History of the Irish red and white setter

There are many theories concerning the origins of the Irish Red and White Setter.   The dogs of today can only be traced back to the 18th century but there are many documents and pictures of dogs resembling the Red & White and described as 'Spaniels', (The term used then for any sporting dog at the time), dating back to the 14th century.

It was in the 16th century that the term 'Setting Dogs' appears to have started and from this point there are a number of paintings of 'Setting Dogs' that include white dogs with red patches.

In the 18th century, 'Setters' had become popular with the sporting gentry in Ireland.   The colour of these varied from red dogs, through red dogs with white patches, white dogs with red patches to some that were almost entirely white.  It was also at this time that Lord Rossmore was breeding Irish Red & White Setters and trying to keep them separate from the 'Red' Setters however the 'Red' Setter was increasing in popularity and by the end of the 19th century it was feared that the Red & White had become extinct.

It had not, but had survived unregistered on farms around the country.

In the early 20th century after the First World War efforts were made to revive the breed.  It was the work of people like Reverend Nobel Houston, Mr R Cleland and Mr & Mrs Cuddy to name a few, that selectively bred the Red & White to produce the forbearers of today's dogs.

In the UK the interest in the Red & White has been acclaimed to one dog, Harlequin of Knockella who can be found in the pedigrees of many of today's dogs.  He was bought by Ann and Alan Gormley from Mrs Cuddy in 1977.  He was shown in Ireland and attained qualifications that enabled him to be shown at Crufts in 1980.

As the Red & White was unknown in England at the time he was classed an an Irish Red Setter and was subject to a lot of attention on the benches among his red cousins.   It was the interest he generated that helped with the revival of the breed in the UK over the last 20 years.