CHAPTER XXIII. THE SETTERS
I. THE ENGLISH SETTER.—In some form or other Setters are to be found wherever guns are in frequent use and irrespective of the precise class of work they have to perform; but their proper sphere is either on the moors, when the red grouse are in quest, or on the stubbles and amongst the root crops, when September comes in, and the partridge season commences.
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, is supposed to have been the first person to train setting dogs in the manner which has been commonly adopted by his successors. His lordship lived in the middle of the sixteenth century, and was therefore a contemporary of Dr. Caius, who may possibly have been indebted to the Earl for information when, in his work on English Dogges, he wrote of the Setter under the name of the Index.
Though Setters are divided into three distinct varieties,—The English, the Irish and the Gordon, or Black and Tan—there can be no doubt that all have a common origin, though it is scarcely probable, in view of their dissimilarity, that the same individual ancestors can be supposed to be their original progenitors. Nearly all authorities agree that the Spaniel family is accountable on one side, and this contention is borne out to a considerable extent by old illustrations and paintings of Setters at work, in which they are invariably depicted as being very much like the old liver and white Spaniel, though of different colours. Doubt exists as to the other side of their heredity, but it does not necessarily follow that all those who first bred them used the same means. Of the theories put forward, that which carries the most presumptive evidence must go to the credit of the old Spanish Pointer. Where else could they inherit that wonderful scenting power, that style in which they draw up to their game, their statuesque attitude when on point, and, above all, the staunchness and patience by which they hold their game spellbound until the shooter has time to walk leisurely up, even from a considerable distance?
But, apart from the question of their origin, the different varieties have many other attributes in common; all perform the same kind of work, and in the same manner; consequently the system of breaking or training them varies only according to the temper or ideas of those who undertake their schooling.
Few dogs are more admired than English Setters, and those who are looked upon as professional exhibitors have not been slow to recognise the fact that when a really good young dog makes its appearance it is a formidable rival amongst all other breeds when the special prizes come to be allotted.
Seen either at its legitimate work as a gun dog or as a domestic companion, the English Setter is one of the most graceful and beautiful of the canine race, and its elegant form and feathery coat command instant admiration. Twenty years ago it was known by several distinct names, among the more important being the Blue Beltons and Laveracks, and this regardless of any consideration as to whether or not the dogs were in any way connected by relationship to the stock which had earned fame for either of these time-honoured names. It was the great increase in the number of shows and some confusion on the part of exhibitors that made it necessary for the Kennel Club to classify under one heading these and others which had attained some amount of notability and the old terms have gradually been dropped.
Doubtless the English Setter Club has done much since its institution in 1890 to encourage this breed of dog, and has proved the usefulness of the club by providing two very valuable trophies, the Exhibitors' Challenge Cup and the Field Trial Challenge Cup, for competition amongst its members, besides having liberally supported all the leading shows; hence it has rightly come to be regarded as the only authority from which an acceptable and official dictum for the guidance of others can emanate.
The following is the standard of points issued by the English Setter Club:—
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