IRISH RED AND WHITE SETTER
The red/whites may actually predate the solid reds. The coat of arms of the Irish Nash family bears three red and white setters, and Sir Thomas Staples of County Tyrone and Evans of Gortmerron kept red/whites in the 18th century. Lord Rossmore of Monaghan can boast the same tradition and, indeed, the Red and White is, to this day, occasionally referred to locally as the Rossmore Setter.
Nevertheless, by the turn of the 19th century, while the solid red continued his rise to fame on both sides of the Atlantic, his spotted brothers retreated to remote areas of Ireland. They never completely disappeared, however. Being a recessive, the spotted dogs can, and still do, occasionally crop up in red litters. A few Irishmen, over the years, preferred to hunt over the more easily seen red/whites. A rare breeder or two also stubbornly continued to foster the type. The Reverend Noble Huston of County Down, Ireland, bred the variety in the early part of this century to keep the red-and-white flame alive.
In the 1940s, a breed club was formed, especially to foster the hunting qualities of the red-white. Shortly after, the Cuddys of County Cork, Ireland, began their interest in the breed; nearly all modern specimens trace their pedigree back to Cuddy dogs. In the early 1970s, the Irish Kennel Club awarded the task of monitoring the present-day revival to the Irish Red Setter Club. They created a committee to monitor all pups prior to registration, because the breed base was so small and crossings to the Red are close up in most pedigrees. From a low of seven registered animals at that time, the “Red-n-White” has begun a slow climb to full recognition. Owners of a red/white litter hi Ireland, until recently, had to take them to the breed committee for the approval signature! To the credit of the Red Club and its wholehearted cooperation, the Red and White is now regarded as self-sufficient.
A dog belonging to the Gormleys of County Dublin was entered at Crufts in 1980, in the “Any Variety Not Separately Classified” class. So unknown was the breed that the show committee tried to switch the entry into the Irish Red Setter class! Full championship status was given to the breed at Crufts in 1987, much to the pride of those who worked so hard for him. A few of the Red-n-Whites have been brought into the United States, where owners formed a breed club and interest is growing.
Character and appearance of the two breeds are very similar, with a few minor exceptions. The Red/Whites have a higher set ear, are a bit shorter, wider and sturdier of body, and have less of the long, heavy feathering. The practical hunter, unlike the show dog enthusiast, finds excessive feathering a bother. The Red/White probably looks very similar to the Irish (Red)
Setter of 100 years ago! In temperament, the spotted dogs have “the same joyous exuberance as their Red cousins but are less forthcoming with strangers.” Ann Millington interjects that “they are ‘thinking’ dogs and consider you well before deciding you are worthy of their friendship.”
They still make good practical gun dogs and are particularly known for their stamina. Stories such as that of the field trial dog from bygone days, who ran ten miles behind his master’s carriage to the trial grounds and then home again at night, are common. Color has to be carefully monitored, and dogs with an excess of ticking (roan, or belton, patterns like the English Setter) are faulted. A note of interest: 150 years ago there was described a third color of Irish Setter, called a “Shower of Hail” Setter, which was an all-over, heavily ticked pattern.