a few -at first glimpse- small changes (amount of white to be allowed decreases), most eyecatching difference is including height and weight: dogs 27 inches - 70 pounds; bitches 25 inches 60 pounds.

Note Thompsons comments on this (Word and picture, pp 318,319): "The average weight of well known early day winners was approximately fifty pounds. Elcho, one of the largest of his time, weighed fifty-six pounds. At present the tendency is towards a larger dog, about 70 to 75 pounds. Ch Higgins Red Pat is said to have weighed 68 pounds in show condition. Height has likewise shown an increase from an average of 24 inches at the shoulder in 1890 to a desirable 29 inches in 1952. One reason for this seems to be that the smaller dogs are overshadowed in the show ring by the bigger specimens."

As we saw, standards of Ireland so FCI and UK did not change much. Last change in the standard of the parentclub, the Irish Red Setter Club, was to meet a FCI request and did include a height section. Males: 23 inches (58 cm) tot 26.5 (67 cms) females 21.5 inches (55 cm) to 24.5 inches (62 cms). The UK Kennel Club did not adopt this in their standard.

Changes movement/structure: conformation and field experts like respectively Rasbridge and O'Dwyer agree on reasons of degeneration of movement in showrings. It is under more aver-angulation, stifles and hocks. Whatever your opinion is on well bend, it can't beat reality (practice).

"The true test of conformation is the fluid movement of a galloping dog", O'Dwyer notes (The Irish Red Setter, Dublin 2007, pp 155). Body weight plays a big role in that, last author and chairman of the IRSC underlines all weight comes down on one foot.

Another field expert -Rembrandt Kersten from the Netherlands- provides more documented information in a chapter entitled Unieke eigenschappen (Unique properties) in Hond Staat (Dog Points) (Laren, 2007). An interesting note is on a total weight a setter transports in an hours galloping: 280.000 kgs! All on one foot. You see what even slight misinterpretations, changes or personal preferences might mean over decades.

If all new show judges in the UK have to attend a field trial and watch dogs as part of their qualification to award challenge certificates (Eva), question is whether this will lead to trends, turning wings of time in which the breed according ot O'Dwyer became a caricature of its forebearers. This was made possible by a generation of judges lacking all relevant knowledge (documented by Rasbridge). So you need time to repair!!! But it is one step in the right direction.
It can be difficult to compare angulation on show and working bred setters. The show setters are frequently shown stacked , and in a manner which tends to "enhance" their angulation, while the working setters are not trained to stand nicely and often stand in a way that makes them look less angulated than they really are. But at least the front and back angulation in the working setters usually does match pretty well, which helps with good movement. On the other hand one sees some show setters, particularly American ones, with overangulated rears and straight up shoulders, a disastrous combination




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