Gordon Setter

Written by: Jamie
Updated: April 4, 2021

Scotland’s very own addition to the Setter family is the black and tan Gordon Setter. Now a Vulnerable Native Breed, find out everything you need to know about these rare hunting dogs. 

gordon setter in the woods

Height: Male 24-27 inches, female 23-26 inches
Weight: Male 25-36 kilos, female 20-32 kilos
Lifespan: 12-13 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the pros and cons of the Gordon Setter below:


  • Fantastic gundog and watchdog
  • Great family dog
  • Intelligent and easy to train
  • Minimum drooler


  • Not ideal for first-time owners
  • Requires lots of exercise and mental stimulation
  • Potential to be dog aggressive
  • They aren’t a hypoallergenic breed

gordon setter sitting on brown grass


Gordon Setters belong to the Setter family, a group of sport and gundogs. Those in the Setter family hunt upland game such as Pheasant, Quail, and Grouse.

The Gordon Setter is the heaviest of them all and is found with a black and tan coat. These canines are often referred to as large Spaniels due to their strong resemblance.

The breed isn’t as popular as the Irish and English Setter and is listed as a Vulnerable Native Breed by the Kennel Club.

In 2019, only 172 Gordon Setter puppies were registered with the KC. Due to their rarity, bloodlines are often imported from the United States.

These pooches are excellent at Field Trials and sporting competitions. Two Gordon Setters have been crowned Dual Champion by the Kennel Club.

These titles can only be given to dogs who have already won the Show Champion and Field Trial Champion. Both winning dogs were in fact related to one another.

Unlike other dog breeds, the Gordon Setter won’t fully mature until around three years plus.

Owners should expect to deal with puppy behavior until this age. Dogs in the Setter family are thought to mature slower than members of the Pointer family.

The Gordon Setter Association was established in 1946. Its main aim is to maintain breed standards, whilst promoting the Gordon Setters interests.

Members can join from all across the world and can take part in competitions, with the chance of winning some trophies!

gordon setter sitting on floor


Hailing from Scotland, Gordon Setters have been around for some 200 years. Like other members of the Setter family, this breed was also used to hunt birds alongside their human companions.

These gundogs work similarly to Pointers. They will lie down keeping total silence, allowing the huntsman to cast a net, trapping the prey.

Setters descend from Setting Spaniels and are the largest member of the Setter family, yet also the least popular. They were named after the 4th Duke of Gordon, Alexander Gordon.

A Scottish nobleman born at Gordon Castle, the same location he kept his kennels. He was responsible for the development of the breed we know and love today.

Today Gordon Setters are classed as a Vulnerable Native Breed by the Kennel Club. Their popularity hasn’t changed since the early 20th century.

Shooting estates began closing down thus reducing the need of the Gordon Setter. In 1923, only 54 Gordon Setter puppies were registered with the Kennel Club.

The breed received its KC recognition in 1827 at a time when they were previously known as Black and Tan Setters. As a tribute to the 4th Duke of Gordon (1743-1827), the Kennel Club changed its name to Gordon Setters in 1924.

Working Gundog Certificates can be obtained from the Kennel Club. This can include unregistered dogs and cross-breeds.

In 1842, the first Gordon Setters arrived in America by George Blunt. The American Kennel Club registered the breed in 1884.

Originally known as the Gordon Castle Setter, their name was eventually changed to Gordon Setter in 1892. Today, they are also rather rare in the US.


Gordon Setter Temperament:

Deeply loyal and devoted to their families, the Gordon Setter is certainly not a dog you can leave in the back garden.

Due to the breed’s high maintenance and strong-willed personality, first-time owners may find difficulty raising this breed. Gordon Setters will be boisterous when growing up, but will relax once they reach adulthood.

gordon setter sitting on field

Barking is a way the Gordon Setter dog likes to express itself. They are sensitive and on some occasions emotional, letting their owners know exactly how they feel.

Gordon Setters are also known for their stubbornness, with some owners struggling to maintain their Alpha position.

Gordon Setters hunt independently, so they may disappear if allowed off-leash. Ensure a dog has perfected their recall and is in rural spaces before allowing free reign.

Recommended: One of the most intelligent dog breeds is the Shetland Sheepdog. Learn all about these canines and their background in our guide.

Are Gordon Setters Good with Strangers?

As a natural watchdog, Gordon Setters will be wary and aloof of strangers. These canines will always alert their owners to any newcomers approaching their territory. Out of the Setter family, Gordon Setters are certainly the most reserved with strangers.

Are Gordon Setters Good with Children?

Yes, this breed is known to be protective and loving towards the children in their family. During their puppy years, play can get a little boisterous and should always be supervised. For this reason, they are better suited to a household with older children.

Are Gordon Setters Ok with Other Dogs?

Gordon Setters aren’t always friendly to strange dogs. It is important to provide a Gordon Setter puppy with the right socialization, but sometimes they just won’t like a dog.

Take care when walking in public spaces especially around dogs of the same sex. If raised together from puppyhood, Gordon Setters can live with other canines and cats.


These gundogs require an active lifestyle to ensure a happy and healthy pooch. It is recommended a Gordon Setter receives more than 2 hours of exercise each day.

Vigorous play is needed for such an athletic hunting breed. Interactive games, long walks, and swimming are all activities Gordon Setters enjoy.

These canines are excellent dog sport competitors and particularly excel in field trials, agility, tracking, and obedience. After all, they are members of the Sporting Group and it’s a fantastic form of mental stimulation.

If their exercise needs aren’t being met a Gordon Setter will become unruly.

gordon setter standing on lawn

Recommended next: The Yorkiepoo dog is affectionate, gentle, loyal, loving, fun, and confident. Learn more about them.


Below are the breed-related health conditions of the Gordon Setter:

  • Hip Dysplasia- Commonly seen in large dogs, this condition affects the development of one or both of the hip joints. Some dogs may experience inflammation, swelling, and pain. Arthritis will follow.
  • Elbow Dysplasia- The most common cause of lameness in large dogs is elbow dysplasia. This can affect one or both legs and may cause a dog to limp.
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus- The stomach twists, trapping the contents and gases inside. This condition is potentially fatal and affected dogs will need immediate veterinary attention.
  • Hypothyroidism- A lack of hormone production due to an abnormality of the thyroid glands reduces a dog’s metabolism.
  • Atopy- A lifelong skin disease that is often triggered by allergies. Owners will need to learn to manage the condition as there is no cure.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy- This degenerative condition affects the photoreceptor cells within the eye. Blindness will eventually occur as the cells deteriorate. PRA is inherited.
  • Cerebellar Ataxia-  A condition affecting the cerebellum section of the brain. This will affect the coordination and balance of a dog. Symptoms often appear later on in life.

Intelligence & Training

Gordon Setters are believed to be more intelligent compared to other Setter breeds. Although their slowness to mature can be a letdown.

With a firm and experienced owner, the Gordon Setter can be easy to train. Establishing their recall ability will need to be at the top of their list due to their independent hunting nature.

Like any working breed, Gordon Setters love being given a job to complete. They are eager to learn and pick up on commands quickly, however, occasionally their stubborn side may let them down.

Gordon Setters can be dog aggressive and wary of strangers which is why socialization is deeply important.

gordon setter with tongue's out sitting

Some Setter owners have found clicker training to work charms! The click lets your dog know they have been good and is becoming a common form of training for gundog owners.

Positive reinforcement is always the best method. Patience and consistency will need to be adopted by any trainer.

This intelligent breed will quickly become bored with repetition.

Keep training sessions short and interesting. Sometimes 5-10 minutes here and there is all you need. Remember, you want the dog to associate their training with fun!

Recommended: The Lakeland Terrier is a hunting breed originating from Northern England’s Lake District.


This breed sheds moderately and will need an owner that has the capability to look after their coat. Their long and beautiful, black, and tan coat will need to be brushed at least 3 times a week.

Pin brushes, combs, and slicker brushes are the best tools to use on their fur.

Before bathing, always brush through their coat. Removing tangles in wet fur will be very difficult. Gordon Setters tend to pick up dirt easily, but will only need a bath every 4-6 weeks.

Blow-dry the fur to prevent debris from becoming stuck to the coat. Air drying may take too long, it also isn’t ideal in the colder months!

gordon setter in front of flowers on field

Occasionally trim the coat with some thinning scissors in areas of clear overgrowth.

Nails will need to be cut or filed every fortnight. Ears should be checked weekly to remove any debris from the canal.

Their long ears make them susceptible to infections. Don’t forget dental hygiene! Brush their teeth at least three times a week or better yet, daily!

About the Author

Hi, I'm Jamie! I've always been around dogs and now writing about them is an absolute joy.
Read more about my story here.
Reach me at Jamie@woofbarkgrowl.co.uk or connect with me on LinkedIn below.

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