JaneDogs Exploring the Wonderful World of Dogs

Setters and the Pointer (English)

The 4 Setters

The magnificent Pointer with its unique head is as legendary as the three conventional Setter breeds with the more modern Red and White Setter pictured here. Historically developed for fowling, which is the capturing of wild birds for eating, the huntsmen or 'fowlers' worked with a net. These dogs mesmerized the birds by staring at them, then the fowlers threw a net over them, selecting the birds they wished to cook, and letting the small or young birds go free[1]. Once the shotgun was invented in the early 1800's the the Setting Spaniel began working with shooters and the Setters and Pointers developed into the breeds we know today. Now, almost two centuries later, Setters and Pointers today still retain the instinct for finding birds.

How the Setters and the Pointer (English) Worked


The dog(s) begin by searching for birds around the edges of the field. This helps to burn off the dog's initial exuberance. It also assist the dogs to establish their bearings and familiarize themselves with the type of smells are required to seek. The dogs then systematically work back and forth, starting near the huntsman and gradually working further and further afield until the bird or game is found. When two dogs work as a team, one works close to the huntsman while the other goes further afield. If either dog finds game, the other dog assists. The correct manner in which the dog assists is to be aware of where the huntsmen and the other dog are positioned. They also respond should the huntsmen send them towards an area such as undergrowth beside a river.

SetterEnglish under gun

Once game is detected, the dog freezes, the Pointer in an upright position than the Setters which generally crouch. If other dogs are present, they also freeze, "honouring" the first dog's point. The pointing or setting dog remains motionless until the huntsman is in position. The huntsman might also give a command instructing the dog to remain still. In times gone by, the dogs had to 'freeze' while a net was thrown over the bird(s). But once guns came into use, the bird was shot.

Many modern Setters and Pointers still retain this instinct to spot birds and 'freeze', despite never having been used for their original purpose. It is recorded that the very first dog show held in Newcastle upon Tyne in England in 1859 was exclusively for Setters and Pointers. So historically, these breeds are very important, their good looks retaining popularity for almost two centuries.  

References and Further Reading

[1] Gilbert Leighton-Boyce 'A Survey of Early Setters' Self-Published London 1985 ISBN 0-9510417-0-3 Pages 5 and ix.



Irish Setter

Irish and Irish Red and White Setters

Although the Red and White Setter appears to be the older of these two breeds and an obvious descendant of 'setting spaniels', it is the Irish Setter that is better known today. The Irish Setter is a comparatively modern breed whose rise in popularity began around the 1850's with the advent of dog shows. Now almost two centuries later, his affectionate temperament, rich chestnut coat and sleek build have made him the spectacular dog we know today. »» Read more...

English Setter

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The English Setter is one of the first breeds to be recognized as a pure breed. His beauty in the show ring and usefulness in the field kept him in the forefront of the dog world as we know it today from our earliest dog Shows through the First and Second World Wars as well through the Great Depression. In Australia, the British immigrants who developed our fledgling nation spared no expense in bringing out excellent dogs. Additionally we had... »» Read more...

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When guns were first invented, it took time to load them and more time to aim and fire. So a dog had to be used that would stand perfectly still, pointing at prey for long periods so the shooter could use this heavy, cumbersome fire arm. Although dogs of various types had been used for hunting and driving game into nets centuries before guns were invented, a dog with special characteristics had to be sought to work in conjunction with... »» Read more...