5 Things to Know About Irish Setters

The versatile Irish Setter is an extremely energetic hunting dog and wonderful family companion.

AKC Group AKC Group
Weight Weight
60–70 lbs.
Height Height
25–27 in.
Life Expectancy Life Span
15 years

1. Key Characteristics

The Irish Setter is an all-purpose hunting dog and family companion.

The body is longer than it is tall, and the head features an either black or brown nose. The almond-shaped, medium-sized eyes can be various shades of brown.

The tail is long and thick, tapering from the base to the tip. The thin, triangular-shaped ears are feathered and hang close to the head.

The coat colors include shades of mahogany to a rich chestnut red and may have patches of white. The coat is soft and flat, but the length can vary. Field lines bred for working have shorter coats, and dog bred for conformation have longer coats.

2. Where They Came From

Native to Ireland, the Irish Setter rose in popularity in the 1700s as a hunting and bird dog.

Breeds reportedly contributing to the Irish Setter’s development include the Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Terrier, English Setter, Spaniel, Pointer and Gordon Setter.

Original Irish Setters were red and white, but the white color was selectively bred out. The first all-red Irish Setter appeared in 1812.

The dogs were imported to America in the 19th century and eventually split into 2 breeding lines:

  1. One for field work
  2. And the other for conformation

The breed remains popular worldwide, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1878.

Irish Setters were originally bred as hunting and bird dogs. By: reddogs (Top: Iakov Filimonov)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Don’t let the aristocratic and elegant movement fool you. Irish Setters are active, energetic, outgoing and high-energy dogs who can act clownish at times.

Despite being independent and impulsive at times, they are great with children and other pets.

Irish Setters are easy to house-train and are comfortable on nearly any terrain in almost any climate. Because of their high energy levels, they need consistent training and daily exercise to prevent undesirable behavior.

They are also sensitive to tone of voice and will not respond well to harsh discipline.

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4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs


HIGH: This active breed needs daily exercise in the form of a rigorous walk or jog, and exercise is necessary for the dog to expel energy and avoid negative behavior.

These dogs are outgoing and love the outdoors, running and free play — so a yard would be much appreciated. We don’t recommend the apartment life for Irish Setters unless you are active and can commit to the dog’s daily exercise needs.

Grooming Needs


MEDIUM: The Irish Setter sheds an average amount. You’ll need to brush yours every day to maintain the coat and prevent matting.

Active working and hunting dogs should be checked for debris in the coat and ears after returning indoors. Bathe your Irish Setter only as necessary.

Health Problems


MEDIUM: Irish Setters are generally healthy dogs, but here are a few diseases commonly seen in the breed:

This video shows the versatility of the breed:

YouTube player

5. Where to Adopt One?

Check shelters and rescues first to find an Irish Setter, and you can start with Petful’s adoptable dog search.

If you decide to contact a breeder to purchase a dog or puppy, get to know them and always be on the lookout for the puppy mill warning signs.

Additional Resources