About Breed

The following pages under this heading are intended as a general guide for those who want to understand more about the English Setter as a breed and of its history.

If you are considering purchasing an English Setter, it is important that you understand the Characteristics and Temperament of the breed to determine whether it is appropriate for your lifestyle and that of your family. You should also be aware of the commitment you are making in terms of Training, Exercise, Grooming, etc. Finally, there are bound to be some questions for which you would like answers if you are considering one of the breed. Reputable breeders will always be willing to discuss the attributes of the breed and answer any questions you may have.  You will find a list of breeders kennels by clicking  ' Links page

By using this section of the web site just highlight About Breed and further details are available under the sub-headings.  If there are any others which you feel should be included, please email the ESA and we will attempt to include these in a later update to this web site.


Brief History

The English Setter is one of the oldest breeds of gundog, with a history that traces back to the 14th century. It was developed over hundreds of years from the spaniel and was originally called a Setting Spaniel, used for finding and setting birds. They would be worked on moorland, ranging out freely in front of the hunter, quartering the ground and looking for birds. When located, they would crouch (or set) and remain motionless facing the birds, often lifting a paw to indicate the position of the quarry. The hunters would then approach and lay nets so that on a given command, the dogs would rise and drive the birds into the nets. Use of the net continued until the late 18th century, but as use of the gun replaced the net, the term Setting Spaniel was replaced by that of Setter.  The original Setters were owned by noble families who kept them for their working abilities. There is no evidence of where these dogs originated, but it is quite likely that some were brought back from the Continent (Europe/Asia) following wars during those times. The Setters did not separate into the breeds we know today until the 19th century, although there were various recognised strains of Setter, named after the aristocratic families who kept them.

Laverack Setters
The modern English Setter owes its appearance to Mr Edward Laverack (1800-1877) who developed his own strain of the breed by careful inbreeding and selective line-breeding during the 19th century. The modern show-type of English Setter is frequently referred to as the Laverack-type. He was the author of the book entitled The Setter, published in 1872. This was considered to be the definitive book on the breed and was the basis for the creation of the English Setter Standard.

Llewellin Setters
Mr Richard Purcell Llewellin (1840-1925), based his strain upon Laverack's and concentrated on developing his ideal of the working setter by breeding a number of other strains with his own. The modern-day working setter is frequently referred to as the Llewellin-type.

ESA History
By the turn of the 20th century the English Setter had become established both as a working gundog and show dog. Some of the notable early breeders were from other gundog breeds but many of the renowned English Setter kennels soon became established. In the later part of the 1940’s the was a desire for a specialist English Setter breed club, tentative suggestions were put out in 1950 by Mr & Mrs W E Webster at the Birmingham show. Resulting from this in the spring of 1951 the English Setter Association was founded with Mr A C Crowther as President, Mr P H Holme as Chaiman and Mrs F Webster as Secretary amongst the 41 founding members. On 29th September 1951 the ESA held its first Open benched show. In 1954 the Kennel Club granted Championship Status with the first show being held on 25th September.   At Crufts English Setters have won Best In Show on three occasions.  The first being in 1964, Sh Ch Silbury Soames of Madavale owned by Mrs Ada Williams and bred by Mr & Mrs Phillip Gardiner-Swann. In 1977 the breed was represented Sh Ch Bournehouse Dancing Master bred and owned by Mr Gordon Williams and finally in 1988  Sh Ch Starlite Express of Valsett bred by  Mrs Ann Wick and owned by Mr & Mrs Joe Watkins.  There have also been 5 Reserve Best in Show winners at Crufts the last being in 2005 Sh Ch Bournehouse Royal Colours owned and bred by Mrs P Williams and who is also the current breed record holder with 48 Challenge Certificates.



TThe sight of a working English Setter in full flow, through purple heather, in search of the glorious grouse is difficult to equal. The elegant style, with head held high, quartering from side to side into the wind to find a trace of the elusive scent. Suddenly a faint touch of smell brings the dog to a halt, head facing into the wind, then quietly and slowly drawing forward towards the source, before stiffening to set the goal. On the request of the handler the dog moves forward and causes the birds to fly. When the birds lift the Setter then falls to the ground.

This breed has a strong hunting instinct with a sensitive nature which requires careful, consistent training. Happy to live in a home environment but only truly fulfilled when given the opportunity to function using their natural ability.
The English Setter is an expert at finding game birds, mainly grouse and partridge when the bird density is low. They are capable of covering wide areas of rough terrain at speed to locate their quarry.

Field Trials for Setters and Pointer are, in essence, a simulation of a shooting day and take part at selected times of the year. As part of the judge’s education programme they are requested to attend a field trial, many who attend return to enjoy further days.

Other than field trials there are two further awards available to the breed. The Show Gundog Working Certificate where a dog has to have qualified for Crufts before it can apply. The dog is tested by two field trial judges and has to prove it has hunted and pointed game and is under reasonable control. The dog must not be gun shy but absolute steadiness in not called for. Once this award is gained the dog holds the title of Champion. This is not to be confused with the title of Dual Champion which is when the dog has obtained the title of both Field Trial Champion and Show Champion.

For further information on 'The Working English Setter' there is a comprehensive chapter in the book "English Setters, Into The Millennium', from which the details and photograph ( FT CH Upperwood Jan the Jewel of Laverstoke on point) have been taken.



As one of its services to the Membership, the ESA publish a Yearbook which is a quality paperback publication in colour and includes:
List of Officers and Committee of ESA
Details of owners, breeders, and sire/dam of CC and Reserve CC winners
Breed Standard
Judging Criteria
List of Judges through all levels
List of Members
Rules of the ESA
Code of Ethics
Information from many kennels including photographs
A free copy of the Yearbook for members, which is usually distributed in early May. The annual Newsletter is posted to members in December.


English Setters 'Into The Millennium'
Published By: The English Setter Association (1999)

To celebrate the Millennium The English Setter Association decided to publish a book about the breed jointly written by many well-known top UK English Setter breeders. This comprehensive book is as relevant today as it was when written and is the ideal book for prospective, new and novice owners. Importantly it is also the ideal reference book for current owners and dog enthusiasts wishing find more information and to form an understanding of the breed.

The book contents are broken down into 14 highly informative chapters with quality photographs, line drawings, illustrative plates, a brief description for each chapter is shown below.

Chapters 1 & 2 give a history of both the English Setter and also the Association.

Chapter 3 describes the dedicated work of the English Setter Rescue Association which is operated totally independently of the ESA. The essential funds for English Setter Rescue are raised totally from voluntary donations, bequests and events organized by individuals, clubs and societies with lots more information concerning Rescue.

Chapter 4 gives information on the working English Setter, including training and Field Trials.

The health of our dogs is a very important to all owners and Chapter 5 covers all issues of health, general care, first aid, diseases & disorders, parasites,old age and other problems specific to Setters. 

A highly informative Chapter 6 describes the basics of genetics as it applies to breeders and owners of English Setters and is divided into several very clearly explained comprehensive sections.

The information from the last chapter will assist with Chapter 7's 'Breeding Considerations'. Breeding is a venture not to be taken lightly and this chapter guides you through important decisions.

Following on Chapter 8 guides you through the process of Planning, Whelping and Rearing a litter of puppies.

Chapter 9 takes you to 'Choosing & Caring for A Puppy' and covers purchasing your puppy. It includes the considerations made prior to purchase, sections on searching for a puppy, house training, socialisation, training and growing into adulthood.

Methods of Feeding is covered in Chapter 10 including ingredients and food choices.

Chapter 11 covers Trimming & Grooming and advice is given on trimming, be wary of using groomers who do not know the correct way of trimming English Setters otherwise the beautiful coat could be spoilt by over-use of clippers.

Perhaps you will decide to exhibit your Setter, Chapter 12 covers 'Preparation for Show', Chapter 13 'The Breed Standard', which gives The Kennel Clubs Breed Standard' together with an interpretation which is the blueprint in words for the breed. Following on is the final Chapter 14 'Well Known Kennels' details a history of many of the top Kennels & Breeders past and present. It outlines the influence these Kennels have made on the development of the breed to the present day.

This quality publication is available for only £8.00 including post and packaging.
For price for larger quantities please click  Contact Us about your enquiry.
To purchase this book please use the order form which is easily downloaded using this link - 
'Into the Millennium'

It’s here at last…
The Most Magical Adventure of All!
The Third Moon Map Chronicle
Mysteries and Miracles
Further magical adventures of an English Setter Pack
‘Two Books in One’ - 640 pages in two parts 

This quality book is richly illustrated with photographs and has 640 pages printed on a silk finish paper similar to the previous two books. 
Proceeds to ESA/Rescue
To order direct from The English Setter Association click Book to download Order Form
Also available at ESA shows & meetings price £8.00 or email: nina@rainbowsett.co.uk

Also available are book 1, 'Memories of a Moon Map' and book 2 'The Second moon Map Chronicles' by Nina Green

English Setters Ancient and Modern
Author: Margaret Barnes
Muffin Books (1982)
ISBN: 0-9507887-0-8
This is probably the definitive book on the history of English Setters in the UK and an essential book of over 400 pages for Breeders and Enthuiasts. It follows the origins of the breed from the 14th century through the developments made by Edward Laverack and Richard Purcell Llewellin in the 19th century, culminating in the achievements of some of the more recent breeders. It includes details of the breeding of a host of champions and features numerous photographs and illustrations. Other chapters include sections on Breeding & Inbreeding, The authors Interpretation of the Kennel Club Breed Standard, Judging & Exhibiting and a comprehensive section on General Management of English Setters. This book is now out of print and new copies we believe are no longer available.

The English Setter Association currently has one used book for sale.
£155.00 including P&P per copy.
For further information contact:-
Mrs V Isherwood
Tel. 01388 537688

email: laverstokesetters@hotmail.com

Kate Thomson has published her second book titled English Setter Show Champions and Champions 2000 - 2020. This book contains the colour photographs and pedigrees of nearly 200 dogs which have gained their titles in the last 20  years. 

setter setter

English Setter Show Champions and Champions 2000 - 2020, costs £15 which includes post and packing in UK. £18 to Europe and £21 to the rest of the world. It can be paid by cheque, bank transfer or PayPal. 

There are some copies of her previous book (shown on right), English Setter Show Champions and Champions 1987 - 2000, which are reduced to £7 including p & p in UK, £10 to Europe and £13 to the rest of the world.  Anyone wishing further information or to purchase either of the books email: katecaspellwynd@btinternet.com