Ireland’s representative to the setter family came into popular notice early in the eighteenth century. Within a hundred years, the breed was firmly established, but his origin is open to guesswork. One theory is that he developed from a cross between the Irish Water Spaniel and the Irish Terrier. More common though, is the theory that he comes from a different combination: the English and Gordon setter, the Spaniel and the Pointer.
Earlier specimens of the Irish setter were rarely self-colored. The were usually red and white, frequently with the white predominating. Even today parti-colored dogs are seen in Ireland, but in the US only solid colored individuals, or individuals with small and inconspicuous white markings are acceptable.
The Irishman is a rough and rugged dog – he does not tire easily and does not readily get stiff or sore. Once trained on birds, he is trained for the rest of his life; he does not need to be retrained every year. In contrast to his ruggedness, he is a dog of exceptional beauty and elegance. This combination almost proved fatal for him as a hunting dog. Because of his great beauty, he became almost exclusively a contender in the show ring, although he had already proven his ability working in the field and in field trials. Today, though, there is a prominence in field trials. But whether as a show dog or as a field dog, the Irish Setter rewards his owner with a beautiful appearance, an affectionate personality and a worthy performance.