Irish Red and White Setter

Also known as the Particoloured Setter, this breed was originally developed to work with falcons, and in medieval times was known as the Falconer Dog. It was also used with nets. The fact that it lay down when it located the game made it easier for the hunters to throw their nets over the crouching birds. Later, when firearms were more advanced, it became a useful gun dog.


This is the traditional Irish Setter, the favourite breed in Ireland before the Red Setter swept all before it. Apart from its coat colour, it differs very little from the more famous Red Setter, although close inspection does reveal that it has a higher-set ear, a slightly shorter, wider, heavier body, and less extreme feathering. In other words it remains closer to the original working setter, than the glamorized ‘show-business’ Red Setter.

In 18th-century there were three colour types of Irish Setter: (1) the Red and White; (2) the Solid Red; and (3) the Shower of Hail. This last type, sometimes known simply as the ‘Hail’; red coat with white spots. It was always rare and many believe that it has long since vanished altogether, but as recently as 1998 one of these Hail Setters appeared in a litter of all-reds.

The Red and White was preferred to the Solid Red Irish Setter because hunters felt that, with its conspicuous white patches, it was easier to see in the field. There was a fear that the Solid Red Irish Setter, crouching in the long grass, might not be seen clearly and could accidentally be shot. However, in the 19th century, when dog shows began, the Solid Red animal became an instant success and soon overshadowed its more traditional relative. The Irish Red and White Setters started to disappear all over Ireland and only a few survived in the more remote corners.

By the 1940s, interest in this now rare breed had started to swell again and its numbers slowly increased. A specialist breed club was formed and, by the 1970s, a special committee was formed to monitor the breeds progress. By 1987 the Kennel Club in London had conferred championship status on the Irish Red and White Setter, and its future, at last, seemed assured. Today there are about 200 new registrations at the Kennel Club each year. Some Red and Whites have crossed the Atlantic and there is now also a specialist breed club in the US.


The Red and White is a very alert dog, intelligent and friendly with an excellent scenting ability. This makes it an ideal shooting companion as well as a family pet.


Heavy in bone, the breed has a muscular body; a deep chest; a firm back and loin; a wide, domed head with a clearly defined stop; slightly prominent, round dark eyes; pendant ears set level with eyes; an angular, sharp muzzle with a scissor bite; and arched and moderately muscled powerful jaws. The color is a clear parti-color on a white base, with red patches of various sizes.


In general, the Red and White is a remarkably healthy breed and happily has not succumbed to some of the prevalent hereditary conditions seen in its all-red cousin. Having said this, prudent breeders should keep a watchful eye on breeding stock, checking in particular for any eye or hip abnormalities.

Special Care and Training

The breed needs regular grooming to keep its feathering free from knots and tangles. The breed is easy to keep clean, its coat being naturally silky in texture and when bathed it dries very quickly. It thrives on human companionship and requires plenty of regular exercise once adulthood has been reached. Early regular training is advisable and should be persisted with. The Red and White’s high hearing perceptibility makes it very responsive to whistle-training.

Puppies and Training

The three to five puppies per litter are strong and easy to raise. The tail should be docked within one week of birth.

Gallery of Irish Red and White Setter