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KC backs outcrossing for English Setters and IRWS



So the KC and the AHT have recognised that the English Setter and the IRWS are two of the five most vulnerable breeds, with effective breeding populations which are so low that they are at risk of extinction. Strategies to be put to breed clubs will include outcrossing, importing new dogs and less breeding from popular sires

The Irish Kennel Club have recognised this already and accepted an outcross programme for IRWS last year, which the IRWSCGB objected to. Two articles criticising the IKC  outcross were published in a recent club newletter. So how are the breed club going to respond to this KC statement, based on research at the AHT?

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Margaret, could you outline the proposals of the Irish Kennel Club outcross programme, the objections of the IRWSCGB and what alternatives it offers?  There has been a recent thread about the dwindling English Setter registrations on this site.  Even the yearly IS registrations aren't what they used to be.  We, as a breed could also be facing this problem and having to make similar provisions in the not too distant future. 

Paramount in the decision making would, of course, be the genetic health of any dogs involved in an outcross programme.  We would not want to bring into UK lines any hereditary problems that we do not have.  It would all need to be very carefully monitored and not just implemented for the sake of increasing genetic diversity.


The Irish Kennel Club's outcross programme for IRWS was accepted in 2011, it's not just a proposal. It is being done for health and genetic reasons, to widen a very small gene pool BEFORE more health problems occur. The outcross is to working red Irish Setters, of sound construction and similar phenotype to IRWS, who meet the requirements laid down  for health testing.All proposed matings have to be approved  by the Outcross Committee of the IKC, and accepted by the breed club and national kennel club of the country where the litter is to be registered

During the planning stages, it was envisaged that this would be a pilot project in Ireland and France, and interest also from Norway, but the IKC decided to open it up to any FCI country. There was also a last minute change that I dont understand - the requirement for dogs to be eye tested appears to have been dropped(unless this was simply a typing error) - and I know there is  a strong feeling that  that this must be put back into the requirements

I have read the two articles about the outcross in the GB club newsletter, which suggest the writers havent read the proposals carefully. One says "as for the French dogs we know nothing of the health status" and "Irish red working dogs are generally not hip scored" .Well, the writer may know nothing, but the outcross committee members and those who worked on the outcross proposal know a great deal about working reds, both in Ireland and in Europe.  The outcross programme requires all the dogs , red and IRWS to be CLAD, VWD tested and to be hip scored. In fact many French working setters ARE now hip scored , and I believe there is a current proposal in France to award the FTCH title only to dogs who are CLAD clear and hip scored? The same article also says that after an outcross litters could continue to throw up "some dogs that are wholly red" . Sorry, this is genetically impossible! If one breeds from particolour dogs, one cannot get a solid red dog!

The other article by Ann Millington also makes some strange assertions. That working reds are being used "for their working ability alone". Incorrect, they are being used because they are closest in phenotype and colour genetics and working style  to the IRWS, but at the same time, using working reds should help to ensure no loss of working ability. The most outrageous claim by Ann is that the outcross programme "gives the go-ahead to ANYBODY to cross breed  and thereby alter the type, appearance, temperament, colour, and performance that breeders have worked hard to establish for three decades". Sorry, every mating has to be considered and approved by the outcross committee,and accepted by the breed club and national kennel club,  and the dogs used have to be of suitable type and appearance as well meeting the health requirements, and having working ability

One of the concerns in Ireland is that type, appearance, temperament and performance have all changed in the IRWS bred in UK in last 30 years, and they want the outcross to maintain the type , appearance and performance of the  working IRWS, while ensuring the future health of the breed

I completely agree with you Eva, that the genetic health of any dogs used in an outcross is a must, and this has been the first priority since the outcross was began to be  discussed and researched in Ireland over three years ago. And of course any outcross litters need to be carefully monitored, and puppies that dont meet the required standard found pet homes, without registration and  not for breeding, as happened in previous outcrosses


Interesting reading! Thanks for sharing Margaret! When does the outcross programme start for IRWS in Ireland?

It started late 2011.

Actually, I'm more interested in discussing the implications of the new KC statement about IRWS in the UK, than in arguing about the Irish Outcross. But the GB club would do well to learn from the knowledge and experience of the Irish club and IKC who have gone through the revival crossbreeding, the earlier outcross around 1990 , and all the work that has gone into planning  the present outcross


It's an outdated misconception that working setters are not health tested for anything. In some European countries one cant breed from an Irish Setter or IRWS unless it is CLAD clear and HD free. In Ireland working reds that compete in field trials in the north have to be KC registered, so are CLAD and PRA clear, IRWS are CLAD and VWD clear. There is no problem in either France or Norway finding good working reds who are hip scored and CLAD free

One of the reasons for looking at working reds in France and Norway is that they have a substantial number of  working reds who do NOT have heavily Moanruad pedigrees. The IRWS revival in Ireland used Moanruad reds, so using reds with largely Moanruad pedigrees in the current outcross brings less diversity  than looking for different lines. The French still have some working lines who come down from older non Moanruad breeding , that is now very difficult to find in Ireland (from breeders like Laura Dunne and Kay Bride and further back but are are not dissimilar in type to the IRWS, and also have good colour. There is NO interest in using very small, light coloured reds in the outcross simply because they are field trial champions, even if they carry the gene for red and white from their Moanruad ancestry, quite the reverse

I think two members of the IKC outcross committee are on Exclusively Setters, so they can tell you more than I can, although I was involved in some of the pedigree and health research during the outcross planning, which gave me a  good idea of what kind of red dogs were being identified as of possible interest. There are also field triallers from Ireland who travel to Europe to judge at field trials, and occasionally at shows, who have a pretty good knowledge of the dogs available in Europe, and their pedigrees

I would be interested to hear what English Setter owners/breeders think about this. Were you surprised by the low figure for your effective population? What do you think about the KC recommendations? Is the KC holding consultations with your breed club?

So would I!   IF an outcrossing programme goes ahead, how will that affect anyone abroad when they come to registering with their KC any imported ES?  That's if the UK KC will issue an Export Pedigree for these dogs?

Crumbs, the mind boggles...

What is likely to happen with the KC  is that any puppies born from outcross breeding would get registrations marked with * .**, and*** asterisks for the first three generations and in the fourth generation the pups get a normal full registration and an export pedigree.


However with Irish Kennel Club, they have recognised that if the outcross is have a real effect on the breed , the outcross puppies need to be able to move internationally, and if they are good enough to be registered as IRWS they will get export pedigrees, even from the generations before the 4th.

Eva, I'm afraid Margaret is not in a position to explain the position of the IRWSCGB on outcrossing nor its alternatives - she is not a member of the GB club and does not contribute anything, other than puppies, to IRWS  in the UK.

To understand the ins and outs of the Irish International Outcross Programme go to:

http://www.irishredandwhitesetterclub.org/the_outcross_programme.htm studying in particular Terry's letter to Mr Sean Delmar dated October 2009. You will notice there is no mention of eye conditions or inherited diseases found in Irish Red Setters anywhere.

There were many details that caused consternation, not just to the IRWSCGB, but to other IRWS clubs and many individuals and clarification was sought from the IKC, resulting in a revised edition of the Programme.

It is generally acknowledged that if the IKC and IRWSC (of Ireland) want to outcross their dogs to whatever, there is nothing anyone else can do to influence their actions.  However, this being established opens the door for anyone, anywhere to 'do their own thing' and the implications of IRWS x IS (and what?) having to be accepted by countries with reciprocal agreements presents some questions that need answering.

Now, what alternatives does the IRWSCGB offer?

Since 1984 (the establishment of the club) the fact that the IRWS was revived from 7 IRWS all with backgrounds in Irish Setters, gave cause for concern for the gene pool.  The breed in the UK has been monitored ever since and several geneticists consulted over the years, data has been collected, surveys conducted, DNA tests for the two life-threatening inherited conditions CLAD & vWD established and all information published ad nauseum.

The scientific community is intrigued that from so small a number of (Revived) founders that the UK IRWS average COI is 16.5%, that average lifespan is 11-12 years, that litter sizes range from 8 -14 and that disease reported to the Club and/or to vetinarians is as low as it is and point to the fact that the founders must have been genetically 'healthy' dogs and that UK breeders tried to breed for health rather than the Field or the Ring.

Since the club has taken all this effort for 30 years, it should not come as a surprise that attention should be given to breed diversity - outcrossing being an alternative.

However convincing breeders of its efficacy is another matter - for instance the 'ticking question' has caused a considerable problem with outcrossing within the breed.   There has to be much consultation between breeds and breeders concerned and the KC - something that is in hand at the moment with the intention of making the welfare of all breeds involved the sole priority and under strict scrutiny - it will take some time ;o])  Needless to say there will be publication when possible.

It would be helpful to know the health status of candidate breeds, like the average COI of IKC/FCI/American/Canadian Setters and their Effective Population Size - if they are published somewhere, could someone point it out, please?


Ann,I was a member of the IRWSCGB from the year I bought my first IRWS and as far as I'm concerned continued to be a member. In January 2011 I posted a cheque to the treasurer as usual for my membership sub, and through 2011 continued to receive mailings from the club and the Yearbook. I was therefore very surprised when late in 2011 I was told that the Chair of the IKC had received a letter from the GB club  in which it stated that I was not a member of the GB club. On checking with the treasurer I was told that they had not received my cheque (I had the cheque stub), and therefore I was no longer a member. I was pretty surprised, but on reflection, not too bothered! Whether I am a member or not actually makes little difference as the club takes no interest in working IRWS, and the club is run by a mix of show owners/breeders and people who dont even own or breed IRWS (at least three of these up for election to the committee this year, I'm told?) I keep in touch with other  IRWS breeders and owners in Ireland and all over the world, and of course with all the people who own dogs I have bred.

If that means I'm not in a position to comment on the GB club and their interest in outcrossing, then I would suggest that equally that means Ann is not in a position to comment on the IKC outcross programme, as she is not a member of the Irish breed club or the IKC


But I really dislike Ann's habit of resorting to  personal snide remarks, so lets stick to dogs and outcrossing. The topic of this discussion is the KC's statement on the five most endangered breeds

Margaret, unless you have paid the 2012 subscription, you are not a member of the GB club and were not in 2011, although you were a member on and off since 1997, You say, you are not bothered because, " the club takes no interest in working IRWS" - I wonder why if it takes no interest, it pays £130 for the annual licence, £30 a day for the events and has doubled its insurance to cover working on the moor?

Your antagonism to the GB club and me in particular is widely known and is of no real concern.

I only know that I have done my best for the IRWS since 1980 and will continue to do so... indeed Terry himself, presented the Cuddy Award to me and the GB club for 'service to genetics' at the conference in 2006.  I think we have as clear an idea of the state of the breed in the UK as possible and regularly publish information.

As fot the Effective Population Size - yes it is a concern, but not one to surprise those of us working on it.  It does, however, put a number to quote to breeders, and line breeders particularly, that outcrossing  will probably be a necessity in the future and that we should have strategies in place - and as it appears on the IRWSC website that "there are IRWS owners in Britain that wish to run outcross programmes.....", we should be prepared for that eventuality, too.

Let me make it clear to all, that the IRWSCGB does not 'object' to the Irish Programme, but is just a tad wary - with good cause, n'est pas?. I really hope the IKC will publish the details of the Outcross and its progress - that would be interesting and informative for all Setters surely?

BTW, if the Revial was based on 7 registered IRWS (or less than 10 as some said) is a myth, then those who bought IRWS in 1980 were sady misled by the breeders of that time!


 "if the Revial was based on 7 registered IRWS (or less than 10 as some said) is a myth, then those who bought IRWS in 1980 were sady misled"


I'm afraid that there are a number of myths about the revival of the breed that are commonly found in the UK. I have a collection of photos of red and white dogs owned by Dermot Mooney in the 1970's , upwards of 20 different dogs, some  of them are found in the pedigrees of todays dogs, some are not , and are not even listed in the pedigree data base. Then there were the Canon's dogs, Willy Gaynor's dogs, John Kerr's dogs, Mrs Cuddy's dogs (she had been out of the breed for many years but got another bitch from willy Gaynor around 1972) and more, only a few of them registered.

Do you remember the article written by Mr Rasbridge around 1983? Listing the  dogs and lines of breeding available to the UK. He said that if all these possibilities were used, the breed had a viable future with an adequate gene pool. And what happened? His advice was ignored, many of those dogs vanished without trace, the UK  breeders from the start concentrated on getting dogs into the show ring and then  line breeding  from those who were winning. Disaster was built in from the start. Thirty years of inbreeding and line breeding are what has resulted in an effective breeding population of only 28, not having only seven founder dogs




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