The origin of the Gordon Setter dates back to at least the early 1600s. The breed came into prominence in the early 19th century in the kennels of Alexander, the Fourth Duke of Gordon, in Banffshire, Scotland, whose name now adorns the breed. He concentrated on creating a stronger, slightly smaller but more powerful version of the typical setter of his day – one more suited to the rugged terrain in northern Scotland. He sacrificed speed for strength, purposefully.
Two direct descendants of the Duke’s kennels, Rake and Rachel, were imported to the United States in 1842 by Mr. George Blunt, who was mesmerized by their beauty and exceptional hunting skills. Rachel and Rake are considered the foundation Gordon Setters in America. Other Gordons were imported from Great Britain and Scandinavia to help perfect the American “type.” As field trial competitions became increasingly popular, the Gordon became less fashionable for a time, as it habitually works “close to the gun,” without the flashiness and speed of some other breeds, particularly the English Setter, Irish Setter and Pointers. However, it remains among the most capable and sought-after one-person shooting dog of any breed.
The Gordon Setter Club of America, which was organized in 1924, makes no distinction between show and field type in its breed standard, unlike many other hunting breeds. Many Gordon Setters achieve dual championships in both conformation and field trials. Gordons also excel in obedience, agility and other performance endeavors. Today’s Gordon Setter differs very little from its ancestors and retains its keen intellect, excellent memory and characteristic eagerness to work for a loving owner. The modern motto for this breed is “beauty, brains, and bird sense.”
The average life span of the Gordon Setter is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include allergies, bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), cataracts, combined entropion - ectropion (“diamond eye”), hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism and progressive retinal atrophy.