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Irish Red and White Setter: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on May 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

Irish red and white setter dog standing in the field

Irish Red and White Setter: Info, Pictures, Facts & Traits

If you haven’t heard of the Irish Red and White Setter (also known as the IRWS), you’re certainly not alone. Their more famous relative, the Irish Setter, often overshadows (but does not outshine) them, so the Irish Red and White Setter is a lesser-known and rarer breed. But they are absolutely worth getting to know!

Breed Overview


22.5–26 inches


35–60 pounds


11–15 years


White with red patches

Suitable for:

Active families or singles with a house with a fenced yard


Active, brave, spirited, affectionate, friendly, tireless

The Irish Red and White Setter is known as one of the best hunting dogs, but they are also an excellent family pet. This breed has beautiful, flowing, silky white hair with eye-catching red patches. Their white coat in particular makes them stand out and consequently, be easy to spot in the field.

The IRWS has a lovely temperament and plenty of energy, and while they aren’t an ideal dog for everyone, they are an outstanding companion for the right home!

Irish Red and White Setter Characteristics

Irish Red and White Setter Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Irish Red and White Setter Puppies

sleepy Irish Red and White Setter puppy
Image By: FogDogStudios, Shutterstock

Since the Irish Red and White Setter is a rare breed, it might be a challenge to find one. If you locate a breeder, do your due diligence to ensure that they are ethical and a registered IRWS breeder. You can check for breeders through the Irish Red and White Setter Association of America and the AKC.

Be careful when looking for puppies on online sites, as you might encounter backyard breeders and puppy mills. If you locate a good breeder, ask them plenty of questions, but you might need to be prepared to join a waitlist and have your puppy flown to your location.

We typically recommend adopting your puppy or dog, but the rarity of the IRWS makes this practically impossible. That said, you can still check for rescues.

Irish Red and White Setter Origin & History

It’s thought the Irish Red and White Setter originated in the 17th century and was bred more for their hunting work in the field than for appearance. Artwork from the 16th century depicted white and red “setting” dogs with hunters, so the actual date that these dogs came into existence isn’t known.

Unfortunately, while these dogs were well-favored by hunters, the red Irish Setter started to gain popularity due to their solid red coat. By the beginning of World War I, only a few Irish Red and White Setters remained, but Reverend Noble Huston and his cousin Dr. Elliot started breeding the IRWS and brought them back from the brink of extinction. Maureen Cuddy née Clarke took over breeding the Reverend’s dogs in the 1940s, and while their numbers grew, they are still not as popular today as they should be.

Irish red and white setter dog sitting in dark autumn forest
Image By: Natalia Fedosova, Shutterstock

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Irish Red and White Setter

Irish Red and White Setters are highly intelligent, deeply devoted, and highly energetic, though their strong attachments to their families mean they shouldn’t be left alone for extended periods.

They are affectionate and friendly dogs known for their gentleness. However, due to their social temperaments and lack of aggression, they don’t make the best guard dogs. Still, your IRWS will love accompanying you on your outings and exploring new scents and experiences.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

The Irish Red and White Setter is an ideal breed for families, particularly for those who lead an active lifestyle. They are playful, gentle, and affectionate, but their high energy levels might be too much for younger children to handle. It is also crucial to teach your children to treat all animals with respect. Dogs should not be subjected to tail and ear pulling. Involving your children in the dog’s care will give them a sense of responsibility and help strengthen the bond between them.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?🐶 😽

With the right socialization and training, the Irish Red and White Setter should get along well with other pets. It’s important to note that as a hunting dog, they tend to have a high prey drive. Therefore, unless they are raised alongside cats, they may not be the best companions for them.

Image Credit: Natalia-Fedosova, Shutterstock

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Things to Know When Owning an Irish Red and White Setter

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Choosing the right food and the appropriate amount for your dog depends on their age and weight. Be sure to provide high-quality food that is tailored to your dog’s current stage of life and provides enough energy for their activity level.

It’s always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to get recommendations on the best food brand, feeding frequency, and portion size for your pup. You should also limit the number of treats that you give your dog and avoid feeding them table scraps. Obesity is a common issue among canines, and table scraps may contain toxic ingredients that can be harmful to your IRWS.

Finally, ensure that your dog has constant access to clean and fresh water.

Exercise 🐕

Exercise is everything to these dogs! They have such a high energy level that they definitely need someone who can keep up with them. The Irish Red and White Setter needs long walks and plenty of time running off-leash. You can expect to exercise these dogs a minimum of 2 hours a day. They’ll appreciate various activities, such as accompanying you on jogs and hikes, swimming, and biking.

Apart from physical exercise, you’ll need to keep them mentally engaged through play, such as fetch or any other game that can engage their hunting instincts.

Image Credit: Glenkar, Shutterstock

Training 🎾

Irish Red and White Setters are intelligent and devoted, which can make for relatively easy training. That said, the IRWS tends to mature slower than many other breeds, so they can be easily distracted, which can make training frustrating at times. Use only positive reinforcement methods and keep training sessions short and interesting. You should start training your IRWS almost as soon as you bring them home.

We also can’t stress socialization enough! Your dog should be exposed to as many places and people as possible, which will help them grow into a happy and well-adjusted adult dog.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming the Irish Red and White Setter isn’t that difficult. Since they have medium-length silky fur, they will need brushing several times a week. You might also want to have some of the fur trimmed around their ears and feet, but that’s mostly all that you need to worry about as far as trimming goes. They look their best when their flowing fur is left as is!

This breed doesn’t need frequent baths—aim for every 3 months or so or when necessary (like a rainy, muddy day). When you bathe your pup, be sure to use only a good dog shampoo. Beyond brushing and bathing, you’ll need to check their ears weekly and clean them when necessary, trim their nails every 3 to 4 weeks, and brush their teeth weekly.

Irish red and white setter in a field
Image Credit: Dinotopia, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

Irish Red and White Setters are healthy dogs in general. However, as with all breeds, they tend to have specific health conditions that they are prone to developing. While not all dogs will experience these conditions, it’s still wise to be familiar with them.

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
Serious Conditions
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Canine leukocyte adhesion deficiency

Male vs. Female

Male Irish Red and White Setters are slightly bigger and heavier than females. They are 24.5 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 42 and 60 pounds, while females are 22.5 to 24 inches tall and weigh 35 to 50 pounds.

Having your female dog spayed or your male dog neutered may affect their temperament to a certain extent. It is also believed that female dogs are less affectionate but easier to train than males. Nonetheless, keep in mind that how a dog is socialized and trained and how they are treated in general have a more direct impact on their temperament.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Irish Red and White Setter

1. The Irish Red and White Setter Is Endangered in the U.K.

As recently as 2020, the Irish Red and White Setter was the most endangered dog breed in the U.K. In 2019, only 39 puppies were registered, and it is believed that the popularity of the cousin to this breed, the red Irish Setter, has overshadowed the IRWS.

2. The Irish Red and White Setter Is a Separate Breed From the Irish Setter

The IRWS is an older breed compared to the Irish Setter, and they differ in color and size. They are also shorter and stockier and have red patches instead of being all-over red.

3. The AKC Was Late to the Game in Recognizing the IRWS

The first Irish Red and White Setter was imported to the United States in the 1960s. However, the American Kennel Club did not recognize them until 2009. The Red and White Setter was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1995, followed by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1999.

Irish Red and White Setter
Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

The Irish Red and White Setter is an exceptional dog breed, famous for their devotion and high energy levels. They are excellent outdoor or hunting companions and make excellent family pets.

Finding one of these dogs might be challenging due to their rarity, but their loyalty and dedication to their owners make them worth the effort. The IRWS is a stunning breed with an enormous amount of energy and love to share with the right family.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: L-Nagy, Shutterstock

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