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Kathy Rodriguez, Wind Dancer English Setters, is known as the amanuensis for Spanky Doodles, an English Setter who told and published humorous stories about our breed. We thank Kathy for this month’s guest column, which really hits the spot.
Irish Setters are red; Gordon Setters are black and tan; English Setters are mostly black and white (blue belton) or orange and white (orange belton). The word ‘belton’ means that the spots are a blend of color and white, not solid dabs of pure color like you would see on a Dalmatian. A few are tri--black and white with tan points--and even fewer are liver and white.
English Setters are born all white. Sometimes a puppy is born with an eye or ear patch, and, on occasion, much to a breeder’s dismay, one may have a body patch. (In the words of the Standard describing ideal color: “white ground color with intermingling of darker hairs resulting in belton markings varying in degree from clear distinct flecking to roan shading but flecked all over preferred. Head and ear patches acceptable. Heavy patches of color on the body undesirable.”)
Within days of birth, ES puppies get spots. Initially, they are tiny pin points of color on tummies, muzzles, and noses. You go to bed at night and in the morning, your white puppy has spots. It’s a visit from the Spot Fairy, which is sorta like the Tooth Fairy, only they went to different schools.
ES can be mostly white with just a few spots, which I refer to as spot challenged. Or, they can have lots more color than white, in which case, they are referred to as roan. I have a soft spot for orange roans; I just like the way they look, even though the standard calls for open markings. Color should be no more than a tie breaker in the show ring, because, in ES, it is not nearly as important as structure.
English Setters are not a popular breed (AKC Ranking of 101 in 2010) so to see them in public is a rarity, and the public’s reaction is always interesting. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard one of the following, I’d be a rich woman. “What kind of spaniel is that?” “I thought they were all red.” “Is that a long-haired Dalmatian?” Or, touching a sore spot for a breeder, “Is that a Dalmatian cross?”
My favorite misidentification occurred at a show in California. A family walked into the building where the Setters had just finished showing. The wife asked, “Honey, what kind of a dog is that?” With utter confidence, the Johnny-on-the-spot husband piped up “That is a party colored Irish Setter.”
Another time, a woman asked “What kind of dog is that?” “An English Setter,” said I. The woman rooted me to the spot when she retorted, “No it’s NOT!” In a playful mood, I replied, “Please don’t tell AKC because they think she is a Specialty winning Champion.” Revealing her blind spot, she rejoined, “I know that is NOT an English Setter.”
Some college students once asked me if I dyed my Irish Setter. I kidded back, “Yes and it took me forever.” “Coooool” was the reply.
With English Setters, seeing spots is a GOOD thing.