The noble Gordon Setter is heavier than the Irish and English setter. He should be well muscled with good bone and substance though not so much as to appear sluggish. His sturdy, muscular appearance suggests stamina and power rather than speed. His high head carriage adds to his stylish, upstanding demeanour. In height they range from 23 to 27 inches and weigh from 45 to 80 pounds depending on age and sex. His outline is square. Black and tan colouring means he is more easily visible against snow or light coloured backgrounds.
The rounded skull is lean above and below the eyes. In shape, the dark brown eyes are more oval than round and have a wise expression. The ears are of thin leather and hang close to the head. The black nose is broad with open nostrils. The long, lean neck arches to the head. The topline is moderately sloping with a rather short back. The chest is deep and the ribs well sprung giving plenty of heart room. The tail is short and tapers to a fine point. It is thick at the base and carried horizontally or nearly so.
The forelegs of the Gordon setter have good bone, straight with no turning in or out of the elbows. The feet are cat-like with well arched toes and plenty of padding. There is much fur between the toes. Muscular hindquarters give a driving, bold gait with economical, long strides. He is a very well-balanced dog with great endurance, able to withstand a full day's work the field without tiring unduly.
Gordon Setters are black with tan markings. The tan may be either a rich chestnut or more a mahogany colour. There should be clear definition between the black and tan areas with no tan hairs mixing with the black. For show dogs, the tan markings required are: two spots over the eyes, on the muzzle, throat, chest, on the inside of the hind legs, on the forelegs and on the underside of the tail. For show purposes, such markings are further defined by exact size and position but most Gordon Setters make intelligent, able and loyal workers even if their tan spots are a fraction too big or small. Some have black striping on the toes and occasionally there may be a small white spot on the chest.
The soft, glossy coat is never curly but may be slightly wavy. Hair on the ears, under the stomach, on the chest, on the back of the legs and on the tail is longer. The feather on the tail becomes shorter towards the tip giving a triangular appearance from the root of the tail to the tip. The Gordon setter has a single coat which should be brushed regularly to prevent matting and to get rid of dead hairs and to remove debris. Check between the toes for burrs.
They are energetic and become very attached to their owners but take a while to warm to strangers. He occasionally suffers from lapses of obedience thus appearing stubborn. Even if not used for hunting, they want to share in their humans' lives and may demand their share of attention. Their laid back nature makes them a pleasure to have around the home. They make good family dogs, and as long as they have regular exercise they will be happy just being included in whatever's happening. They have a deep bark and will warn of anything unusual near their territory.
They may be jealous of other pets and dominant males may show some aggression to other dogs. They will not be happy if kept in the backyard and left to himself. This may result in destructive behaviours. Structured exercise for young dogs (who will be boisterous for what seems like years!) should be kept to a minimum but the adult dog needs regular exercise for his general fitness and to prevent him from becoming too fat. Being such a large dog, they should be supervised around toddlers. They enjoy pleasing their owners and learn by watching as well as doing.
Although there are some strains that are prone to hip dysplasia, the Gordon setter is mostly very healthy. The life span is around twelve years.
Originally bred as a personal bird dog, nowadays they are more likely to be a companion, a show dog or a competitor in obedience competitions. At one stage, his popularity waned in favour of pointers and faster breeds but he has always excelled as a one-man shooting dog.
The Gordon setter can be traced back to Scotland in the early 17th century. Always popular with hunters, Alexander, the fourth Duke of Gordon, took an especial interest in breeding these dogs and the name 'Gordon Setter' was given to the breed in his honour some time later. Originally Gordon Setters were black, white, tan or black and white as well as today's trademark black and tan. One source states Gordons were introduced to the USA by Daniel Webster while another source says George Blunt imported the first Gordon setter in 1842. The American Kennel Club recognised the Gordon setter in 1884.
So, if you're into a handsome dog to accompany you running, roller-blading or cycling, or even if you're not into these, you may just suit a Gordon setter.