Working English Setters in the UK.


The English setter is one of the oldest breeds of Gundog. In the 14th Century they were highly prized as working dogs.  For some years now, however, they have been on the Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable breeds and at risk of extinction. This Holidays4Dogs article discusses this beautiful, but less popular, breed of dog – the working English setter.

As certain breeds of dog become less popular, the gene pool shrinks. A reduced gene pool can be detrimental to the breed as a whole, Working English Setters in the UK.leaving it vulnerable to the possibility of being lost forever.

Thankfully, there are still a few English setter enthusiasts and some of them are working hard to keep the breed and its working heritage alive. While working setters are generally a little smaller than their show bred counterparts, they are essentially the same breed. They are similar in stature to the Irish setter and the Irish red and white setter.

The working English setter – beauty….

They are staggeringly beautiful with their mottled coat, (known as ‘Belton’), extremely friendly, loyal and very trainable with the correct approach.

The working strains may not be quite as well suited as pets, unless they have plenty of opportunity for long countryside walks and free gallops. However, this is also true of more popular working breeds such as Springer spaniels and golden retrievers.

…and brains.

Setters hunt grouse, partridge and pheasant and they do this by ‘air-scenting’. They are a classic ‘pointing’ dog in the way they hunt and stand very still to indicate the location of birds. They will then ‘flush’ birds from cover. In the 14th century flushed birds would then fly into nets set by hunters.

Setters tend to range over very long distances while out hunting, quartering the ground as they go, (weaving back and forth to pick up scent).

Gundog enthusiasts who work setters, claim that they are sight to behold as they gallop gracefully across the countryside. The story goes that, English setters can run while carrying a glass of wine on their backs, such that never a drop is spilled!

Fantastic family pets.

English setters are kindly dogs and regarded as the most intelligent of the pointing breeds. They should never display aggression. Excellent at work, they also make lovely house dogs and are generally very good with children.

In the 1970’s and 80’s English setter registrations were around 1,300 in number. In 2020, there were only 140 dogs registered with the UK Kennel Club. Many English setters were exported to Norway, Italy and America after the second World war.

In recent years, breeders have looked to use dogs from these countries again to expand the dwindling gene pool in the UK.

Final thoughts.

The English setter has been much less popular with owners and breeders in recent years. People have favoured other breeds such as French Bulldogs and Siberian Huskies. English setter have featured in rural British history over the years, so it would be a shame to lose this elegant and functional breed. Today, these beautiful dogs retain many fantastic qualities making them wonderful family companions and working dogs.