History of the Irish Red and White Setter


It does not seem clear when the Irish Red and White Setter first appeared as a breed. However there is reference to "spaniels established in England, mostly white with red patches" by the 14th century. (Leighton-Boyce, G. 1973) It does appear that the name "spaniel" was used to describe dogs used for sport and not a particular breed type. By the 16th century "setting dogs" were referred to in numerous manuscripts and by the 17th century dogs resembling the Irish Red and White Setter appeared in numerous paintings. By the mid eighteenth century "setters" had become an essential and prized possession for the sporting country gentleman. The colour of the "setters" varied from almost all red, red with white paws, etc. white with red patches to almost completely white dogs.

irish red and white setter a favourite setterIn 1863 at the Rotunda Show in Dublin, both colours were exhibited but from this time onwards the "red setter" appears to take over the red and white setter in popularity. The revival of the Irish Red and White Setter begins in the early 1900's and a number of Irish people were responsible for getting the breed into its current situation.

The Setter painting 1812Reverend Noble Huston, Mr R Cleland, Mr & Mrs Cuddy to name but a few. A large amount of interbreeding of “Irish Red Setters" and "Irish Red and White Setters" has made the breed what it is today and we owe a lot to these pioneering people. In April 1977 Mrs Cuddy had a litter of puppies which contained one perfectly marked red and white dog puppy. Ann and Alan Gormley flew to Ireland and purchased this little dog puppy which was to have a remarkable influence on the future of the breed. He was named Harlequin of Knockalla and was certainly the dog which started a great amount of interest in the United Kingdom.

Harlequin of KnockallaIn 1980 Alan decided to enter Harlequin at Crufts as his Green Star wins in Ireland qualified him for entry - but "Irish Red and White Setters" were unknown in England at this time and he was classed as an "Irish Red Setter" and benched in the middle of them all. I can still remember to this day the attention this dog received and this sparked off my interest and the interest of numerous other people in this country to further the development of the breed.

If you are interested in finding out more about the history of this beautiful breed then please contact me via email or through the Cormallen Gundogs Blog.


Leighton-Boyce, G. (1973). Irish Setters. London: Arthur Barker Limited.