There are only four surviving setters, the English, Gordon, Irish Red and White, and Irish (solid red). The first mention of a setting spaniel traces back to the 1620s and it seems likely that these dogs shared the same ancestry as their flushing cousins. Instead of flushing birds these dogs were trained to freeze and ‘set’ when prey was located.
All four setters are believed to have been developed around the 1700s, with the Gordon possibly being the oldest. Although the Irish Setter is more well-known than the Irish Red and White the latter has existed for longer.
Aside from the Brittany there are three other French breeds, the French Spaniel, Picardy Spaniel and Blue Picardy Spaniel. The French is the oldest, having existed since at least 1600s. The Picardy and Brittany are almost as old, dating back to the 1700s. The Blue Picardy was not developed until English Setter crosses were made to some bloodlines of the Picardy in the late 1800s.
Labeling the German Longhaired Pointer as a spaniel may seem odd, as it is closely related to the other German Pointers (Shorthaired, Wirehaired and Rough Haired). However in appearance it is more setter than pointer and it is likely that the English and Gordon Setters, along with the French Spaniels were used in its development. As for the two Münsterländers, the Large began life as a color variation of the German Longhaired Pointer and the Small is linked to the Deutscher Wachtelhund.
The Deutscher Wachtelhund is a fourth dog from Germany that the FCI classifies as an actual spaniel – although like the French breeds listed above the it actually works as an all-around gun dog rather than as a spaniel.
The Drentse Patrijshond and Stabyhoun are Dutch and closely related, both recognized as Continental Pointers by the FCI (spaniel type). They are very similar to the old type of spaniels, although aside from flushing they are adapt at pointing and retrieving.
The Kooikerhondje is an anomaly as the FCI recognizes them as a flushing spaniel when they, along with the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, are actually the only breeds that are decoy dogs. Decoys will actually entice ducks and waterfowl either into nets or within range of guns rather than flushing out prey. These dogs do both have spaniel blood in their veins, and both descend from the extinct English Red Decoy Dog.
Next week we will finish the Spaniel tree by adding the water dogs, which is somehow even more complicated than the non-flushing list.