Gordon Setter vs Irish Setter: What’s the Difference?

The Golden and the Irish Setter are two of the four descendants of the setter.  Hence, they are two similar dogs in features, characters, and, therefore, usage or application. But there are still distinct differences.  

The Gordon setter on the one hand is balanced, friendly, intelligent, and lively. On the other hand, the Irish Setter is persistent, spirited, extremely enthusiastic, charming, amiable, and affectionate 

In this Gordon Setter vs Irish Setter article, we will see the differences between the two in in-depth analyses and direct side-by-side comparisons.  

gordon setter vs irish setter
Gordon Setter vs Irish Setter: What’s the Difference?

The Gordon Setter 

The Gordon Setter is a reliable and calm hunting dog from England. In the profile, you will learn everything about the origin, nature, and attitude of this type of setter which hails from Scotland.  

Origin and History of the Gordon Setter 

The Gordon Setter’s roots lie in the English hunting dogs of the Middle Ages. Before there were firearms, hunters hunted game birds using nets. The dog’s job was to track down the bird without frightening it. 

The hunters were then able to throw their net over the bird so that it got entangled in it. Since only landowners were allowed to hunt, the landed gentry, in particular, owned such “setting dogs”.  

The hunting dogs were long-haired, but not of uniform color. Gradually, different variants developed. To breed the Gordon Setter, the English nobles crossed their dogs with spaniels, collies, pointers, and bloodhounds. 

In Scotland, a variant with a particularly noticeable black and red coat became known. Count Alexander Gordon from Banffshire devoted himself to the new breed, which then became known as the “Gordon Castle Setter”.  

In the middle of the 19th century, there were also numerous breeders in the north of England and Scotland. With the establishment of the English Kennel Club in 1873, the breed was officially recognized.  

From 1924, the breed was named “Gordon Setter”. The term setter is derived from the term “setting dog”. In addition to the Gordon, there is the English Setter, the Irish Red Setter, and the Irish Red and White Setter.  

Physical characteristics and appearance of the Gordon Setter 

The Gordon Setter is an elegant hunting dog with a harmonious body shape. Its neck is long and arched with a strong nape. The muzzle is long and distinct and the nostrils wide open.  

The drooping ears are long and hairy in the upper area. The attentive eyes are colored dark brown. The dogs carry their tails horizontally or in a slightly sickle shape.  

The fur of the setter is of medium length and almost free of curls. The hair is short and fine on the head and the front of the legs.  

The hair is uniformly deep black with a silky sheen. It is bright chestnut red on the front of the neck and the underside of the muzzle, as well as on the inside of the legs. 

Essence and character of the Gordon Setter

The friendly and well-balanced Gordon Setter is a classic pointing dog. As soon as it catches the scent of a wild animal while hunting, it remains motionless and points with its nose toward the prey. With appropriate training, the confident dogs raise their front paws and point at the game.  

The dogs develop a deep bond with their owner. They are suspicious of strangers but not aggressive. The upbringing is not difficult for experienced dog owners thanks to her great eagerness to learn and her sociable nature.  

The spirited dogs do not tend to be nervous and are suitable as family dogs. However, they are reluctant to be alone and would like to be integrated into the family. 

Activities with the Gordon Setter 

There is more to a Gordon Setter’s workload than just daily walks. The active dog wants to be challenged physically and mentally. The versatile setter is ideal for hunting. However, it also makes a good companion for active families.  

It is just as enthusiastic about hiking and jogging as it is about dog sports such as obedience or agility. Fetching games or dummy training are also great activities for the clever hound. The dog needs movement in all weathers.  

A physically or mentally under-challenged dog is more likely to misbehave. Therefore, make sure to keep your dog busy enough, but not overwhelming it. 

Health and care of the Gordon Setter

Gordon Setters from hunting breeding, in particular, are considered to be robust in terms of health. However, poor diet or lack of exercise can make it Develop hip dysplasia.  

Like every dog, the Gordon needs healthy, high-quality dog ​​food with high meat content. In general, however, dogs are considered to be easy to care for.  

Depending on the length of the coat and the use of the dog, you should brush the setter about once a week. 

The Irish Setter 

Origin and History of the Irish Setter 

The breed origin of the Irish Setter is seen in Spanish pointers as well as French spaniels. In the 17th century, an English breeder crossed setters, creating a red and white setter-like type.  

Only later did they select purely red dogs. The aim was a hunting dog that, in addition to pointing, could also be used to locate and retrieve game birds. Greyhounds, but also terriers, are less suitable for this task, as they tend to scare away the birds.

The setter’s task was to find game birds, to indicate it by lying down quietly or standing up, and thus to enable its master to catch or shoot them with nets. 

In 1882, the Irish Red Setter Club was founded, which provided a uniform breeding standard and working tests. Especially in England, the breed was popular as a hunting dog at the end of the 19th century, as it was ideal for the open terrain there. 

The Irish setter is considered to be the most elegant and beautiful of the setter breeds, which has also made them a popular family and show dog. However, one should not forget that it has a lot of energy and urge to work and has to be utilized accordingly. 

Behavior and Essence of the Irish Setter

First and foremost, an Irish Setter is a working dog and should be used as such. It has a very good nose, can fetch, and is willing to work. It is persistent, spirited, and extremely enthusiastic.  

With its people, the setter is considered charming, amiable, and affectionate. So it should be brought up without harshness but with friendly consistency. When underutilized or untrained, it can develop into a moderately aggressive dog due to its urge to work and its intelligence. 

When the Irish Setter was in vogue, quite nervous and unsafe specimens were discovered. This is by no means part of the breed standard, although the Irish setter has a high level of sensitivity. Purchased from a good breeder, the Irish Setter remains a sturdy and steadfast dog. 

Attitude and care of the Irish Setter

The Irish Setter is full of energy. It needs retrieval work as well as a lot of movement if you want to do it justice as a non-hunter.  

You can also engage it appropriately with training as a search or rescue dog. Daily long and active walks, regardless of the weather, are the bare minimum you can offer it.  

However, when used to capacity, it is a very pleasant dog to have in the house as it is people-related and quiet. The dog usually gets along well with children and other pets.  

Since it loves water and dirt doesn’t bother it, it rarely comes back from a walk in a socially acceptable manner. So its owner should be aware of this.  

Thanks to its attitude, the setter is rather unsuitable as a guard dog. It should also not be kept in the kennel but with close family ties. 

The setter naturally brings along the hunting instinct, which can be controlled with appropriate training and physical engagements. Free running is possible in areas that are rich in game. 

Irish Setter vs Gordon Setter: a side-by-side comparison 

 Irish setter Gordon Setter 
origin Ireland UK 
Life expectancy 12 to 15 years about 12 years 
FCI standard FCI group 7: Pointing dogs FCI group 7: Pointing dogs 
function Hunting dogs Hunting dogs 
size Large breeds of dogs Large breeds of dogs 
Common diseases none; Epilepsy, hip dysplasia, or stomach rotations are rarely experienced none 
Weight 24-32 kg 25-30 kg 
Fur length of moderate length with fringing medium length 
Character/essence family-friendly hunting dog intelligent, relaxed, courageous, friendly, balanced 
Coat color Maroon black with red markings 
gordon setter vs irish setter
Gordon Setter vs Irish Setter

Final Verdict 

The Gordon Setter on the one hand is slightly shorter and more muscular. It weighs around 25 to 30 kilograms and stands tall for about 23 to 27 inches. On the other hand, its brother, the Irish Setter is a bit lankier with long bones.

It weighs a bit less at around 24 kilograms but some can reach 32 kilograms. It’s taller than the Gordon at around 26 to 28 inches.  

The Gordon and Irish Setter needs a lot of exercise and mental exertion. Despite their original use for hunting, they are not only suitable for hunters or foresters. Even active nature lovers who like to hike or cycle will find a loyal companion in the breed.

Because of their size and their urge to move, the dogs are not suitable for a small city apartment. A large house with a garden is ideal for them.  

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.