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Gordon Setter History
by Esther Joseph

Arrow  Gordon Setter Breed Standard
From a painting - Gordon at Point

The Gordon Setter is a unique dog and as such has certain characteristics, which are unique to the breed. One of the most important features of the Gordon is its distinctive build. A Gordon that looks like a black and tan Irish or English Setter is not built correctly and therefore is not typical of the breed.

One must remember that the Gordon Setter is an air scenting breed, he was developed over a long period of time for the sole purpose of setting game birds (mostly Grouse) on the heavy heather covered Scottish moors.

It is said that the Setter was evolved from the old "Setting Spaniel" and its main function was to work. These were the days before "Dog Shows"! At that time Setters came in all colours there were some preferences for one colour over another but as early as the 17th century "black and fallow" dogs are mentioned Alexander, the fourth Duke of Gordon (1743-1827), established his famous kennel of wonderful working setters at Gordon Castle near Fochabers not far from the River Spey in UK. It seems certain that these setters were black, white and tan, black and white, and black and tan. The Duke was believed to prefer the Gordons that were black and tan. If this is so he would have encouraged the breeding of this colour in preference to the others. It's a known fact that there were black and tan setters at Gordon Castle as early as 1825.

History has it that the Duke would not shoot over his setters until they were 5 years old, as they were very wild when they were young and slow in maturing. Most breeders and Gordon owners would say the Gordon Setter has remained unchanged in this respect today.

Alexander the 4th Duke died in 1827 and George the 5th Duke (and the last Duke of Gordon) in 1836. During these 9 years the kennel was reduced. Dogs were probably given to various friends and possibly many went to the Duke's keepers. At the dispersal sale at Tattersalls in July 1836 only eleven setters were sold (maybe the remainder of his kennel) of these eleven setters only one (Duke a 5 years old male) was black and tan. Five were black and white, one black, one black white and tan, one red and white and two black and white 4 months old pups.

Gordon Castle in the 1930's One of the Duke of Gordon's setters

On the death of the 5th Duke Of Gordon in 1836 the title became extinct and the estate was passed on to his nephew the 5th Duke of Richmond. In 1875 the sixth Duke was created "the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. It is interesting to note at the Tattersalls sale, the Duke of Richmond purchased "Juno" for 34 guineas and it is generally accepted that he got together a strong kennel of working Gordon Setters.

In spite of conflicting report, the weight of evidence suggests that after the kennel was revived by the Duke of Richmond the principal colour was still black, white and tan with a few black and tans, but the latter seems to have died out gradually at the Castle. This is confirmed by the fact that when the kennel was finally closed in 1907, Mr. Isaac Sharpe of the 'Stylish' gundog kennels bought all of the remaining setters and these were all black, white and tan.

In short the first part of the Black and Tan or the Gordon Setter history goes back some two and half centuries and the Duke of Gordon developed its working ability making it famous. As the Rev Pearce wrote (under the pseudonym of 'A Breeder of Great Experience' in the original edition of Stonehenge's book 1867) 'The origin of the breed is not well known. The late Duke of Gordon, at any rate, brought it up to its present excellence. However, no less important than the development of the breed by the Duke of Gordon has been its establishment and perfecting during the latter half of the nineteenth century and after.

In the first Stud Book of the Kennel Club (English) covering the years 1859-1874 there were 126 Black & Tan setters listed but it was not until 1st January 1924 that the Kennel Club accepted the name of GORDON SETTER as a registered breed. It should be noted that up to 1958 it was necessary to obtain a working certificate to become a champion but from that date the Kennel Club agreed to a title of Show Champion (Sh. Ch.) for dogs that were not working stock.

The first official dog show, organized by John Shorthose and William Pape, was held in the Town Hall at Newcastle-on-Tyne 28-29 June 1859. It was exclusively for Pointers and Setters of which respectively 23 and 36 were exhibited, and the first prize for Setters was awarded to Mr. Jobling's Black and Tan Setter, 'Dandie' (No 1) whose grandsire is said to have been bred by the Duke of Gordon.

In the November following, a second show was held in Birmingham for Sporting Dogs of various kinds, and this was won by another Black and Tan Setter, Mr. Burdett's 'Brougham' (No2)

Ch. Dawn of Daven- breed record holder Ch. Heather Grouse

The first Australian exhibition of Gordon Setters took place at the Melbourne Show in 1865 . Two dogs PONTO and DIDO were imported by Mr. Lachlan C. Mackinnon and shown at the above show, Ponto was refused classification by the judge owing to a considerable amount of white on him. Mr. Mackinnon protested against the decision in a letter to the Argus (Melbourne newspaper) pointing out that "both dog and bitch came from the same kennel in Skye Scotland, where his family had bred Gordons for generations and white was a reconised colour"

Also in this period records show that Mr. Haddan of "Heronwood Kennels" imported YOUNG REX and then in 1889 HEATHER SPARK along with Mr. H. Nicolson who imported HEATHER BESS

Gordons had a good following in Australia pre-war, and serious breeding was being done by TABILK (Mr. Olof R. Michelson, Thornbury Victoria), ARDALE (P. Brand), GLENHAIG (George West of Parramatta NSW) and ARGYLE (Mr. Dunlop) which was taken over by Geo E. Edwards of Sydney NSW in 1923 and changed to O'ARGYLE and was used as a suffix. At the 1923 Sydney Royal show there was an entry of 14 Gordons and challenge dog went to Peter Dawson O'Argyle.

A bitch NORA OF ARDALE, was imported from Scotland during in this period, Nora and her son MICHAEL OF ARDALE were great assets to the breed. Donald Cameron owned BANG STYLISH an import from Isaac Sharpe of SCOTLAND, Bang Stylish is featured in lots of past pedigrees George West imported from New Zealand K ERI RANGER and KERRI CHARM, and when mated to BARRULE BRAW SCOT produced DUAL CH. GLENHAIG TRIGER a great Gordon. Many of these dogs are the past ancestors of our Gordons which are now here in Australia, and we can trace our present day pedigrees back over the decades.

A Gordon Setters characteristic eagerness to work and please his owner has not changed over the centuries. The things that have changed are different styles of Gordons through the years. The Gordon is a devoted one person/family dog who can be somewhat reserved with strangers, he is not the friend of every passer by, but instead lives solely for the pleasure of being near his owners.

Beauty, Brains and Bird sense are the outstanding qualities of this handsome black and tan setter from Scotland.

From a painting - Gordons Working

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