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The Canadian Kennel Club

Official Breed Standard for the Setter (Irish)


General Appearance: The Irish Setter is an active, aristocratic bird-dog, rich red in colour, substantial yet elegant in build. Standing over two feet tall at the shoulder, the dog has a straight, fine, glossy coat, longer on ears, chest, tail and back of legs. Afield he is a swift-moving hunter; at home, a sweet-natured, trainable companion. His is a rollicking personality. At his best the lines of the Irish Setter so satisfy in over-all balance that artists have termed him the most beautiful of all dogs. The correct specimen always exhibits balance whether standing or in motion. Each part of the dog flows and fits smoothly into its neighbouring parts without calling attention to itself.


Size: There is no disqualification as to size. The make and fit of all parts and their over-all balance in the animal are rated more important. A height of 27 in. (69 cm) at the withers with a show weight of about 70 lb. (32 kg) is considered ideal for a dog; the bitch, 25 in. (64 cm), 60 lb. (27 kg). Variance beyond 1 inch (3 cm) up or down to be discouraged.


Coat and Colour: Short and fine on head, forelegs and tips of ears; on all other parts, of moderate length and flat. Feathering long and silky on ears; on back of forelegs and thighs long and fine, with a pleasing fringe of hair on belly and brisket extending onto the chest. Feet well feathered between the toes. Fringe on tail moderately long and tapering. All coat and feathering as straight and free as possible from curl or wave. Colour: mahogany or rich chestnut red, with no trace of black. A small amount of white on chest, throat or toes, or a narrow centered streak on skull, is not to be penalized.


Head: Long and lean, its length at least double the width between the ears. The brow is raised, showing a distinct stop midway between the tip of the nose and the well-defined occiput (rear point of skull). Thus the nearly level line from occiput to brow is set a little above, and parallel to, the straight and equal line from eye to nose. The skull is oval when viewed from above or front; very slightly domed when viewed in profile. Beauty of head is emphasized by delicate chiselling along the muzzle, around and below the eyes, and along the cheeks. Muzzle moderately deep, nostrils wide, jaws, of nearly equal length. Upper lips fairly square but not pendulous, the underline of the jaws being almost parallel with the topline of the muzzle. Nose black or chocolate. The teeth meet in a scissors bite in which the upper incisors fit close ly over the lower, or they may meet evenly. Eyes somewhat almond-shaped, of medium size, placed rather well apart; neither deep-set nor bulging. Colour: dark to medium brown. Expression soft yet alert. Ears set well back and low, not above level of eye. Leather thin, hanging in a neat fold close to the head, and nearly long enough to reach the nose.


Neck: Moderately long, strong but not thick, and slightly arched; free from throatiness, and fitting smoothly into the shoulders.


Forequarters: Shoulder blades long, wide, sloping well back, fairly close together at the top and joined in front to long upper arms angled to bring the elbows slightly rearward along the brisket. Forelegs straight and sinewy, the elbows moving freely. All legs sturdy, with plenty of bone, and strong, nearly straight pasterns.


Body: Sufficiently long to permit a straight and free stride. Topline of body from withers to tail slopes downward without sharp drop at croup. Chest deep, reaching approximately to the elbows; rather narrow in front. Ribs well sprung. Loins of moderate length, muscular, and slightly arched.


Hindquarters: Hindquarters should be wide and powerful with broad, well developed thighs. Hind legs long and muscular from hip to hock, short and nearly perpendicular from hock to ground; well angulated at stifle and hock joints, which, like the elbows, incline neither in nor out. Feet rather small, very firm, toes arched and close.


Tail: strong at root, tapering to a fine point, about long enough to reach the hock. Carriage straight or curving slightly upward, nearly level with the back.


Gait: At the trot the gait is big, very lively, graceful and efficient. The head is held high. The hindquarters drive smoothly and with great power. The forelegs reach well ahead as if to pull in the ground, without giving the appearance of a hackney gait. The dog runs as he stands - straight. Seen from the front or rear, the forelegs, as well as the hind legs below the hock joint, move perpendicularly to the ground, with some tendency towards a single track as speed increases. But a crossing or weaving of the legs, front or back, is objectionable.




Almond eyes: The eye set in surrounding tissue of almond shape. The eye itself is always round, its "shape" as designated in breed standards signifying the contour of the surrounding flesh.


Amble: A relaxed, easy gait in which the legs on either side move almost, but not quite, as a pair. Often seen as the transition movement between the walk and faster gaits.


Angulation: The angles formed by a meeting of the bones, mainly the shoulder and upper arm, stifle and hock.


Bad mouth: Crooked or unaligned teeth, bite over or undershot in excess of standard specifications.


Balanced: A consistent whole; symmetrical, typically proportioned as a whole or as regards it separate parts; i.e. balance of head, balance of body, or balance of head and body.


Bird-dog: a sporting dog trained to hunt birds.


Birdy: a dog with strong bird-hunting instincts.


Bitch: A female dog.


Bite: The relative position of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed. See Level bite, Scissors bite, Undershot, Overshot.


Bodied up: mature, well developed.


Bone: The relative size (girth) of a dog's leg bones; substance.


Brisket: The forepart of the body below the chest, between the forelegs, closest to the ribs.


Chest: The part of the body or trunk that is enclosed by the ribs.


Chiselled: Clean-cut in head, particularly beneath the eyes.


Coat: The dog's hair covering.


Condition: Health as shown by the coat, state of flesh, general appearance, and deportment.


Covering ground: The ratio of the distance between the ground and brisket and the distance between the front and rear legs, as in "covers too much ground".


Cow-hocked: When the hocks turn towards each other.


Crabbing: Dog moves with its body at an angle to the line of travel. Also know as "sidewinding", "sidewheeling" or "yawing".


Croup: Section from hip bones to tail set.


Crown: The highest part of the head. The topskull.


Dewclaw: An extra claw or functionless digit on the inside of the leg; a rudimentary fifth toe.


Dog: a male dog, also collectively used to designate both male and female.


Domed: Convex topskull.


Down in pastern: Weak or faulty pastern set at a pronounced angle from the vertical.


Drive: A solid thrusting of the hindquarters, denoting sound locomotion.


Elbow: The joint between the upper arm and the forearm.


Elbows out: Turning out or off from the body, not held close.


Even bite: Meeting of front teeth at edges with no overlap of upper or lower teeth.


Expression: The general appearance of all features of the head as viewed from the front and as typical of the breed.


Eye-teeth: the upper canines.


Feathering: Longer fringe or hair on ears, legs, tail or body.


Feet east and west: The toes turned out.


Fiddle front: Forelegs out at elbows, pasterns close, and feet turned out.


Flank: The side of the body between the last rib and the hip.


Flews: Upper lips pendulous, particularly at their inner corners.


Forearm: The bone of the foreleg between the elbow and the pastern.


Foreface: The front part of the head, before the eyes; muzzle.


Front: The forepart of the body as viewed head on; i.e. forelegs, chest, brisket, and shoulder line; also front assembly.


Furnishings: The long hair on the foreface of certain breeds; also feathering.


Gait: The manner in which a dog walks, trots, or runs; also movement.


Gun dog: A dog trained to work with its master in finding live game and retrieving game that has been shot.


Hackney action: The high lifting of the front feet, like that of a hackney horse.


Haw: a third eyelid or membrane in the inside corner of the eye.


Height: Vertical measurement from the withers to the ground. See withers.


Hindquarters: Rear assembly of dog (pelvis, thighs, hocks, and paws).


Hock: The tarsus or collection of bones of the hind leg forming the joint between the second thigh and the metatarsus; the dog's true heel.


Hocks well let down: Hock joints close to the ground.


Hocking out: Spread hocks.


Incisors: The upper and lower front teeth between the canines.


In-shoulder: Shoulders pointing in, and not parallel with the back bone, a fault found in dogs with shoulder blades too far forward on chest.


Jowls: Flesh of lips and jaws.


Knee joint: Stifle joint.


Knitting and purling: unsound gaiting action which starts with twisting elbows and ends with criss-crossing and toeing-out.


Knuckling over: Faulty structure of carpus (wrist) joint allowing it to double forward under the weight of the standing dog; double-jointed wrist, often with slight swelling of the bones.


Layback: The angle of the shoulder blade as compared with the vertical; also, a receding nose accompanied by an undershot jaw.


Leather: The flap of the ear.


Level bite: When the front teeth (incisors) of the upper and lower jaws meet exactly edge to edge; pincer bite; even bite.


Level gait: Dog moves without rise or fall of withers.


Loaded shoulders: When the shoulder blades are shoved out from the body by over-development of the muscles.


Loin: region of the body on either side of the vertebral column between the last ribs and the hindquarters.


Molars: Dog has four premolars on each side of the upper and lower jaw. There are two true molars on each side of the upper jaw, and three on each side of the lower jaw. Upper molars have three roots, lower have two roots.


Moving close: When the hocks turn in and pasterns drop straight to the ground and move parallel to one another, the dog is "moving close" in the rear. This action places sever strain on ligaments and muscles.


Moving straight: term descriptive of balanced gaiting in which angle of inclination begins at the shoulder or hip joint, and limbs remain relatively straight from these points to the pads of the feet, even as the legs flex or extend in reaching or thrusting.


Muzzle: The head in front of the eyes - nasal bone, nostrils, and jaws; foreface.


Neck well set-on: Good neckline, merging gradually with strong withers, forming a pleasant transition into topline.


Nose: organ of smell; also, the ability to detect by means of scent.


Oblique shoulders: Shoulders well laid back.


Occiput: Upper, back bone of the skull.


Occipital protuberance: A prominently raised occiput characteristic of some gun-dog breeds


Out at elbows: Elbows turning out from the body as opposed to being held close.

Out at shoulder: With shoulder blades loosely attached to the body, leaving the shoulders jutting out in relief and increasing the breadth of the front.


Overreaching: fault in the trot caused by more angulation and drive from behind than in front, so that the rear feet are forced to step to one side of the forefeet to avoid interfering or clipping.


Overshot: The front teeth (incisors) of the upper jaw overlap and do not touch the front teeth of the lower jaw when the mouth is closed.


Pace: A gait at which the left foreleg and the left hind leg advance in unison, then the right foreleg and right hind leg. Pacing tends to produce a rolling motion of the body.


Paddling: A gaiting fault, so named for its similarity to the swing and dip of a canoeist's paddle. Pinching at the elbows and shoulder joints cause the front legs to swing forward on a stiff outward arc.


Pastern: Leg below the knee of the front leg or below the hock of the hind leg.


Pitching: Severe rocking of the haunches as the rear legs swing forward in a wide arc rather than flexing normally at the stifle and hock.


Pounding: gaiting fault resultant of dog's stride being shorter in front than in the rear; forefeet strike the ground hard before the rear stride is expended.


Racy: Slight in build and long in legs.


Roach back: A convex curvature of the back towards the loin.


Rolling gait: Swaying, ambling action of the hindquarters when moving.


Scissor's bite: A bite in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors.


Setter: Any of a breed of longhaired bird dog; they are trained to find the game and point out its position by standing rigid (formerly by crouching).


Shoulder height: height of dog's body as measured from the shoulders to the ground.


Sickle hocked: Inability to straighten the hock joint on the back reach of the hind leg.


Single tracking: All footprints falling on a single line of travel. When a dog breaks into a trot, his body is supported by only two legs at a time, which move as alternating diagonal pairs. To achieve balance, his legs angle inward toward a center line beneath his body, and the greater the speed, the closer they come to tracking on a single line.


Smooth coat: Short hair, close lying.


Snipey: A pointed, weak muzzle.


Soundness: Free from flaws or defects, firm and strong.


Spring of ribs: Curvature of ribs for heart and lung capacity.


Sternum: breastbone.


Stifle: The joint of the hind leg between the thigh and the second thigh or dog's knee.


Stop: The step-up from the muzzle to skull; indentation between the eyes where the nasal bone and skull meet.


Straight-hocked: lacking appreciable angulation at the hock joints; straight behind.


Straight shoulders: The shoulder blades rather straight up and down, as opposed to sloping or "well laid back".


Tail-set: How the base of the tail sets on the rump.


Thigh: The hindquarter from hip to stifle.


Throatiness: An excess of loose skin under the throat.


Topline: The dog's outline from just behind the withers to the tail set.


Trot: A rhythmic two-beat diagonal gait in which the feet at diagonally opposite ends of the body strike the ground together, i.e. right hind with left front and left hind with right front.


Twisting hocks: A gaiting fault in which the hock joints twist both ways as they flex or bear weight.


Type: The characteristic qualities distinguishing a breed; the embodiment of a standard's essentials.


Undershot: The front teeth (incisors) of the lower jaw overlapping or projecting beyond the front teeth of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed.


Upper arm: The humerus or bone of the foreleg, between the shoulder blade and the forearm.


Well let down: Having hocks close to the ground.


Withers: The peak of the dorsal vertebrae; the highest part of the body just behind the neck and between the shoulders.


Wry mouth: Lower jaw does not line up with the upper jaw.

Copyrightę All Rights Reserved, Brenda & Bob Gibson, 2009