End of the ‘gentleman’s hunting dog’? Irish red-and-white setter is the UK’s most endangered breed… while Labradors remain Britain’s favourite
- Only 39 of the puppies were registered by the Kennel Club last year
- The figure has fallen from the 51 Irish red-and-white setters registered in 2018
- Meanwhile, the labrador has reclaimed its top spot as the UK’s most popular dog
They have been used since Roman times and came to be known as ‘a gentleman’s hunting dog’.
But the Irish red-and-white setter is now the dog most at risk of disappearing from our shores.
Only 39 puppies were registered by the Kennel Club last year – down from 51 in 2018 – and the breed is regarded by experts as the most endangered in the country.
The Irish red-and-white setter is now the dog most at risk of disappearing from our shores
Their plight has shocked Alison Bloxham, secretary of the Irish Red and White Setter Club of Great Britain, who said: ‘I just felt horrible when I saw the latest figures.
‘The problem is that the Irish red setter is so popular and people just don’t know about the Irish red-and-white setter.
‘Whenever I’m out walking my three dogs, people ask me what breed they are. We’ve tried to raise the profile of the breed but clearly we must do more.’
Meanwhile, the labrador has reclaimed its top spot as the UK’s most popular dog
…But the Labrador retrieves top spot
Top dogs – Puppy registrations in 2019
Labrador retriever 35,347
French bulldog 33,661
Cocker spaniel 21,663
English springer spaniel 8,638
Golden retriever 8,422
Miniature dachshund 8,375
German shepherd 6,837
Miniature schnauzer 4,982
Source: The Kennel Club
The breed, known in medieval times as ‘setting dogges’, was often used by falconers to locate game birds, and by the 1600s they became the favourite gundog of Irish aristocrats. But by 1875 they were toppled by a new craze for their dazzling cousin, the Irish red setter. Despite numerous efforts to revive interest, their popularity has continued to plummet.
Ms Bloxham said: ‘They are such beautiful dogs, make great family pets and are very clever. They also make good gundogs, but shooting enthusiasts today prefer to use labradors and spaniels.’
Experts point out that an Irish red-and-white setter puppy costs about £1,000 and the dogs need at least two hours exercise a day.
Kennel Club spokesman Bill Lambert said he was concerned that more British dog breeds than ever before were vulnerable, with 30 at risk of disappearing.
Enthusiasts blame competition from designer breeds such as the labradoodle and cockapoo, in addition to the current fashion for pugs, bulldogs and rescue dogs.
Meanwhile, the labrador has reclaimed its top spot as the UK’s most popular dog, with 35,347 puppies registered last year. Its nearest rival is the French bulldog, with 33,661 registered puppies.