The Gordon Setter is a large dog, the heavyweight of the Setter breeds and is one of the vulnerable native breeds listed by the Kennel Club (UK). It is a member of the Gundog group (UK). It takes its name from the Duke of Gordon who introduced the original black and white or black/white and tan breed back in 1820 at the large kennel in Gordon Castle in Scotland. The original purpose of the Gordon Setter was to hunt partridge or grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, blackgame, snipe, or woodcock gamebirds. The Gordon is described as alert, courageous, curious, loyal, and responsive. It is characterised by its stylish deep, shining coal black and tan coat with long and silky featherings on the upper portion of the ears, long fine, flat and straight hairs on the back of legs and fringes on the belly, chest, and throat. The average size of a male Gordon Setter is 66cms while a female stands at 62cms from shoulder on average. Weight ranges between 29.5kg and 25.5kg for males and females respectively.
It is generally agreed by experts that the Setter’s early progenitors were the old Land Spaniel known throughout Europe during the middle of the 1800s. It is also likely that an influence of Hound or Pointer blood has been added to the mix that resulted in the development of the breed. The Gordon Setter that we know today is predominantly black with tan markings on the muzzle, legs, and on the chest. However, the original dogs were actually tri-colour – black, white, and tan and were simply called “black and tan setters.” These setters were bred by various breed enthusiasts but the most famous of them being a certain Mr. Coke of Longford and Alexander Gordon, the 4th Duke of Gordon, who were said to often bred together and interchanged setters frequently to obtain fresh blood for their respective kennels. It was the Duke’s Gordon Castle kennel who would eventually become the foundation stock of the modern Gordon Setter that we know today which the Kennel Club named after in 1924.
It is considered to be the biggest and heaviest among the different setter type dogs. Its stamina and energy in the field make up for its lack of speed compared to the other setters and pointers. As a breed, the Gordon Setter is one of the late maturing dogs, typically becoming an adult at the age of 3 years or older. It is described as bold and outgoing with an even disposition. The Gordon Setter is also highly intelligent, loyal and affectionate to his family. It thrives on attention and love and is an excellent family dog. Young and adult Gordons alike can be quite boisterous.
The Gordon Setter is an affectionate and loyal dog that loves to please its handler. It is an intelligent breed and a strong-minded one that is able to stand the rigours of training. It is eager to learn and loves learning new commands. These qualities make the Gordon Setter highly trainable but it needs a firm but gentle handler to excel in training. Socialisation and training should start early, particularly during puppyhood to harness the full potential of the dog. Teaching the dog to “come” when commanded should be on top of basic command training because the natural instinct of the Gordon to hunt can make it wander into dangerous areas when it detects an interesting scent.
The coat of the Gordon Setter can be either straight or slightly wavy but is always shiny. It has long and silky featherings on the upper portion of the ears, long fine, flat and straight hairs on the back of legs and fringes on the belly, chest, and throat. The coat needs to be brushed or combed twice or three times a week to help keep the coat from matting and tangles. The featherings on the legs and feet should be trimmed regularly to keep debris from becoming entangled when the dog is outdoors. The ears should be inspected for ear infections and cleaned regularly.
This energetic, fun-loving breed is generally a healthy breed with a median lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Although it is a healthy breed, it is possible that one or more of the following health issues may affect the breed, including:
This working dog needs a moderate amount of exercise in order to stay healthy. As a hunting dog, it was originally bred to run and have a lot of stamina in the field. An hour to an hour and a half of hearty exercise on a daily basis is perfect for the breed. However, young puppies (particularly below 18 months) should not be over-exercised to prevent injuries or any problems later in life.
The Gordon Setter is quite an energetic dog. Although it is patient by nature, it may not be a suitable pet for a household with small children because its size can easily knock a small child down in innocent play. It can become aggressive towards other dogs but it’s very uncommon for the breed. It can become jealous of other pets around the house but socialising and training the Gordon at an early age to share the attention and affection of the family with other house pets will help correct this attitude.