English Setter vs Irish Setter: Is There a Difference?

Written by August Buck
Published: May 20, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Wavetop
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There are a number of different setter dog breeds out there in the world today, and some of these breeds include the English Setter vs Irish Setter. But what traits bring these two dog breeds together, and what distinct differences do these breeds have from one another? If you’ve always wanted to learn more about the English Setter and the Irish Setter, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we will address everything you need to know about the Irish Setter and the English Setter, particularly about how you can learn to tell them apart. We will go over their appearances as well as their ancestry and behavioral differences in case you are interested in adopting either of these two fantastic hunting dog breeds. Let’s get started now! 

Comparing English Setter vs Irish Setter

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The English Setter varies in its height and weight far more than the strict Irish Setter does.

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English SetterIrish Setter
Size23-27 inches tall; 45-80 pounds25-27 inches tall; 50-70 pounds
AppearanceSilky, long coat found in a variety of colors and speckles, including blue, liver, black, white, and tan. Floppy ears and long tail on slender frameBeautiful long coat only found in red colorations. Wavy and flowing around the legs, with a flowy tail and floppy ears. Elegant body and slender frame
Ancestry and OriginOriginally bred in England in the 1600s; bred for hunting birds and waterfowlOriginally bred in Ireland in the 1800s; bred for hunting birds and waterfowl
BehaviorFriendly, affectionate, and great with families of all ages. Works hard and plays harder, needing plenty of exercise to avoid destructive or annoying behaviorsKind, loyal, and energetic. Loves playing and exhibits plenty of patience around young children. Can be talkative and works well as an alert dog, but may be too friendly to properly guard a home
Lifespan11-15 years12-16 years

Key Differences Between English Setter vs Irish Setter

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The English Setter comes in more colors compared to the red Irish Setter.

Reddogs/Shutterstock.com

There are a number of differences between the English Setter and the Irish Setter. The English Setter varies in its height and weight far more than the strict Irish Setter does. Additionally, the English Setter comes in more colors compared to the red Irish Setter. Finally, the Irish Setter lives a slightly longer lifespan on average compared to the English Setter. 

Let’s go over all of these differences in more detail now. 

English Setter vs Irish Setter: Size

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The Irish Setter weighs 50 to 70 pounds on average, while the English Setter weighs anywhere from 45 to 80 pounds.

iStock.com/Michel VIARD

You likely can’t tell the size differences between the English Setter and the Irish Setter by looking at them side-by-side. This is because these dogs are remarkably similar in their size and body shape, often overlapping in their figures. However, the English Setter breed has more size variation compared to the Irish Setter breed. Let’s take a closer look at those figures now.

Depending on gender, the English Setter ranges in height anywhere from 23 to 27 inches tall, while the Irish Setter only ranges in height from 25 to 27 inches tall. Additionally, the Irish Setter weighs 50 to 70 pounds on average, while the English Setter weighs anywhere from 45 to 80 pounds, depending on gender. 

English Setter vs Irish Setter: Appearance

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The Irish Setter only comes in a rusty red color, while the English Setter comes in many colors, such as white, black, brown, liver, blue, and more.

iStock.com/Wavetop

While the English Setter and the Irish Setter both have very similar coats, there are some key differences in their physical appearances. For example, the Irish Setter only comes in a rusty red color, while the English Setter comes in many colors, such as white, black, brown, liver, blue, and more. Other than their fur colorations, the English Setter and the Irish Setter have very similar builds and ears, as well as tails and fur lengths. It can be very difficult to tell them apart! 

English Setter vs Irish Setter: Ancestry and Purpose

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The English Setter is an older breed compared to the Irish Setter, originating in the 1600s, while the Irish Setter originated in the 1800s.

You can no doubt guess that the English Setter and the Irish Setter were bred for the same purposes, which is to hunt birds and waterfowl. However, their origin stories differ greatly from one another. For example, the English Setter is an older breed compared to the Irish Setter, originating in the 1600s, while the Irish Setter originated in the 1800s. Finally, as you could no doubt guess, the English Setter originated in England, while the Irish Setter originated in Ireland. 

English Setter vs Irish Setter: Behavior

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The Irish Setter is a bit more talkative overall compared to the English Setter.

Canden Scales/Shutterstock.com

Given the fact that both of these dogs have very similar breeding and working dog qualities, the English Setter and the Irish Setter have very similar behaviors to one another. However, the Irish Setter is a bit more talkative overall compared to the English Setter. This isn’t to say that the Irish Setter makes a good guard dog, as it is far too friendly to protect its family from strangers, just like the English Setter. 

Overall, both of these dog breeds are extremely active and require a decent amount of exercise in order to avoid unfortunate behaviors. However, they are both fantastic dogs to have around children, as they are always ready for the next adventure or experience with their family. They are both very friendly with strangers as well, affectionate, and loyal. 

English Setter vs Irish Setter: Lifespan

English Setter vs Irish Setter
The Irish Setter lives a slightly longer lifespan on average compared to the English Setter.

Minko Peev/Shutterstock.com

A final difference between the English Setter and the Irish Setter has to do with their average lifespans. The Irish Setter lives a slightly longer lifespan on average compared to the English Setter. For example, the English Setter lives anywhere from 11 to 15 years, while the Irish Setter lives an average of 12 to 16 years, depending on overall health. With plenty of exercise and a well-rounded diet, both of these Setter dogs are capable of living long and happy lives!

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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