Although for the Irish Setters we breed paramount consideration is given to health and temperament, we pay close attention to the breed standard because of the show dog element of what we do. A happy, friendly and healthy dog makes a better family pet – but they can also win shows.
This section of the web site looks at the breed standard and shows you what to look for in a top Irish Setter. The breed standard is a group of characteristics that are used to define a particular breed. When a dog is being judged at a show this is what the judge is using when distinguishing between the competing dogs.
There are two recognised breed standards for Irish Setters – those set out by the FCI and those from The Kennel Club.
The FCI is the Fédération Cynologique Internationale – also known as the World Canine Organisation – and this standard covers shows in Europe. For the UK the breed standard is provided by The Kennel Club and this is used for show judging at Crufts and associated qualifying events.
The two standards have differences – which will be highlighted where appropriate. Words in bold are defined on the terminology page.
The height for males should range between 23.0 to 26.5 inches and for females 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the withers.
For the UK Kennel Club standard, the dog must be racy, full of quality and kindly in expression. The FCI adds that the dog should be balanced and in proportion. In this context, racy does not mean thin.
The FCI standard asks for a hardy, healthy, intelligent dog possessed of excellent working ability and great stamina. The UK standard calls for handsome and refined looks, tremendously active with untiring readiness to range and hunt under any circumstances. Demonstratively affectionate.
Graceful, handsome with thoroughbred looks, very active and exuberant appears untiring and will range and hunt under extreme conditions of weather or terrain. Extremely friendly and eager to please.
Any sign of aggression or nervousness is not acceptable behaviour.
Head long and lean. Not narrow or snipey. Not coarse at the ears. Skull oval (from ear to ear) having plenty of brain room and well defined occipital protuberance.
The FCI Standard also asks for the head to be long and lean and not course at the ears and in fact includes all the points in the UK Standard word for word but in an abbreviated form.
Too domed a head (called an Apple Head) or a broad skull is incorrect and gives an untypical expression.
The Irish setters head and skull should not have the dimensions of a Gordon setter.
From occiput to stop and from stop to tip of nose to be parallel and of equal length, brows raised showing stop. Muzzle moderately deep and fairly square at ends, jaws of nearly equal length. Flews not pendulous, nostrils wide and dark mahogany. dark walnut or black.
Stop to be well defined but not overdone.
Muzzle is when viewed side on.
The Irish standard Dark hazel or dark brown ought not to be too large. The UK standard Dark brown to dark hazel, not too large, preferably like an unshelled almond in shape, set level (not obliquely), under brows showing kind intelligent expression.
On the slide you can see various types of eye shapes The eye should not be too large and more oval in shape than round.
Colour of the eye should ideally match the coat colour of the dog being dark hazel to dark brown.
In no circumstances should they be so dark or so light as to loose all expression of softness.
Expression should be kindly and intelligent and with a hint of mischief.
Of moderate size, fine in texture, set on low, well back and hanging in neat fold close to head.
Both standards are the same. They should be of moderate size.
When judging a good indication of correct length is when they are pulled forward they should reach the end of nose. When viewed from the front the set of ears again gives a look of quality and softness to the head.
The Irish standard Jaws of nearly equal length. The UK standard has jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite. The upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
The correct bite is scissor shaped and then a level bite, an overshot bite, an undershot bite and a wry mouth are all considered faults.
The Irish standard Moderately long, very muscular, not too thick, slightly arched, no tendency to throatiness. The UK standard moderately long, very muscular but not to thick, slightly arched and free from all tendency to throatiness’, settling cleanly without a break of top line into shoulders.
Concave means curved in – Convex means curving out or bulging out.
Too long a neck set in upright shoulder points gives the appearance of a yew neck. It is a little difficult to explain but when you see one you can recognise it straight away.
The neck should be moderately long – too long a neck gives an unbalanced appearance.
It should be muscular but not too thick slightly arched behind the scull and free from all tendency to throatiness. Set cleanly into the withers without a break in the topline. The set of neck into correct shoulder placement gives an air of quality and refinement.
Both standards are the same. Shoulders fine at points deep and sloping well back. Forelegs straight and sinewy having plenty of bone , with elbow free, well let down and not inclined either in or out.
For example in our breed standard forelegs straight and sinewy means clean non bumpy structure with tendons at the rear clearly visible.
Ideally a gently sloping upper arm fitting into the scapular at point of shoulder Scapular deep and sloping well back and fine at points the withers (you should be able to get two fingers width between the points).
Foreleg straight and sinewy with strong bone, elbows to be level with the bottom of the rib cage and not to be inclined either in or out i.e loosely.
Front angulation – the picture on the left shows correct angulation the others show various other incorrect angulation.
The Irish Standard – Proportionate to size of dog. Deep chest rather narrow in front, ribs well sprung leaving plenty of lung room. Loins muscular and slightly arched. The UK Chest as deep as possible, rather narrow in front.
Ribs well sprung leaving plenty of lung room and carried well back to muscular loin, slightly arched. Firm straight topline gently sloping downwards from withers.
Spring of rib has direct influence upon chest capacity. the more pronounced the arch (within reason) the greater becomes exercise tolerance.
The flatter the spring or arch, the greater restrictions on lung and heart development and consequently the less anticipated stamina. A dog with correct curvature and development is said to be “well sprung” “well rounded” or “well arched“ in rib.
Both Standards ask for a deep Chest – rather narrow in front, you should be able to get approximately four fingers width between the top of the front legs. When checking the width of the chest it should drop into your hand – if your hand has to go up to find the bottom of the ribs this is incorrect and is known as a cathedral front.
Ribs to be well sprung to allow plenty of heart and lung room, not to be flat sided, and carried well back to muscular loin and slightly arched. It shouldn’t tuck up sharply to the loin as this gives a shallow, weak look.
Nor should the coupling it be to long in length as this makes for weakness in the loin too short gives a boxy, cobby look which is quite untypical. The top line should be firm and straight gently sloping downwards from withers.
There are various examples of top line and coupling showing various faults – the correct top line is shown in the picture of the whole dog and the correct coupling is shown as proportionate.
The hindquarters both standards are the same.
Wide and powerful. Hind legs from hip to hock long and muscular, from hock to heel short and strong. Stifle and hock joints well bent and not inclined either in or out.
There are various illustrations showing stances viewed from the rear showing some of the problems you encounter.
The Irish standard asks for small very firm, toes strong, arched and close together. And the UK small, very firm, toes strong close together and arched.
The foot should be small well knit and compact , toes strong, close together and arched like a cats foot. Thick pads enable the dog to range and work effectively as thin pads wear out quickly stopping the dog working.
A foot similar to that of a hare with flatter toes is incorrect and weak.
Gait and Movement
Free flowing, driving movement, head held high, forelegs reaching well ahead but carried low, Hindquarters drive smoothly with great power, crossing or weaving of legs unacceptable.
The UK asks for free flowing, driving movement with true action when viewed from front or rear and in profile showing perfect co-ordination.
Front legs should give appearance of reaching forward to cover the ground and the rear legs should give the appearance of driving off from strong hocks. The front legs should give the appearance of daisy cutting just skimming along the ground as if cutting grass or daisies.
High stepping front action is incorrect, this gives a choppy stride denoting an incorrect shoulder particularly if the rear legs are endeavouring to drive.
Again rear legs with no propulsion gives the dog an overall weak appearance,
At all times the dog should move effortlessly and co-ordinate with good tail action.
It should not cross the front legs or flap them outwards on the move neither should the back legs move to closely together or overreach the front legs when moving – this can be seen when the dog is moving in profile.
Top line to be held firm on the move.
Tail having fringe of moderately long hair, decreasing in length as it approaches the point. All feathering straight and flat.
And the UK of moderate length proportionate to size of body, set on just below the levels of the back, strong at root tapering to a fine point and carried as nearly as possible on a level with or below the back.
The Length of the tail to balance with body and proportionate to size of body, It should ideally reach to just the point of the hock for overall balance. Set on just below the level of the back – not to come off the topline = strong at root and tapering to a fine point.
To be carried as nearly as possible on a level or below the back.
A High tail carriage (i.e. gay tail) is untypical and on the move spoils the symmetry of the dog.
The whole outline on the move should be flowing and balanced with no break from top of head to point of tail.
Both Standards are the same.
On head, front of legs and tips of ears, short and fine, on all other parts of the body and legs of moderate length, flat and free as possible from curl or wave.
Feathers on upper portion of ears long and silky, on back of fore and hind legs long and fine. Fair amount of hair on belly, forming a nice fringe, which may extend on chest and throat. Feet well feathered between toes.
Tail to have fringe of moderately long hair decreasing in length as it approaches point. All feathering to be as straight and flat as possible.
Moderate should be kept in mind when assessing the dog, as too much coat is as incorrect as too little. It is desirable for the coat to beflat and free as possible from curl or wave, this criteria extends to the feathering
Again we should work to the standard the tenancy for massive amounts of coat as seen in the American show scene does not follow the either of our standards. We are nowadays so busy with appearance that we tend to forget the construction and other points as outlined in the standard.
Bear in mind the term ‘may extend on chest and throat’ it should not be deemed to have too little coat if this is not so.
Both Standards are the same. Rich chestnut with no trace of black. White on chest throat, chin or toes or small star on forehead or narrow streak or blaze on nose or face not to disqualify.
It must be noted that colour of the coat should not be too dark as this will influence the colour of the eye and pigment of eye and nose. Rich chestnut should more of an open conker colour and not dark chestnut.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault. For the Irish standard degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
For the UK affect on the overall dog. With both standards male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
However there has been a change in the K.C. regulation and it is in order to see the K.C’s Letter of Permission to Show if a castrated dog is exhibited.