The Setter Dog

The Setter divides with the pointer the duty of attending the sportsman on his shooting expeditions. According to Captain Brown he was “originally derived from a cross between the Spanish pointer and the large water spaniel and was justly celebrated for his fine scent.” Many crossings have considerably varied the breed, of which the Irish is now considered purer than the English and Scotch breeds.” In figure, “says Colonel Smith,” they participate of the pointer and the Spaniel, though larger than the latter. In England they are white, or white with black or brown marks.” They are intelligent, affectionate and docile, and often show great sagacity outside the domain of sport.

Col. Hutchinson says, “I was partridge-shooting the setter. the season before last with an intimate friend. The air was soft, and there was a good breeze. We came upon a large turnip-field, deeply trenched on account of its damp situation. A white setter, that habitually carried a lofty head, drew for awhile, and then came to a point. We got up to her. She led us across some ridges, when her companion, a jealous dog (a pointer), which had at first backed correctly, most improperly pushed on in front, but, not being able to acknowledge the scent, went off, clearly imagining the bitch was in error. She, however, held on, and in beautiful style brought us up direct to a covey. My friend and I agreed that she must have been but little, if at all, less than one hundred yards off when she first winded the birds; and it was clear to us that they could not have been running, for the breeze came directly across the furrows, and she had led us in the wind’s eye. We thought the point the more remarkable, as it is generally supposed that the strong smell of turnips diminishes a dog’s power of scenting birds.”

Mr. Huet tells the following story of the sagacity of the setter. “The gamekeeper had, on one of the short days of December, shot at and wounded a deer. Hoping to run him down before night, he instantly put the dog upon the track, which followed it at full speed, and soon was out of sight. At length it grew dark, and the gamekeeper returned home, thinking he should find the setter arrived there before him; but he was disappointed, and became apprehensive that his dog might have lost himself, or fallen a prey to some ravenous animal. The next morning, however, we were all greatly rejoiced to see him come running into the yard, whence he directly hastened to the door of my apartment, and, on being admitted, ran, with gestures expressive of solicitude and eagerness, to a corner of the room where guns were placed. We understood the hint, and, taking the guns, followed him. He led us not by the road which he himself had taken out of the wood, but by beaten paths half round it, and then by several wood-cutters’ tracks in different directions, to a thicket, where, following him a few paces, we found the deer which he had killed. The dog seems to have rightly judged that we should have been obliged to -make our way with much difficulty through almost the whole length of the wood, in order to come to the deer in a straight direction, and he therefore led us a circuitous but open and convenient road. Between the legs of the deer, which he had guarded during the night against the beasts of prey that might otherwise have seized upon it, he had scratched a hole in the snow, and filled it with dry leaves for his bed. The extraordinary sagacity which he had displayed upon this occasion rendered him doubly valuable to us, and it therefore caused us very serious regret when, in the ensuing summer, the poor animal went mad, possibly in consequence of his exposure to the severe frost of that night, and it became necessary for the gamekeeper to shoot him, which he could not do without shedding tears. He said he would willingly have given his best cow to save him; and I confess myself that I would not have hesitated to part with my best horse upon the same terms.”