Articles on Pointing Breeds

Irish Red & White Setter Association Holds First Ever Sanctioned Hunting Test

Gary Sadler, AKC Executive Field Representative

"As Irish Red & White Setters were originally bred as partridge and grouse dogs, their style of hunting these birds may be taken as the norm."*

The Irish Red and White Setter Association held its 1st Sanctioned Hunting Test on Sunday, September 14, 2008, at Skungamaug Fish and Game Club in Amston, CT.

Following their Saturday, September 13 conformation show this dedicated group of Setter enthusiasts met in the rain to test their dogs' abilities in the field. The cover was high and wet as the first brace turned loose through typical grouse cover for a back course that intersected two fields before getting to the designated bird field. The nine Red and White Setters entered were supported by Shorthairs and Irish and Gordon Setters.

"Irish Red & White Setters are fast, wide rangers. They use the ground with intelligence and breaking their casts as they check the wind for the faintest scent of game. Should it be unfounded they resume their cast with urgency. The depth between casts should be moderately open depending on the conditions on the day."

Having been involved in forming clubs, I have a great appreciation for all the work and patience needed to form a breed club. After speaking to several Red and White people, I asked Lee Robinson, an IRWSA director, founding member and past president to summarize the efforts taken to arrive at this first AKC sanctioned event.

"In the gallop the head is carried above the line of the back, the line of the muzzle always parallel to the ground. The gallop is fast, flowing, free of obvious effort. The line of the back remains as close to horizontal as possible, due to the harmonious interaction of front and back legs. As the body of the Irish Red & White Setter is close to being square, the galloping dogs appears relatively high over the ground."

According to Lee, it "was a long and dedicated journey which started at the founding of the IRWSA, Inc in 1997. The primary function of the IRWS is a working dog and to this end is the goal of the Association. "In the early stages of the Association a Hunting Test title program was put into place. The requirements to become an Association Junior, Senior or Master Hunter were the same as the other AKC Pointing breeds."

She continued on to say that those "who wanted to put Association Hunting Test titles on our dogs had to contact the AKC club holding the Hunting Test and ask if we could run and be judged by the AKC rules with AKC judges." The running of the IRWS was done at the conclusion of the event. Lee further stated that "clubs never denied our requests and the judges were only to happy to spend the extra time in the field to judge our breed.

"Starting in 2001 and continuing through 2007, independent Hunting Tests were held in conjunction with our National Specialties following AKC rules and regulations. Beginning in April 2004 the breed became eligible to enter official AKC Hunting Tests and since that time we have had many AKC Junior Hunter-titled Association R&Ws and one with two Master legs.

Standing or crouched settings are normal attitudes. The set is intense and rigid,  full  of energy  and concentration, the  placement of  the feet controlling and balancing the tense and immobile body. The head is well up eyes intense, the tail at or below the level of the back line. On a surprise set on finding itself close to game, the Irish Red & White Setter may crouch very low or lie flat on the ground, intense and rigid, with head up and forward."

"With the above achievements accomplished, we applied to the AKC in 2007 requesting to hold a Sanctioned Hunting Test so that we could become eligible to hold official AKC Pointing Dog Hunting Tests. Upon completing all AKC requirements we were approved to hold our first AKC Sanctioned Hunting Test." Lee concluded that "The Association strongly believes that holding AKC field events will be a major factor in keeping the IRWS a dual purpose dog."

"In their quest there must be an intensity that gives purpose to the hunt for game. The concentration on the job at hand should be evident in every stride and movement. The co-operation with the handler is part of that concentration and should not interfere with the quest for game."

The Association's goal is to have their first licensed Hunting Test in Michigan at their 2009 National Specialty. It was my privilege to have covered this Hunting Test and I look forward to seeing more of these Red and White Setters in the future.

* All italics from "The Working Style of the Irish Red and White Setter" ~ IRWS Club of Ireland