This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
This breed has long been known to sportsmen throughout Great Britain as a good one, especially in point of stamina, and a class was set apart for it at Birmingham in 1860, a year before the black and tans were similarly favored.
There is no reason to suppose that any improvement had taken place in this breed in its native country until very recently, when the institution of local shows seems to have stimulated Irish breeders to fresh exertions; but in the exhibits which have been made in the English shows the chain of progress has been unbroken from Carlo to Dash and Palmerston. In the field trials, the Rev. J. C. Macdona has raised its character by producing his Plunket at Shrewsbury in 1870, after which he was sold to Mr. Purcell Llewellyn, and took prizes at Vaynol, Southampton, and Shrewsbury. This dog was very small and bitch-like in appearance, and rather light in color, but his pace was very great, though not perhaps quite equal to that of the Livenc'c Countess, while his style of going and his attitude on the point were far superior to hers. He was bred by the Hon. D. Plunket, and combines the blood of that gentleman's kennel with the La Touche and Hutchinson strains. Mr. Purcell Llewellyn purchased him in the night of his successes, and bred several average dogs from him out of Kate (of the Knight of Kerry's strain), including Kimo, Kite, and Kitty; while another hitter, out of Buckell's Min, contained Marvel, May, and Knowing, less successful than the former, both on the bench and in the field.
With the solitary exception of Plunket and his daughter Music, who was at Vaynol in 1872, however, no Irish setter has shown anything like high form in the field trials, Mr. Purcell Llewellyn's Samson, who is above the average, being crossed with the Laverack Prince through his dam, Carrie, through both are entered in the Stud Book as Irish setters.
After a great deal of discussion, a separate class has been made in Dublin and elsewhere for "reds" and "white and reds," it being shown that there are two distinct strains of the Irish setter, of these colors respectively. The white and reds stands no chance in the open classes, and yet it was considered hard to debar them from all prizes, especially as by some good judges they are thought to possess better noses than the reds. According to my judgment the rich red, or blood red color as it is described, is made a little too much of, and I should strongly object to the passing over of excellence in shape because the color is too pale; a marked instance of which happened at the Brighton show of 1876.
In points the Irish setter only differs from the English in the following:
1. The skull is somewhat longer and narrower, the eyebrows being well raised, and the occipital prominence as marked as in the pointer.,
2. The nose is a trifle longer, with good width, and square at the end •. nostrils wide and open, with the nose itself of a deep mahogany or very dark fleshy-color, not pink nor black.
3. Eyes, ears, and lips. - The eyes should be a rich brown or mahogany color, well set, and full of intelligence; a pale or goose berry eye is to be avoided. Ears long enough to reach within half an inch or an inch of the end of the nose, and, though more tapering than in the English dog, never coming to a point; they should be set low and close, but well back, and not approaching to the hound's in setting and leather. Whiskers red; lips deep, but not pendulous.
5 and G. In frame the Irish dog is higher on the leg than either the English or black and tan, but his elbows are well let down nevertheless; his shoulders are long and sloping; brisket deep, but never wide; and his back ribs are somewhat shorter than those of his English brelhern. Loin good, slightly arched, and well coupled to his hips, but not very wide; quarters slightly sloping, and flag set on rather low, but straight, fine in bone, and beautifully carried. Breeders arc, however, going for straight backs like that of Palmcrston, with flags set on as high as in the English setter.
7. Legs very straight, with good hocks, well-bent stifles, and muscular but not heavy haunches.
8. The feet are hare-like, and moderately hairy between the toes.
9. The flag is clothed with a long, straight comb of hair, never bushy or curly, and this is beautifully displayed on the point.
11. The coat should be somewhat coarser than that of the English setter, being midway between that and the black and tan, wavy but not curly, and by no means long. Both hind and fore legs are well feathered, but not profusely, and the ears are furnishei with feather to the same extent, with a slight wave, but no curl.
12. The color should be a rich blood red, without any trace of black on the ears or along the back; in many of the best strains, however, a pale color or an occasional tinge of black is shown. A. little white on the neck, breast, or toes, is by no means objectionable, and there is no doubt that the preponderance of white, so as to constitute what is called "white and red," is met with in some good strains.
In his work the Irish setter is fast and enduring; his nose is quite up to the average of fast dogs in delicacy, and to those who are limited to a small kennel he is an invaluable aid to the gun. His style of going is very beautiful, with head well up and feeling for the body scent; he has a free action of the shoulders, hind legs brought well under him, and a merry lashing of the flag on the slightest indication of scent - often, indeed, without it. His advocates contend that he is as steady as any other setter when once broken, but, as far as my experience goes, I scarcely think this position can be maintained. Neither Plunket, nor any that I have seen of Mr. Purcell Llewellyn's breeding, nor indeed any of those which I have had out in private, have been always reliable, and I fear that, like almost all other setters of such high courage, it must be admitted that he requires work to keep him in a state of control fit for immediate use with the gun. In this respect, and indeed in delicacy of nose, both the English and Irish setter must yield to the black and tan of the best strains; but to do the same amount of work, at least a double team of the last mentioned must be kept
Having been charged, by Mr. Adcock, in the case of the bulldog, with selecting inferior specimens for illustration, it is perhaps necessary that I should explain my reasons for choosing a dog without any public reputation to represent the Irish setter in preference to Mr. Hilliard's Palmerston, who has taken all the chief prizes since the last appearance of Dr. Stone's Dash at the Crystal Palace in 1875. As remarked above, no strain but that of the Hon. D. Plunket has been tried m the field; and, as that has done great credit to the breed in the shape of Mr. Macdona's (afterwards Mr. Llewellyn's) Plunket* his daughter Music, and his sons Marvel and Kite, I prefer a portrait of one of this tried strain to that of any dog not similarly tested. Both Plunket and his daughter Music were too small to serve as a type, while Kite and Marvel have faults which render them equally unfit for that purpose. Fortunately, however, I have been able to meet with a grand specimen of the breed in Rover, an own brother to Plunket, which Mr. Macdona has recently obtained from Ireland, and which has never yet been shown.
The faithful portrait of this dog presented on page 109 speaks for itself as to his external shape; but for his performances it is necessary to look to his brother Plunket, except that I have ascertained on good evidence that in private he has been tried to be first class In color he is of a beautiful rich red with scarcely any white; while he possesses a frame of great size, symmetry, and substance, with good legs and feet.
* Plunket was purchased by Mr. Llewellyn from Mr. Macdona for $750, and is now in the possession of W. J. Farrar, of Toledo, Ohio.
IRISH SETTER, ROVER.