Gordon setter vs English setter: What’s the Difference?

If you love Setters, you have likely heard about the rivalry between Gordon setters and the English setter. If you don’t know which of these two breeds to buy or adopt, you will find this article very helpful.

Here we talk about all the things that you need to know about the two breeds of dog. Depending on your plans for the dog and your family, the breed of dog that you buy can make a difference in your life. Let’s dive into the Gordon setter and English setter comparison. 

gordon setter vs english setter
Gordon Setter vs English Setter: What’s the Difference?

The Gordon Setter 

There are four main setter breeds, and the Gordon Setter is widely considered to be the biggest and heavier of all the breeds. This is a bold, confident dog that displays intelligence and loyalty. However, it requires strong leadership as there is a stubborn streak in it that needs to be properly managed by its owner.  

Origin of the Gordon Setter 

The Gordon Setter is named after the fourth Duke of Gordon who bred this dog at the breeding kennel on the family’s estate back in the early 1800s.

It is of note that this breed has existed even before the Duke took a special interest in it, however, before becoming the Duke, you could find Gordon Setter with varied appearances. Alexander chose the black and tan coloration, and that is what has prevailed until now. After the Duke died in 1827, breeding was continued by his son for some time.  

Because of its relatively bigger size, this dog is not as fast as the other setter breeds, however, it has more stamina and endurance than the others.  

With the modernization of farming in the 1930s, the popularity of this breed declined in its home country.  

However, since it was exported to the USA in 1842, it survived down to today. Lovers of this breed love it and point to its nearly unrivaled ability as a companion for solo hunters. The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1859 and by the American Kennel Club later in 1892.  

Gordon Setter Appearance 

Unlike the other setter breeds, this dog has a more subtle appearance. It is heavier in stature and is an elegant, classy dog that carries itself with confidence. Its head is large and long, and the muzzle is long and square. 

Its neck is also long and lean, with a deep, narrow chest. 

It boasts of some of the most attractive coats on a dog, and you will find Gordon Setter with different coats as well.  

The adults measure around 25 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and they weigh between 60 to 80 pounds. As for the females, they stand at 23 to 25 inches tall and weigh between 55 to 65 pounds.  

Gordon Setter Temperament and Training 

In terms of temperament and character, this is a very lovely dog that comes with confidence and outgoing nature. These dogs display an incredible attachment and loyalty to their family, although they are careful of strangers. Therefore, you will find them to be wonderful watchdogs. 

This breed is also quite competitive and as we said, while it isn’t fast, it is an enduring animal. If there is no strong leader, this breed is likely to dominate, which can prove problematic for shy owners.

It is a tolerant dog that loves children and is very protective. It is not particularly keen on interacting with other dogs and will only do so when there is no choice. So if you have other pets at home, it isn’t the best choice. 

Additionally, the temperament of the Gordon Setter comes as a result of different things like genetics, socialization, and training.  

Compared to some other dog breeds, the Gordon Setter is tricky to train.  

Care of the Gordon Setter 

Caring for the beautiful coat of this breed takes some work. You have to clean, brush, and comb it at least twice every week to maintain the appearance. Also, some parts of the dog like the ears, the paws, and the tail, have hairs that are susceptible to matting. 

The English Setter 

The English Setter is a beautiful dog that is best known for its beautiful coat, colored specking, and distinctive appearance. It is a very energetic dog that is best suited for families with loads of space and energy. They have a friendly attitude and are loyal to their owners as well. 

Origin of English Setter 

These dogs that been around for over two centuries and are one of the more popular setter breeds. A beloved breed, these dogs have been found in paintings and art as early as the 15th century.

Originally bred to scent game birds, these dogs would track the birds then set low, a position that made it easy for the hunter to throw a net over it, and which is part of why it is known as a setter. 

The specific origins of the setter are rather unknown, but many believe that it started with two breeders, one an Englishman and the other a Welshman. 

Laverack, the Englishman bought his first two dogs in 1825 and these served as the foundation of the breed in England. He aimed to create a breed gentle and companionable. The Welshman Llewellin crossed his dogs with Gordon setters and different other breeds to improve their hunting ability. 

These dogs made their first appearance in the USA in 1874 and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884. In recent times, though, there has been a sharp decline in the number of English Setters, with things reaching a head in 20015 when the breed was included in the Vulnerable Native Breeds list. 

There are two main types of English setter. There is the show type with a long coat and gentler temperament, and there is the field type, which is more energetic. 

English Setter Physical Appearance 

These dogs are especially prized for their beautiful appearance. They are medium-sized canines with straight coats and long, silk feathers on parts of their bodies like their stomach, tail, and legs.

Usually, in white, the coat has patterns that are sometimes referred to as Belton markings. These markings come in different colors, ranging from black to orange, liver, blue, and orange with a lighter nose. 

As this is a hunting dog, it carries its head high most of the time. Their ears and tails are rather long. 

Adult males stand at 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds while adult females are smaller, standing at 24 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 45 to 70 pounds. 

English Setter Temperament and Training 

These dogs are usually calm and friendly, with many owners commenting that they are fond of people and are friendly towards children and other pets. They are also friendly with strangers, which means that they are not the best breed to serve as watchdogs. 

They are very active dogs that are best for active families and people. Thus, if you want a dog that will accompany you as you go running or jogging, then the English Setter is just right for you. This breed is a barker, digger, and jumper, which means that you must have a fence installed. 

If you are an apartment owner, though, you might have trouble keeping up with this breed. Also, if you have birds, you need to keep an eye out. Thankfully, while they have a strong prey drive, they are not bred to attack birds but only to seek them out. 

Although these dogs are calm, they are rather tricky to train. They can prove rather stubborn and hard to train. Therefore, you need to be consistent, firm yet gentle with your training. 

Care of the English Setter 

These dogs look good as long as you do the necessary work. Their coat needs frequent, almost daily brushing. Their long ears need careful attention and might collect water and dirt. It is also prone to ear infections so you should regularly inspect and clean the ears to avoid that problem. 

Gordon Setter and English Setter: a side-by-side comparison 

 Gordon Setter English Setter 
Size Larger  Small 
Weight 80 pounds in adult males and 70 pounds in adult females 80 pounds in adult males 70 pounds in adult females 
Coat length Long, feathered Long coat 
Coat colors White with Belton spots Black or White 
Country of origin USA Scotland 
gordon setter vs english setter
Gordon Setter vs English Setter

Final Verdict 

There are several differences between the two breeds of dog. The most pronounced difference between them is their appearance. When purebred, the color of their coat is different.

The Gordon setter is a darker canine with black and brown colors commonly found. On the other hand, the English setter is usually a lighter dog, with most purebreds having a white coat with black spots. They tend to be of a similar size as well.

The English setter is gentler and quite smart. If you want a watchdog that is very friendly with the family and active, then the Gordon setter is the one for you. 

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.