Gordon Setter vs Golden Retriever What’s the Difference

The Gordon Setter and the Golden Retriever are both purebred and highly intelligent dogs that originate from Scotland, the United Kingdom.  

The Gordon Setter is an elegant dog with the contours of the thoroughbred. Its physique is balanced and comparable to that of a capable hunter. Meanwhile, the Gordon Retriever is a harmonious breed. It is lively, powerful, robust, friendly, and has a balanced movement.  

Are all these enough to differentiate both breeds? In this Gordon Setter vs Golden Retriever article, we will see the traits of both breeds and see how they compare in a side-by-side comparison table chart. 

gordon setter vs golden retriever
Gordon Setter vs Golden Retriever: What’s the Difference?

The Gordon Setter 

Origin and History of the Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is a very elegant, medium-sized hunting/setting dog. The very early setters indicated the game while lying down. Therefore they were called Setting Dogs. 

All four long-haired setters, the English Setter, the Irish Setter, the Irish red and white setter, and the Gordon setter descend from these old setting dogs. They were only separated into different colors and races from 1860 onwards.  

The Setting Dogs are said to have originated from crosses of spaniels and the classic pointing dog. The proximity to the pointer was confirmed in 2017 by a comprehensive gene analysis of more than 100 dog breeds with more than 13,000 dogs by a team of geneticists led by Heidi Parker.  

Setters are also excellent fetchers out of the water. The modern lone hunter with its reliable, long-range firearms demanded adapted hunting dogs that fulfill all the tasks of a hunting helper. So the hunting importance of the classic pointing dogs declined.  

Even so, the setters are still very capable hunting dogs. The Gordon Setter is characterized by its black and red coat. This color was described at the end of the 18th century and was systematically bred in Scotland by Lord Alexander Gordon of Banffshire from around 1810.  

With the founding of the British Kennel Club in 1873, the standard of the Gordon Setter as we know it today was set. Since then, three-colored dogs are no longer allowed.  

The official breed name at that time was still “Black and Tan Setter”. It was not until 1924 that the dogs were renamed “Gordon Setter” after the Lord.  

The physical appearance of the Gordon Setter  

The Gordon Setter is a very elegant, at the same time quite strong, medium-sized dog. It has the classic appearance of a hunting dog and has a medium-length coat. It has an extremely well-proportioned, harmonious appearance.  

The topline of the Gordon Setter’s body is usually horizontal. The Gordon Setter’s official standard describes it as an elegant dog, with the contours of the thoroughbred. Its physique is balanced and comparable to that of a capable hunter.  

The furs on the head, on the front of the legs, and the tips of the hangings are usually short and fine. On all other parts of the body, it is usually moderately long, smooth, and without curls or waves. The color required according to its standards is a deep-gloss coal-black, with a chestnut-red, i.e. glowing fire. 

The males have a height of about 66 cm at the withers and the bitches 62 cm. When it comes to weight, 25 to 30 kilograms is the norm. 

Character traits of the Gordon Setter

First of all, one should be aware that the Gordon Setter is a hunting dog. That means it needs a lot of exercise in nature. However, it has long been valued as a companion and family dog due to its attractive appearance, its sociable nature, and its high learning ability. 

The Gordon Setter has – outside of the hunt – a very relaxed, friendly nature, and is not often aggressive. However, its alert senses, its lively temperament, and its physical performance are an obligation to adequately challenge and encourage this dog.  

You have to work with it and also have leadership skills. The strong, agile dog needs a strong but sensitive hand. If you are a nature lover and enjoy hiking, it is the ideal companion. 

On the basis of a trusting relationship and consistent training, this hunting dog can even be controlled without a leash. It’s impressive how well it can be guided without being submissive.  

Care, Health, and Diseases of the Gordon Setter

Grooming a Gordon Setter is undemanding. Brushing the fur regularly is enough. A Gordon Setter has robust health. They are prone to eye diseases and ataxy (a nervous disease) during breeding. 

The Gordon Setter makes no special demands on its diet. Of course, high-quality food is good for its health. Like most dogs, it is like a meaty beef bone and fresh meat. The Gordon Setter is a hunting dog and it does its job with full enthusiasm.  

If it is not kept for hunting, it needs activity in the form of long walks in all weathers through nature or challenges in dog sport.  

Gordon setters have a life expectancy of around 12 years. 

The Golden Retriever 

Golden Retriever’s Origin and History 

It is hard to imagine today that, as late as the 1980s, the golden retriever was only known to experts in Germany. That changed quickly. Today, it has become so popular.  

Together with its brother, the Labrador Retriever, it is now one of the top dog breeds around. There are many good reasons for this. First of all, you have to know that the Golden Retriever is a hunting dog with a focus on retrieving from the water.  

With the advancement of firearms in the 19th century, ducks were also shot at great distances. It was now much more difficult for the dogs to find and retrieve them in the reeds.  

The Scottish Baron Tweedmouth wanted a modern all-rounder for these challenges. He crossed yellow retrievers with a now-extinct spaniel breed in 1864 and later experimented with crossing Irish setters and bloodhounds.  

The Golden Retriever was created as a high-performance retriever for modern hunting. A hundred years later, it was to be faced with much more demanding tasks. It also mastered these with flying colors.  

In 1912 it was recognized as a dog breed in England. In 1954 it was recognized by the World Dog Association FCI.  

Golden Retriever Physical characteristics and appearance 

The Golden Retriever, or Goldie for short, is a strong, elegant, medium-sized to large dog with a friendly temperament. Its wavy fur with good feathering on the underside and the golden color that gave it its name make it unmistakable.  

Of course, today, you can find specimens with rather white fur. The standard allows any shade from gold to cream. The standard describes the overall appearance as symmetrical, harmonious, lively, powerful, balanced movement; robust with a friendly expression. 

Its fur shines like liquid gold in the sun. The dark brown eyes look friendly out of the pretty face. The retriever happily swings its feathered tailback and forth. In the Golden Retriever, beauty and an open mind go hand in hand. 

The Goldie is quite a strong, big dog. The height at the withers is 56 to 61 centimeters in males and 51 to 56 centimeters in bitches. The weight is not specified but is between 25 kilograms for bitches and a maximum of 34 for males. 

Golden Retriever Character traits  

The golden retriever has become a hugely popular dog in just a few years for a reason. Worldwide, it has long been number one on the popularity scale.  

Its strong development will make it easy for us humans to educate, guide, and train even for the most demanding tasks.  

A trained retriever for water hunting naturally loves fetching games. Well-trained, you could look good everywhere with it. Its services as an assistance dog alone ennoble the Golden Retriever as an excellent representative of the human-dog partnership. And it can do a lot more.  

In addition to this, it is also an excellent companion and family dog. It has a will to obedience, to work intelligently with a natural disposition. It is friendly, amiable, and trusting. 

A golden retriever always wants to work and has to work. A bored Goldie can work off its excess energy in the apartment or otherwise may become indisposed.  

There is hardly any other dog breed that is as versatile as the Golden Retriever. This dog is good to work with, be it professional or in canine sports. But don’t worry, you don’t have to. The Goldie is also suitable for a committed beginner. 

Golden Retriever Care, Health and Diseases 

The retriever is a tough breed of dog. Widespread hereditary diseases are successfully combated in serious breeding.   The life expectancy of a Golden Retriever is 10 to 12 years, according to the American Kennel Club  

A Golden Retriever is usually not a problem when it comes to nutrition. You should be very careful not to overfeed it; because it is often very hungry.  

The Gordon Setter vs Golden Retriever: a side-by-side comparison 

 The Golden Retriever  The Gordon Setter  
Origin Great Britain Great Britain  
Type Guide dogs, retrieving dogs, water dogs Hunting dog, companion dog 
Life expectancy 10 to 12 years 10 to 12 years  
Size Medium-sized breeds of dogs Medium-sized breeds of dogs  
Common diseases None  Hip dysplasia 
Fur length medium length Long  
Coat color cream, gold Black and tan  
gordon setter vs golden retriever
Gordon Setter vs Golden Retriever


The Gordon Setter is a beautiful and exciting hunting dog. It is not a companion for the city but needs challenges in nature. The Gordon Setter needs a personal connection with masters and their families.

Specially challenged and busy, it is an excellent family dog ​​and friendly with children. If the dog is physically or mentally under-challenged, this can lead to behavior problems in the long run. It doesn’t belong in an apartment or a big city. 

Meanwhile, the golden retriever is – like all retrievers – a hunting dog. But it can do a lot more. It makes an excellent companion and family dog. It is one of the most capable work partners and companions of man. It also loves dog sports such as mass sports, agility, or flyball.

The Golden Retriever is a working dog of the highest order. It is a tried and tested assistant with the customs and police, for example when looking for smuggled goods. It has helped save the lives of earthquake and avalanche victims countless times.  

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.