The heaviest of the setters, the Gordon is sturdily built and capable of withstanding a long, active day. He needs plenty of rigorous exercise every day to be happy and healthy. The Gordon Setter thrives in a lively, active household.
Black and Tan Setters existed in Scotland at least by the 1600s, but it was not until the late 1700s that the breed became established as the Gordon Castle Setter. The Fourth Duke of Gordon (1743–1827) kept many of these dogs at his Gordon Castle, although most of these were reportedly black, tan, and white. Efforts to breed the finest setters at Gordon Castle continued through the efforts of the Duke of Richmond after the Fourth Duke’s death.
Black and Tan Setters, as they were initially named, were shown at the first dog show ever held, in 1859. The name was changed to Gordon Setter in 1924. Gordon Setters are the heaviest and slowest working of the setter breeds, and this distinction was accentuated when Gordons first entered the show ring. In 1875, the trend toward an overly ponderous show Gordon was halted largely through the efforts of one man, Robert Chapman.
Unlike many sporting breeds, little division between show- and field-type Gordons exists. Daniel Webster and George Blunt brought the first two Gordons to America in 1842. The dogs, named Rake and Rachael, were obtained from the Duke’s stock and founded the breed in America. The Gordon Setter was among the first breeds recognized by the AKC, receiving the nod in 1892.
The Gordon Setter is a capable, close-working bird dog. He can run all day, and this kind of energy needs a regular outlet or the dog is apt to become frustrated. Gordons make lively, enthusiastic companions, and need the company of lively people. Somewhat more protective than the other setters, he is reserved toward strangers and sometimes aggressive toward strange dogs. He generally gets along well with other family pets. The Gordon has earned its reputation as a devoted family dog.
The Gordon needs much strenuous exercise every day in order to stay in shape. His coat needs regular brushing and combing every two to three days. In addition, some clipping and trimming is needed for optimal good looks.