Founded in 1967

History of the Breed

HistoryHistory of the Breed

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.

List of Recommended Reading

The following list of publications will provide additional information about the breed.

Breed Specialist Books





The Setter

Edward Laverack

Lynn Hamilton



The English Setter

Valerie Foss



The English Setter (1975)

Leslie Allan-Scott

K&R Publications


The English Setter (1989)

Leslie Allan-Scott

Popular Dogs Publishing Co.


English Setters Ancient and Modern

Margaret Barnes

Muffin Books


English Setters into the Millenium

The English Setter Association

The English Setter Association


The English Setter Handbook

Clifford Hubbard

Nicholson & Watson


English Setters, Champions & Show Champions 1947 – 1987

Kaye Bliss

Kaye Bliss (1988)


English Setters, Champions & Show Champions 1987 – 2000

Kate Thomson

Kate Thomson (2000)


The NEW Complete English Setter

Davis H Tuck

Howell Book House


A Survey of English Setters

Gilbert Leighton-Boyce



English Setter

Juliette Cunliffe

Interpet Publishing