This handsome breed of Setters derive their name from the Dukes of Gordon, who owned a most important kennel of black-and-tan and black-white and-tan Setters at a period considerably in advance of dog shows. No claim is made that the Dukes of Gordon originated the breed, and it has also been conclusively proven that they were not responsible for the prejudice against white markings which was developed at bench shows after classes were provided for them in 1861, which resulted in complete elimination of those specimens containing white in any form.
The early history of the Gordon Setter is wrapped in much mystery, considering the fact that they are of comparatively recent origin. A great many writers have stated that in the early days of the breed the Duke crossed one of his best dogs on a black-and-tan Collie named Maddy which lived on the estate and was remarkably clever in finding grouse. It is said that she did not point them, her habit being to stop and watch the birds as soon as she had them located. It is conceded, even by those who deny the authenticity of this story, that occasionally one sees the tail of the Collie in strains that trace back to the Duke’s kennel, and it is also notable that many Gordon Setters display in working birds a desire to go round their game, just as a Collie goes round a flock of sheep.
Another theory about the Gordon Setter is that the breed is the result of crossing the ordinary Setter on the leggy, black Springing Spaniel. There is a similarity in the physiognomy of the Gordon Setter and the Field Spaniel, and the latter in early days was a leggy dog of Setter-like type, so that this cross could have been made without affecting the working characteristics of the Setter. This is a plausible explanation of the dog’s origin.
Still another theory provides that the black-and tan Setter has been produced by a cross with the Irish Setter and the black Pointer, which latter is a Scotch product. This likewise is more feasible than the Collie story. All of the explanations are, however, mere conjecture, and there exists no definite or conclusive information on the subject.
At the present time the breed no longer exists in purity at the Gordon estates. The dogs there now are heavily crossed with the Laverack and other strains. They lack sufficient speed for present-day field trials, but make steady, reliable shooting dogs, as they have splendid noses and biddable dispositions. Their strikingly handsome coloring and intelligence commend them to many people.
In selecting Gordon Setter puppies the usual Setter points should be looked for, such as long head; square muzzle; well-developed occipital bone; short body; deep chest; straight forelegs; short, straight tail, and the typical black-and-tan markings, the tan of a rich, dark mahogany.
In general appearance the Gordon Setter differs from his English cousin, in that he is heavier all over, showing strength rather than speed in his makeup. His skull is broad between the ears, slightly rounded, with well-developed occiput. Muzzle well carried out to a well-developed nose, showing no snipiness or pinched appearance. Lips and flews should be heavier than those of the English Setter. Eyes dark, with rather a bold look; ears well let down, so as to show the formation of the skull, and not too heavily feathered. The coat is usually shorter and stronger than that of the English Setter, and must be entirely devoid of curl. The black should not under any circumstances show brown or rustiness, but be dense, jet black; the tan should be deep, rich mahogany. The tan should be carried a trifle above the foreleg and should be sharply defined where it meets the black. Black pencilings should appear on the knuckles; on the hindlegs the insides should be tan, also the inner portion of the breeching and the same color should show slightly down the front of the stifle. The hind pasterns and the hind feet should be penciled like the fore feet. On the head the tan should not extend too far up the lips toward the top of the muzzle, but about half way. The underjaw and throat should be tan, a spot on each cheek and above each eye, and there should also be tan on the inside of the ears. There should be no running together of colors, but the edges should be clear and well defined.
VALUE OF POINTS.-Head and neck, 25; neck, 5; shoulders and body, a5; legs and feet, 15; stern or tail, 5; color and markings, 25; Total, 100.