Tag Archives: red gordon setter

Musings on Color

The following includes many excerpts from the article “Musings on Color” published on the blogspot Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover written by Stephanie.

I’ve added my own thoughts and comments to embellish and round out the information for the Gordon Setter lover and breeder.

Setters 1805 - sydenham-edwards-the-setter-1805
This 1805 depiction of “setters” appears in the Cynographia Britannica. Note the black and tan setter and the red setter with the white face. The white dogs was also considered a Setter and it is speculated that these may all be litter mates.

Musings of a Biologist and Dog Lover

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Gordon setter is one of a small number of setter breeds, which also includes the English setter, Irish setter, and Irish red and white setter. Though the Gordon Setter now only comes in one acceptable color, the breed’s history included a number of other colors that are now considered to be mismarks. Part of why these colors are in the breed is due to its relationship with the other setters. So, what are these mismarks?

Dogs with more or less than than required in the standard  

*Based on the current breed standard the Gordon Setters depicted in this artwork from the 1940’s carry too much tan.

Inherited on the Brown locus, a dog must be bb to be liver

Liver Gordon
Liver colored Gordon Setter


Inherited on the Extension locus, a dog must be ee to be recessive red

Barn hunt image 2
Red Gordon Setter


Inherited on the Spotting locus, a dog with a variety of genotypes can have too much white

Looking at these mismarks, they are all recessively inherited except in dogs that are genetically solid but have too much residual white. All of theses colors were well known when the breed was young. Much like the Irish setter, the predominant color in the early years of the breed is actually not what you think it would be when looking at modern dogs. Gordons were once mostly tricolor with some dogs being solid black and tan, liver, or red, but the white markings and other colors fell out of favor and led to the production of the breed you see today.

The current breed standard for the Gordon only allows for black and tan dogs with specific tan markings. Dogs that are anything other than black and tan are disqualified and anything more than a small bit of white on the chest is not allowed. A dog with more or less than the required tan would be penalized, despite the fact that tan markings can vary greatly on dogs that are all genetically tan pointed. So far, it is known that there are modifiers that control this amount of tan, but it isn’t known where they are or how they are inherited.

This is a case where color standard is based on, basically, fashion. What once was popular was no longer liked by those who wrote the breed standard, and thus those other colors faded into obscurity. However, since the colors are basically all recessively inherited, they continue to pop up on occasion in litters that are born today. These past decisions are really problematic when looking at the breed’s history and what this holds for the future.   Stephanie

Sally says…It is at this point that as a breeder of Gordon setters I would step in to say that I disagree with Stephanie’s call that the Gordon’s color standard (black and tan) is based on fashion and that this preference is problematic for the breed.

The color preference written into the standard was developed well over a century ago by avid bird dog breeders. They didn’t have an eye to fashion when it came to writing their standard, but they did know exactly what kind of dog they wanted to hunt over, as well as why those traits, written into the standard, were important to them. It has been my understanding that the vivid black and tan coloring of the Gordon Setter may have been written into the standard as the preferred color because of it’s contrast to the gold, tan and red foliage of the fall hunting season, the black dog contrasting, standing out against the fall foliage, making it far easier for the hunter to follow the dog while he worked the field. A red or buff dog, even a white and tan dog would more easily blend into the foliage, his coat acting to camouflage him as he worked the field. And, with the deaf link to the white gene it is certainly understandable why white was weeded out as an allowed color.

If there are other history buffs out there who can offer more insight as to the color preference we’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll share those and any references for us in the comment section of this article.

Anita Aronsson, Sweden shared this stunning link to photos of Gordon Setters in many colors and patterns, be sure to check it out by clicking here!

We’d also welcome your photos, if you have some to share, of red, liver, or other mismarked Gordons to be shared here to help others learn.  Please email those to us at gordonsetterexpert@gmail.com, we will respect your privacy and photos can be published anonymously.

Charlie Royster was kind enough to share this example of Gordon Setter color photo with usColor example

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ






Barn Hunt Fun for Gordon Setters

Today’s Guest Blogger – Ellen Smith from Columbus OH may sometimes have difficulty convincing folks that her red Gordon Setter is in fact a Gordon and not an Irish, but she and Jura had absolutely no trouble convincing judges to award him the three Qualifying scores he needed to become the first Gordon Setter to earn a Barn Hunt title! Thank you so very much for sharing your story with us Ellen!

Gordon doing barn huntEllen Smith – Columbus OH

Last year I took my Gordon Setter and my mixed breed rescue dog to try out the new sport of Barn Hunt.  The sport was created by founder Robin Nuttall who is quoted as saying “we have made Barn Hunt fun, challenging, a great breed instinct test for working terriers, and a just plain fun time for anybody else who wants to try it. I hope you join us on our journey.

Much more information about the sport will be found on the website Barn Hunt Association LLC .  In order to compete to earn titles you must first register on the website to obtain a Barn Hunt registration number before entering any trials.

The dogs and I did some practice sessions at our dog club to familiarize them with the straw course, tunnels and rats. Most trials are not actually done in a barn. There are five levels of competition and with each level the course and the `requirements become progressively harder.

The Instinct level gives the dog a chance to check out the ring and find a rat. You can enter Instinct and Novice at the same trial so it’s a good warm up. The dog must run naked (no collar) in the Instinct class and the ring is enclosed so dogs can’t escape and only one dog is in there at a time. The rats are in heavy-duty PVC tubes so the dogs can’t injure them but can still smell them. There will be a judge and rat wrangler in the ring.

In Novice the dog has two minutes to find a rat tube, run through a tunnel and climb onto a straw bale. There are also empty tubes and rat bedding/dropping tubes hidden to fool the dogs. The tubes maybe hidden up high or low and after every five dogs the tubes are hidden in new spots. You and your dog are held in a staging area out of site of the ring with four other handlers and their dogs so the handlers can’t see where the tubes are placed.

Exhibitors are called from the staging area one at time to go to the ring for your turn to compete. When you enter the ring there is a marked area called a start box where you stand with your dog. When the Judge says GO you remove the collar and leash and send your dog on his hunt. Each dog has their own way of indicating when they have found a rat, so doing practice sessions before you compete will help you know how your dog indicates a find. For example I have one dog that points and one that claws at the straw when they’ve found a rat. When you see that your dog is indicating a find you must say RAT in order for the judge to give the final nod as to whether the find is a yes or no. If it’s an empty tube or bedding then it’s “No” and “Thank you for your entry fee, you didn’t qualify but we sure had fun”.

After your dog completes the three qualifying hunts in Novice he earns his RATN title and can move on to the next level which is Open where they must find two rats in 2 min. 30 seconds to earn RATO. In Senior there are four rats hidden and the dog has 3 min. 30 seconds to find them (RATS), and finally in Master the dog has 4 min. 30 seconds but you won’t know how many rats are hidden (RATM). There may be up to five of them but the judge decides how many and it’s up to the handler to know when his dog has found them all.

The Barn Hunt website (you can click this link to go directly there) where it lists all the trial dates, rules, statistics, registration forms and when you complete a title you can print your Title Certificate right from their site. Currently there are five Gordon Setters who’ve earned Instinct titles, four with Novice titles and one with an Open title.

It is so much fun for my dogs and an easier sport for me since I don’t have to run with them like in agility or hunting. Dogs of any breed, mix or size can compete. I hope all our Gordon friends get to try it out.

Ellen Smith, Columbus OH