The Breed History
As the name implies, they are of English origin, and were renowned bird dogs that first came into the record in the late 1800s. Springer spaniel, Water spaniel and Spanish pointer breeds may have all contributed to this breed's development. The term setter relates to the crouching posture (set) the dog originally took when they located the bird.
Breeding for Function
Bred as a bird-hunting dog, to set and retrieve, this dog has established himself as a top field trial performer. They are also prized as companion dogs. The modern field dog has a bit stockier and smaller constitution and less of a coat than the show or companion type. They do well in agility competitions.
Height at Withers: female 24" (61 cm), male 25" (63.5 cm)
Weight: females 60-65 lb (27-29.5 kg), males 65-80 lb (29.5-36.5 kg)
Coat: The flat long and straight to slightly wavy silky coat with feathers may be tri-color, lemon or liver belton, blue (black) or orange (tan) belton. Belton markings are a white background with flecking (speckles) or roan of these colors admixed. Flecking is preferred.
Longevity: 11-12 years.
Points of Conformation: Due to their origins as gundogs for vigorous hunting, this athletic, graceful dog is bred for function. They have mesocephalic skulls, with a well-defined stop and long square muzzle. The occiput is prominent, nose is black or dark brown, pendulous flews are present, and eyes are dark brown and round. Moderate-length ears are of thin leather, pendulous and set low. A long arched fine neck and level topline (can also slightly slope to the rear) are typical. Their deep chest is not broad, and a moderate loin tuck is present. Tapering, the tail finishes at the tarsus joint, and is carried horizontally. Forelegs are strong and straight, the feet are compact and toes are well arched. Dewclaws are often removed. The gait appears effortless, characterized by long, low strides with straight movement.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reports of this breed note that they possess an affectionate, docile disposition. They are high activity dogs though, and need regular exercise, and are thus not well placed for city living. They are generally quiet in the house, and are quite placid. Training should start early and they often have a streak of independence. They are alarm barkers. The coat just needs regular brushing; they are average shedders. They are good with children, and crave close contact with their families. If left alone for extended periods, they may engage in boredom vices such as digging and chewing. Their prominent flews result in some drooling.
Normal Physiologic Variations
English Setters may be more prone to developing eccentrocytes - RBCs that appear in a peripheral blood smear to have their hemoglobin shifted to one side of the cell.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 16.5% affected. Dorn reports a 1.49x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Reported 3.7x odds ratio for ununited anconeal process form of elbow dysplasia versus other breeds. OFA reports 15.1% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few English Setters have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Neuronal Ceroid-Lipofuscinosis: Rare, fatal autosomal recessive inherited degenerative neurological disease. Affected English setters present between 6-12 months of age, and die between 20-27 months of age. They present with variable signs of progressive hind limb paresis, incoordination, behavior changes, seizures, and/or blindness. A genetic test is available.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 31.4% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%) Dorn reports a 1.26x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. English setters have a significantly increased risk for atopy versus other breeds. Dorn reports a 1.91x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral or bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Strain reports total (uni or bilateral) deafness frequency of 12.4% based on BAER testing. 10.3% of all English setters test unilaterally deaf, and 2.1% test bilaterally deaf. The ESAA maintains a BAER test registry: www.esaa.com/health/ Baersearch.asp.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 7.24% of English setters CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Mammary Cancer: Dorn reports a 36.54x odds ratio for mammary gland cancer versus other breeds.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD), Shoulder: Abnormality of cartilage development causing lameness. Severe cases may require surgery. English setters have a greater than 5x risk of developing shoulder OCD than other breeds. Males are affected more than females. Another study reported a 10.1x odds ratio versus other breeds. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.81% of English Setters CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Identified in 2.71% of English setters CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any English Setter with a cataract.
Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (SLO): Disorder causing loss of toenails. Onset between 2-8 years of age affecting 1-2 nails, then progressing to all toenails within 2-9 weeks. Requires lifelong treatment with oral fatty acid supplementation +/- prednisone. Kindreds of affected English setters have been identified, but a mode of inheritance is not known.
Brachygnathism, Central PRA, Cutaneous Asthenia, Ectropion, Factor VIII Deficiency, Familial Benign Pemphigus, GM2 gangliosidosis, Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, Malassezia Dermatitis, Methemoglobin Reductase Deficiency, Prognathism, von Willebrands Disease, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency: Reported in a family of English setters with juvenile onset chronic inadequate digestion, voluminous foul smelling feces, weight loss with increased appetite, occasional vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for NCL is available from the University of Missouri. Direct tests for black or black tricolor, liver or liver tricolor and lemon colors, and black or brown nose are available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required tests are; hip and elbow radiographs, and BAER testing for deafness. Optional recommended thyroid profile including autoantibodies. (See CHIC website: www.caninehealthinfo.org)
Recommend CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Llewellin (historical but the term Llewellin Setter is sometimes used today for the field variety), Laverack (historical type), Setting Spaniel (historical)
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 86 (752 registered)
- Internet resources: English Setter Association of America: www.esaa.com
English Setter Association of England: www.englishsetterassociation.co.uk
English Setter Club of Canada: www.englishsetterclubofcanada.com
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