Many people keep setters who never fire a gun from one year's end to another. The reason for their choice is usually the strong appeal of this breed, like that of the spaniel (from which it is probably derived originally), to sentiment. There is no more loving and devoted dog extant and few handsomer.
Setters are of ancient race; indeed, they are the oldest of British sporting dogs, for they accompanied the hawking parties of the past into the field, and showed where lay the game, so that it might be roused and the hawks be loosed upon it.
In this connection, there is no escaping the pen of that Elizabethan worthy, Dr.
Caius. In 1570 he wrote: "Another sort of Dogge there be serviceable for fowling, making no noise either with tongue or foot whilst they follow the game. These attend diligently upon their Masters, and frame their conditions to such becks, motions, and gestures as it shall please him to exhibit, inclining to the right hand, or yielding to the left. . . . When he hath found the bird, he keepeth sure and fast silence, and stayeth his steps, and will proceed no further, and with close covert watching eye, layeth his belly to the ground, and so creepeth forward like a worm. When he approacheth near to the place where the bird is, he lays down, and with a mark of his paws betrayeth the place of the bird's last abode, whereby it is supposed that this kind of dog is called ' Index'- Setter, being a name both consonant and agreeable with his quality." Richard Surflet, in 1600, too, though he terms him a "land spaniel," describes his qualities minutely enough even for a modern sportsman: "The land spaniel called the ' Setter ' must neither hunt, nor retaine, more or less than as his master appointeth, taking the whole limit of whatsoever they do from the eye or hand of the instructor. They must never quest at any time, what occasion soever may happen, but as being dogs without voices, so they must hunt close and mute." There are three chief varieties of setters, the English, the Black and Tan (formerly called the "Gordon"), and the Irish setter. The first and third named are constantly seen and highly appreciated, but the Black and Tan setter has fallen upon somewhat evil days as regards popularity. No very satisfactory reason seems to be adduced for this fact, so, probably, this dog's day may come once more with the turn of Fortune's wheel. He is a handsome enough creature, with his pure, glossy black and rich, deep tan coat, being a somewhat heavier animal than the two other breeds, with a shorter, thicker head. His owners claim for him docility, intelligence, and endurance, so that his neglect by the "Fancy" is surely undeserved. His earliest breeder was the Duke of Richmond and Gordon at Gordon Castle, and this was the origin of his former name, now altered by the Kennel Club to Black and Tan setter. He dates from about 1820, and was introduced into England about 1859. These early specimens were often black, tan, and white, and Irish setter blood has been introduced to give lightness and quality.
As the setter is here being treated from the point of view of a companion rather than a purely sporting dog, a minute and technical list of necessary "points" is out of place. Instead, a careful study of the illustrations will give an excellent idea of what an
English and Irish setter respectively should be.
Could there be a more delightful and beautiful animal? The silky coat, affectionate, intelligent eye, statuesque attitude, and symmetrically built form are irresistible.
In colour, too, there is a wide range of choice, for the Gordon, to use the name that dies hard, is richest black and tan; the English setter, black and white, lemon and white, liver and white, or tricolour. The colour of this dog is better "flecked" (in spots) than in patches.
As for the Irishman, what a golden glory is his coat. "In hue the chestnut when the shell divides threefold to show the fruit within," sang Tennyson of a fair lady's locks. It is just as true of the Irish setter. And as he stands in the sunshine, the artistic eye will detect steel-blue glints upon the satin surface. He is built, too, on racy lines, and is a pure delight to behold.
One does not marvel much to learn that "Coleraine," a lovely "lady" of this breed, fetched £270; of course, she was as useful as beautiful, for she won the K.c. Derby Stakes for her master, the late Rev. R. O'callaghan.
If anyone in possession of an Irish setter should care to know whether he has a good dog or not, regarded from the point of view of the show bench, a few hints may be useful. The dog should be built on "galloping lines," signified by his sloping, well-laid-back shoulders, straight forelegs, strong pasterns, deep chest, short couplings, strong loin, good ribs, and well-bent stifles.