Gordon Setter

Canis lupus

Last updated: May 31, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© iStock.com/Volha Maksimava

It's the largest and heaviest breed of setter.


Gordon Setter Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Canis lupus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Gordon Setter Conservation Status

Gordon Setter Locations

Gordon Setter Locations

Gordon Setter Facts

Fun Fact
It's the largest and heaviest breed of setter.
Distinctive Feature
A coal-black coat with rich chestnut or mahogany markings on their paws and lower legs, vents, throat, and muzzles; one spot above each eye; and two spots on their chest.
Loyal, alert, eager

Gordon Setter Physical Characteristics

  • Black
  • Tan
Skin Type
10-12 years
45-80 lbs

Gordon Setter as a Pet:

General Health
Energy Level
Tendency to Chew
Family and kid friendliness
Yappiness / Barking
Separation Anxiety
Preferred Temperature
Average climate
Exercise Needs
Friendly With Other Dogs
Pure bred cost to own
Dog group
Male weight
55-80 lbs
Female weight
45-70 lbs

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The Gordon Setter is one of the slowest breeds to mature, hitting its prime at 3 years or older.

The Gordon Setter, also called Black and Tan Setter, is the largest, heaviest breed of setters. It was originally developed in Scotland for bird hunting, using its scent to find game birds but without killing them, instead standing on point while waiting for their owners, or retrieving game as necessary. Categorized as a sporting dog or gundog depending on the kennel club or council, it was first mentioned in print in the 19th century, and is believed to be descended from the English Spaniel, Land Spaniel, and Spanish Pointer. The breed has an excellent sense of smell and endurance, though it’s not as fast as other setters or pointers. It is described as patient, loyal, independent, affectionate, curious, confident, sensitive, athletic, and energetic, whether as a hunting companion, companion animal, or family pet.

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The different types of Gordon Setter and Gordon Setter mixes

There is one acceptable standard color for the Gordon Setter, which is black and tan, and its coat ranges from straight to wavy. Other colors are considered mismarks of too little or too much tan, liver (a brown shade), red, or too much white. All are recessive genes except for excessive white. The breed has been crossed with other breeds for the following new hybrids:

  • Golden Setter: Gordon Setter x Golden Retriever
  • Gordon Lab: Gordon Setter x Black Labrador
  • Gordon Doodle: Gordon Setter x Poodle
  • Gordon Sheltie: Gordon Setter x Shetland Sheepdog

3 pros and cons of owning Gordon Setters

Stable personality: This breed is versatile enough to be a hunting companion, companion animal, or family pet. It’s dependable and sensible around anyone.Demanding: With active dogs, you have to keep up with the demands of their lifestyle. The Gordon Setter loves to run. This high-energy breed has separation anxiety as well as a great need for daily exercise to burn off excess energy. It also shows exuberant jumping, especially during and starting with puppyhood. If you cannot provide the companionship and play it needs, you’re better off with a more low-key or smaller dog.
Great learner: The earlier this dog is trained, the better it will remember good habits. It loves having tasks to do.Jealousy and prey instinct: The Gordon Setter gets attached to mainly one person. It is jealous of other pets and can act hostile towards strange dogs. As a setter, it has the instinct to chase smaller animals, so having smaller pets around is risky.
Watchdog: As the most alert of the setters, this breed is the most discriminating of strangers, and so also makes a great tracking, guarding, and watchdog.Grooming: With a generally long, silky coat, the Gordon Setter needs regular brushing along with bathing. Doing so will cut down on shedding, but it’s still a moderate shedder, which isn’t good for people who are looking for a hypoallergenic dog.
Gordon Setter in Autumn Leaves
Athletic and high-energy, the Gordon Setter loves to be outdoors.

©Anna Tronova/Shutterstock.com

Gordon Setter Size and Weight

The Gordon Setter is a medium to large dog with a silky, straight to wavy coat in black and tan color, with short hair on its head. Adult male withers height is 24 to 27 inches, and adult female withers height is 23 to 26 inches. Adult male weight is 55 to 80 pounds with an average weight of 66 pounds, and adult female weight is 45 to 70 pounds with an average of 55 pounds. Gordon Setter puppies weigh an average of 9 pounds at 8 weeks and are considered fully grown at 36 months.

Male Height:24-27 in.
Male Weight:55-80 lbs
Female Height:23-26 in.
Female Weight:45-70 lbs

Gordon Setter Common Health Issues

The Gordon Setter is an athletic, high-energy breed with an average lifespan. As a result, many health issues have to do with injuries of joint wear. It’s also a large breed, so it needs space to be able to move freely in daily life, other than exercise. Large breeds also tend towards gastric torsion (bloat). The Gordon Setter’s lifespan is 10 to 12 years. In general, the Gordon Setter’s health issues are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye diseases, including cataracts and PRA (progressive retinal atrophy)
  • Gastric torsion (bloat)
  • Hypothyroidism

Gordon Setter Temperament

The Gordon Setter’s temperament is described as dignified and calm. Its traits are patience, loyalty, independence, affection, curiousity, confidence, and sensitivity, with a silly, energetic, and demanding personality. A family-oriented dog, it is vulnerable to having separation anxiety. It will become attached to mainly one person and stay on alert for strangers, but it also does not tend to get along with other pets and enjoys chasing smaller animals.

Health and Entertainment for your Gordon Setter

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How To Take Care of Gordon Setters

Like other dog breeds, the Gordon Setter has its own needs for health and care. Every potential Gordon Setter owner should be aware of their unique traits. If you want to know upfront how your dog will behave, it’s best to either purchase as a puppy from a breeder or as an adult from a rescue. The price of your Gordon Setter is not only the initial purchase or adoption price, but the cost of food, toys, and veterinary care over time.

The Best Dog Food for Gordon Setters

Whether you have a Gordon Setter puppy or adult dog, the food you choose to provide your pet is one of the most important factors for satisfying their nutritional needs and keeping them healthy. Regardless of their age, their food should be approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials).

Puppy food: Never feed your puppy adult dog food. The food must say it’s formulated for puppies, growth, or all life stages. It should have high-quality meat as the first and predominant ingredient, which will provide all the amino acids they need for their development. Also, large breeds grow quickly and excessive growth is a concern, so their puppy food should have less fat, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D than other puppy foods. Hence, it should specify that it is for large breeds.

Adult dog food: Like puppy food, Gordon Setter adult dog food should be AAFCO compliant, with premium ingredients, and animal protein is the predominant and one of the first ingredients on the list. Make sure the food states it’s formulated for large breeds, which will help to minimize the risk of developing orthopedic disease, obesity, and bloat.

A-Z Animals feel the best dog food for Gordon Setters is Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Dog Food, Wholesome Grains.

An AAFCO-compliant food, you’ll find ingredients full of Angus beef, with joint-sustaining glucosamine and chondroitin. There’s also taurine, great for eye health, fiber from healthy grains, and probiotics to ease digestion.

Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient dog food is available on Chewy and Amazon.

Best with Natural Ingredients
Canidae Pure Limited Ingredient Adult Dry Dog Food, Wholesome Grains
  • Real angus beef and barley recipe for adult dogs
  • Recipe uses 8 ingredients for dogs with sensitivities
  • Antioxidants and probiotics for healthy digestion and immune system
  • Blend of vitamins and minerals to support healthy joints, skin and coat
Check Amazon

Gordon Setter Maintenance And Grooming

The Gordon Setter does not have short hair, but a type of mixed-length coat. Instead, its coat has straight to wavy hair, with long hair on its legs, tail, under the stomach, chest, and ears, and short hair everywhere else. It is not hypoallergenic, either, and is a moderate shedder. For this reason, it needs regular brushing of one to three days a week and bathing every 1-6 weeks (2 weeks on average), depending on how dirty or messy it gets. Besides toenail clipping, you’ll also want to trim the hair on its feet and between its toes. To resemble the breed standard, you’ll want a variety of shears and brushes. Straight shears, thinning shears, and a medium/coarse comb, a slicker brush, and a wire pin brush are all useful to best handle tangles and groom your Gordon Setter.

Gordon Setter Training

Crate training is a great way of training your Gordon Setter, especially when you and your family can’t be at home to keep it company. Since it’s a large breed, the crate size should be 42 inches. This crate size makes sure it easily has enough room to sit, stand, and turn around in. In the wild, dogs seek refuge in dens for sleep and safe haven, so a crate acts similar when you get your pet comfortable with it. Crate size is just as important with training your dog to so as to minimize separation anxiety-related destruction. It’s also great for potty training.

Gordon Setter Exercise

Gordon Setters need one to two hours of activity and exercise every day. They should at least have a long, brisk walk in addition to a stimulating activity.

Gordon Setter Puppies

Gordon Setter puppies are very energetic and will engage in exuberant jumping as soon as possible. However, you should limit their playtime to 5 minutes per month of age. Their growth plates stay soft and don’t close until 18-14 months of age, so avoid strenguous activity.

Gordon Setter Puppy
Avoid strenuous exercise with your Gordon Setter Puppy.


Gordon Setter And Children

This breed that is excellent with children. It is playful, energetic, and affectionate enough for children of all ages, although it should be supervised around small children due to its large size. The earlier you include children in your dog’s socialization, the better.

Dogs similar to Gordon Setters

Dogs that are similar to Gordon Setters are the Black and Tan Coonhound, English Pointer, and Irish Setter.

  • Black and Tan Virginia Foxhound: Boasting similar color, this breed is a scenthound from the United States that also makes a great tracker, watchdog or guard dog.
  • English Pointer: This breed is another gundog. Like other pointers, it has short hair. The biggest difference in hunting behavior is only pointing, whereas setters are also retrievers.
  • English Springer Spaniel: Another long, wavy-haired breed as well as a high-stamina hunting dog, this spaniel was originally used for flushing or “springing” game birds.

Famous Gordon Setters

Gio and Nati were award-winning Gordon Setters. Gio was a Hillock Kennel dog that won Best in Specialty Show at the 2016 Gordon Setter National Specialty as well as a spot in the AKC’s Top 20 Sporting Dogs. Nati was another Hillock Kennel dog who won the title of Number One Gordon Setter Female in the United States in 2007 and 2009. She also won number six Gordon Setter overall, Best Bred by Exhibitor and Best of Opposite Sex in 2009, and several Sporting groups and Best in Specialty Show contests.

Some examples of popular names for this breed are:

  • Iain
  • Muir
  • Owen
  • Scotty
  • Ethan
  • Minnie
  • Blair
  • Leslie
  • Maisy
  • Bonnie

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?
About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Gordon Setter FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How much does a Gordon Setter cost?

The price of a Gordon Setter from a breeder can cost anywhere from $600-4,000 with an average of $1,225 and a median of $750. Pedigree papers are a minimum while breeding rights and show quality cost more. Gordon Setter puppies typically cost $950-1,500. Dogs of any age from a rescue have the same price as the adoption fee.

Are Gordon setters rare?

In the United States, yes, they are rare.

How smart is a Gordon Setter?

Very intelligent. On a scale of 5, it would rate 4 out of 5. It’s also very intuitive and can read body language.

What is a Gordon Setter?

It is the largest and heaviest of the setter breeds, a type of sporting or hunting dog that uses scent to find birds.

How often should I bathe my Gordon Setter?

Every 1 to 6 weeks depending on how messy it gets. Every 4 weeks is minimum, but every 2 weeks is average for this breed.

What causes Gordon Setters to shed?

It’s normal for dogs to shed. However, dead or damaged fur, warmer weather months, and lack of grooming can make a Gordon Setter shed more than usual, and it’s a moderate shedder.

How long does a Gordon Setter live?

A Gordon Setter’s typical lifespan is 10 to 12 years, which is average.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.


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