The Irish Setter Club Of America and the American Kennel Club recognize a very specific breed standard for the Irish Setter. It is important to note that the Field Dog Stud Book, which also provides registration for the Irish Setter breed among other hunting and sporting dogs, does not necessarily require the same breed standards. In addition some of the Irish Setters in the Field Dog Stud Book have been outbreed with approved English Setters in an attempt by hunters to revert back to the smaller, field type lines within the Irish Setter breed. The Irish Setters within the American Kennel Club registry are not outbreed and cannot be crossed with any other setter or sporting group dog and still be considered eligible for AKC registration.
The overall appearance that the show Irish Setter should portray is a dog that is friendly, regal and aristocratic in appearance and very balanced and flowing between all parts of the body. They should be very graceful when moving or standing, and should never appear to be aggressive or timid when being approached by other people or dogs. The gait should be lively and flowing without appearing bouncy or choppy. The front legs should extend well and the hind legs should provide solid driving force, keeping the topline level when the dog is in motion. The stride should be measured and the legs should remain parallel to each other, slightly moving inward towards a single track at higher speeds. The legs should not rotate outwards or inwards, rather they should be well balanced under the body.
The body itself should be within the general size range of 27 inches and about 70 pounds for males and 25 inches and 60 pounds for females. The standards indicated that size differences of more than an inch either way from these heights should result in a fault but not a complete disqualification. Typically judges consider more specifically how the overall size and proportion of the dog balances, rather than being extremely rigid on the overall size.
As mentioned above the topline or back of the dog from the shoulders, more correctly known as the withers, through to the croup should be flat with a very slight incline towards the back. There should be no sudden angles at the croup and the topline should not be heavily inclined from the front to the back. The body itself is well muscles and solid, not rangy or sparse in appearance. The ribs are well sprung and the chest is deep and moderately wide, but should not obstruct or affect the natural movement of the front legs. There is a noticeable but not highly protruding forechest and the neck blends nicely into the chest and the withers.
The front legs are straight and well positioned to the outside of the body. The shoulder blades are flat, sloping and wide and moderately close together at the withers. The hind legs are muscular but not bulky, long and flat, especially through the loins. The front and hind legs should face forward, without any turning in or out through the lower legs or the feet. The feet are smaller, rounded and the toes are arched. The toes are close together to make a firm foot, not splayed or spread apart. The tail of the Irish Setter should be a natural extension of the topline, carried on the level or slightly curled upwards. It is thicker at the base and tapers to a point that would reach the hocks if let down. The tail is beautifully fringed with tapering feathering that makes the tail appear line a pendant in profile.
The neck of the Irish Setter is moderately long and slightly arched, but not thick or bulky in appearance. It should balance with the head as well as the chest and shoulders, and should be carried high and elevated. The head itself is very chiseled and much longer and narrower than it is wide at the base of the skull. The distance from the muzzle to the back of the head needs to be at least twice the width of the skull between the ears. The muzzle and face is very detailed, covered with a uniformly short and dense hair. The eyes are either a medium to dark brown in color, clear and alert and slightly almond in shape. They should not be deep set or protrude. The stop is very well defined and the forehead and skull is slightly domed when viewed from the front or in profile. The ears are positioned lower on the sides of the skull, not to begin above the level of the eyes. The leather of the ears is thin and fine, with the ear length to reach approximately to the nose. Long silky hair is found over the ears, blending into the slightly longer hair on the neck.
The muzzle itself is narrow and slightly tapering, with a broad, wide nose. The nostrils should be wide and the nose will be a darker chocolate brown to black. The jaws are approximately the same length and the teeth meet in a scissors bite. Lips on the upper jaw are somewhat squared in shape but should not hang beneath the jaw or appear to be loose. Undershot or overshot jaws or missing teeth may be disqualifications.
The coat of the Irish Setter is really the icing on the cake for dog lovers of all types. The very rich, mahogany to rich chestnut red are the only recognized colors permitted in the breed. Some dogs may have a very small patch of white on their chest, a slight centered streak on the face or slight white colorations on the toes. Any black or extensive white markings are disqualifications.
The coat should be flat to the body and free from curl or wave. The hair is naturally short on the face, head and the front of the forelegs, however it is longer over the rest of the body. Fringing occurs on the backs of the legs, the lower belly, brisket, chest, tail and the ears. For show the dog can be trimmed to accentual the natural body shape however the clipping should not shorten the overall coat or alter the breed standard for the coat.