Gordon Setters The Breed

History suggests the existence of black and tan setters as far back as the 16th century in Scotland and England. The Duke of Gordon is credited with establishing the breed with its present characteristics in the 1820’s.

Gordons were initially bred as bird dogs, for hunting birds like pheasant and quail. Although the hunting instinct remains strong in the breed, Gordons are equally at home as companion dogs, obedience and agility competitors, and show dogs.

There is no denying a Gordon would stay a “puppy” forever, but with proper techniques young Gordons can be trained without breaking their spirit. They are not a breed that responds well to heavy handed style obedience. Gordons are highly intelligent dogs, as quick to spot an advantage as to spot game. Basic obedience training will make your Gordon a better companion and a better canine. Obedience classes are available in most areas through the kennel club.

Gordons are capable of adapting to a variety of living situations, as long as they are assured of the love of their masters. They do, however, need plenty of daily exercise to maintain peak physical and mental condition. Gordons need a safe, fenced area in which to run and play. They also need to be taken for frequent on-lead walks. This breed should never be allowed to roam freely because Gordons have a tendency to put their noses to the ground where the hunting instinct might lead them to follow a bird or a squirrel across a busy road.

Children and Gordon Setters are a good combination, especially when the dog is introduced to children at a young age. If you have children, please remember that children are not always aware of how to treat a dog, and must be taught to respect the rights of the dog as a member of your household.

The Gordon Setter is generally a fit sound and healthy breed, however in February 2009 it was confirmed that the Gordon Setter could suffer from an autosomal recessive mutation of a gene which causes PRA. In the Gordon Setter this has been found to have "late onset" that it is unlikely to be displayed until 10 years of age, although ophthalmic testing could show early clinical signs from seven years of age.

At this time the members of the British Gordon Setter club, together with the other breed clubs and associations, joined together to fund research into this condition via the animal health trust (AHT).   Seminars were held with eminent speakers to ensure that the condition was understood and how it would be managed, although it was made clear that this was not a curable condition.

Many breeds suffer a form of PRA but the mutation in the Gordon Setter unfortunately did not match that of any other breed and so the AHT had to genotype the mutation and this could take many years of research and testing.  It is therefore amazing that the mutation was discovered in under two years and there is now a test available (please see information below) to allow us to move forward with our breeding programs which if sensibly managed will mean that PRA within the Gordon Setter  can be eradicated completely although this will take several years.  The British Gordon Setter Club is extremely grateful to Catheryne Melluish and her team at the AHT who have worked so hard to bring the test to fruition. 

Bryan McLauchlin of the AHT has advised us that

 "Among the genetically affected there are likely to be many that have yet to show clinical signs, and also a handful that may never present retinal atrophy.  Although this is considered a late onset condition, the age of onset is hugely variable (from 7 to 13+), a trait which has also been observed with PRA in other breeds.  Eye conditions in general have been noted by clinicians as much slower in the progression when they are later onset, compared to an early onset condition which tend to rapidly progress to maturity.  Although late onset PRA has risen as a problem within the Gordon Setter, it would appear that the deleterious genetic calls is far more prolific than the observed clinical cases. Some dogs might just not be living long enough to present clinical signs of retinal atrophy caused by the rcd4PRA mutation.  From the research there are three cases homozygous affected dogs which remain clinically clear, two were 9 years old and another was 11 at the time of examination. The owners have been informed of their dog’s genetic status and offered reimbursement if they were willing to take the dog to a BVA eye panellist for further examination.  Unfortunately, because this condition is very late onset, a lot of the results I've reported are for dogs that are now deceased. Hopefully with the use of the DNA test as a breeders tool we can help eradicate this form of PRA from the breed within a few canine generations.”

All stock from the Liric kennel has been DNA tested for the rcd4PRA mutation by the AHT.