English Setter

PetMD Editorial
By PetMD Editorial
Published: July 29, 2009

The English Setter is a graceful, elegant gundog. Its beautiful, feathered coat is white with an intermingling of darker hairs resulting in markings called "belton."

Physical Characteristics

The English Setter has a very stylish and sophisticated appearance with an athletic physique and distinct marks on its body. Extra fur is commonly allowed to grow along the dog's back, tail, legs, and on the underside of its thighs.

Two of the more popular English Setter varieties are the Llewllins (which is a pure strain with bloodlines tracing back to the 19th century breeding program of sportsman R. L. Purcell Llewellin) and Laveracks (also named for one of the developers of the breeding program, Edward Laverack). Generally, the Llewellins possess a thin coat and are small and fast, while the Laverack Setters possess a thicker coat and are larger.

Personality and Temperament

The English Setter should be exercised regularly to keep it calm and gentle; running and hunting are its favorite activities. An affable and pleasing breed, the English Setter is friendly with children and other dogs.


The English Setter should be kept inside with access to the outdoors. To rid its coat of dead hair, comb it once every two or three days. Its daily exercise routine should be about one hour in length.


The English Setter, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is prone to major health issues such as elbow dysplasia, deafness, hypothyroidism, and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). It is also prone to epilepsy, Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may recommend thyroid, hearing, elbow, hip, and eye exams for the dog.

History and Background

The breed, according to the experts, originated in England over 400 years ago. An excellent bird dog, it was used in moorland to point the target and retrieve it. Further evidence points to the Water Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, and Spanish Pointer as the breeds used to develop the English Setter. The term English Setter, however, was used later on when Edward Laverack started breeding them in 1825.

Purcell Llewellin, another breeder, crossed the Laveracks with English Setters that gave birth to excellent field dogs. Laveracks proved to be excellent show setters and the Llewellin turned out to be marvelous field setters. Regardless of the type, the English Setter can be found throughout the United States, many of which are field dogs.

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