Standard and Description of The Gordon Setter

Gordon Setter Standard

Discussions taken with permission from The Complete Gordon Setter
by Anita Lustenberger & Jean Sanger Look,
Howell Publishing, 1984-1989.

Interpretation |  Coat & Markings |  Head |   Neck & Forequarters |  Body |  Hindquarters & Tail |  Gait

Pictorial Comparison


Editor’s Note: The interpretation and discussions are taken from The Complete Gordon Setter and refer to the AKC Gordon Setter Standard.  Where appropriate, reference to the Irish Red & White Setter Standard has been added here in [ ] brackets.


The most understandable discussion of the Gordon Setter standard has to be based on full appreciation of the basic structural differences among the three setters as well as the unique hunting style of each.

All too often we find articles on How to Trim the Setter – as though all [four] could be handled the same.  Statues are made, one shape of the dog, [four] colours.  Anatomical drawings are presented, lectures delivered far and wide on the basis that one Setter is just like the other in build.

Not so! No less an authority than Mrs. Bede Maxwell puts it in a nutshell. In her splendid book, The Truth About Sporting Dogs, she says, “The English is basically a Spaniel, the Irish is basically a scent hound. The Gordon partakes of both groupings.”

The General Impression paragraph in the Gordon standard emphasizes many of the more obvious differences between him and his cousins. By referring to him as “… good sized, sturdily built … well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance…” the picture is drawn which sets him apart. Further comments such as, “He has a strong, rather short back, with well-sprung ribs, and a short tail. The head is fairly heavy…” add to the visual differences. Finally, by stressing that “He suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed” it becomes obvious that we are aiming at a Setter that is quite different from the smaller English and more racy Irish [Irish Red and White calls for “athletic rather than racy.”] This is confirmed by the weight and height requirements.

CKC Standard States:

General Impression: A good sized sturdily built dog, well muscled, with plenty of bone and substance, but active, upstanding and stylish, appearing capable of doing a full days work in the field. Strong, rather short back, well-sprung ribs and short tail, a fairly heavy head, finely chiselled, intelligent, noble and dignified expression, showing no signs of shyness; clear colours and straight or slightly waved coat. A dog that suggests strength and stamina rather than extreme speed.

Symmetry and quality are most essential. A dog well balanced in all points if preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects.


General impression – Unintelligent appearance. The bloodhound type with heavy and big head and ears and clumsy body, as well as the Collie type with its pointed muzzle and curved tail or showing signs of shyness

AKC Standard Adds:

A smooth, free movement, with high head carriage, is typical.

Temperament: The Gordon Setter is alert, gay, interested, and confident. He is fearless and willing, intelligent and capable. He is loyal and affectionate, and strong-minded enough to stand the rigors of training.