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Working Wednesday: The Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is the largest of the Setter category which includes the better known English Setter and Irish Setter. Setters are part of the Gundog category in the UK Kennel Club and the original purpose for the breed was to hunt game birds. Here in the UK, their quarry may be partridge, grouse, pheasant, ptarmigan, snipe or woodcock. Overseas they are worked on quail, willow grouse, guinea fowl and sagehen.

Setter Fun Facts:

  • They are named after The Fourth Duke Of Gordon, originally being called the black-and-tan setters.

  • Original Gordons were Black and White or Black/White and Tan

  • They are a vulnerable breed, therefore you could be waiting over a year for a puppy.

  • They are the largest in the Setter category, with males weighing up to 36kg and 27 inches tall.

  • Gordon Setters are one of the slowest breeds to mature and can be 3 years of age when they hit their prime.


The Fourth Duke Of Gordon - Alexander Gordon is credited with establishing the Gordon Setter. The home of these setters is at Gordon Castle, North of Fochabers, a village in Scotland, where he established his kennel of Black and Tan Gordon Setters. He bred them to work on the moor, so these dogs were prized on working ability rather than looks. It was not until later that appearance started to matter, originally they were either all black, white and tan, black and white or black and tan.

Setters are thought to descend from the 'Setting Spaniel', many of these were bred on large shooting estates - primarily to find grouse by quartering the ground to locate and point birds. This trait has stayed with the breed and they will naturally hunt, covering vast areas in short time and point when they have game scent under their nose.

Gordon Setter numbers decreased during the first half of the 20th Century, as the large shooting estates themselves went into decline. In 1923 only 54 Black and Tan Setters were registered with the Kennel Club. Throughout this period the Gordon Setter was rarely seen outside Scotland and by the end of the Second World War the Gordon was becoming more popular as a family pet rather than its traditional role as a working gundog.

Today’s more modern name of the Gordon Setter was granted by the Kennel Club in 1924, in honour of the late 4th Duke of Gordon and the breed has been known as that ever since. Of the differing setter types the Gordon is considered to be both the biggest and heaviest. Whilst they may be lacking the speed of the other Setters and of the Pointer, the Gordon is renowned for its stamina in the field. As a breed Gordons are generally late in maturing, not in their prime until 3 years old or more therefore they require firm handling when young to respond well to training. Despite this late development aside of their ability to work in the field, they make excellent pets.

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