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4 Irish Setter Colors (With Pictures)

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

irish setter dog in the forest

Irish Setters are fairly popular dogs. These dogs hail from Ireland and have been around for hundreds of years. In 2023, the Irish Setter was the 71st most popular dog in the United States. That means that there are people who are dedicated to breeding and owning Irish Setters, but most people might not know a lot of specific information about the dogs. Irish Setters come in four similar colors. All official purebred Irish Setters must be one of these colors. If you stumble across an Irish Setter that is not one of these colors, it is likely a mixed breed or some sort of non-standard anomaly.

Here are four Irish Setter colors with pictures to be aware of.

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The 4 Irish Setter Official Colors

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), there are only three official colors for the Irish Setter. Irish Setters can be chestnut, mahogany, or red. Some white markings are acceptable, but they are not standard. The standard Irish Setter is one solid color that contains no black.

1. Chestnut

Irish setter eating from a bowl
Image Credit: SeventyFour, Shutterstock
AKC Registration Code: 070
Standard: Yes
Official Description: The color may be described as deep, heavily saturated, reddish brown (like the nut of the same name)

According to the AKC, the color chestnut is “usually used to describe Irish Setters and Pharaoh Hounds.” This shows how common the color chestnut is in Irish Setters. Compared to red, chestnut is a little deeper and contains more brown. However, it is more red than brown. Chestnut is a standard color for Irish Setters and is one of the most commonly found colors in the breed.


2. Mahogany

irish setter dog panting in the meadow
Image Credit: Reddogs, Shutterstock
AKC Registration Code: 128
Standard: Yes
Official Description: This color is a medium-saturated, dull, reddish brown.

Mahogany is similar to chestnut except that it is duller and browner. Mahogany Irish Setters are not as vibrant as red or chestnut Setters. However, Mahogany is still an official color for Irish Setters, but it is less common than red and chestnut. Many breeders and owners prefer their Irish Setters to be as red as possible. Mahogany is the least red color out of the three official colors of the Irish Setter. At first glance, some of these dogs will look brown rather than the more common and desired red.


3. Red

irish setter puppy dog lying on the grass
Image Credit: Rebius, Shutterstock
AKC Registration Code: 140
Standard: No
Official Description: Standard red color. Color definitions may vary by breed. Always check the breed standard for the definitive color description.

Red is a typical standard color for many dog breeds. Red in Irish Setters is a color that is similar to that of a red fox or a redheaded human. Red is the more desirable color for Irish Setters, and it is the most common color for well-bred and high-priced setters. In some circles, the Irish Setter is known as the Red Setter or Red Irish Setter. The Irish Setter was the subject of an intensive selective breeding regimen in the 19th century. The goal of the selective breeding effort was to make Irish Setters solid red in color. Other colors were slowly bred out until the breed standard Irish Setter was solid red. Today, red Setters are still the most desirable, most respected, and most common in the show world.


4. White Markings

Irish Red and White Setter
Image Credit By: Dinotopia, shutterstock
AKC Registration Code: 140
Standard: No
Official Description: A small amount of white on chest, throat, or toes, or a narrow centered streak on skull is not to be penalized.

Despite the fact that the most desirable Irish Setters are solid red in color, some white markings are still accepted in the breed. White markings can appear on the chest, neck, or feet. They can also appear on the head, usually on the nose or on the top of the head. Some white markings are accepted, but they are considered to be uncommon or non-standard, according to the AKC.

Setters with standard and common white markings are often part of the Irish Red and White Setter breed. Irish Red and White Setters (IRWS) are an offshoot of the original Irish Setter breed, which contained much more white in their coats than the modern version. When people selectively bred the white out of Irish Setters to make them all red, it left a small population of original Setters that retained their white markings. Setters that retain the white markings and genes for those markings are often considered IRWS rather than standard Irish Setters.

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Are There Black Irish Setters?

No. There are no black Irish Setters. Some people try to advertise rare Irish Setters that are black, but Irish Setters cannot be black. In fact, the official breed standard includes the phrase that true Irish Setters have coats that contain no black. If you run into someone claiming to have a black Irish Setter or selling a black Irish Setter, they are likely in possession of a Setter mixed breed. Purebred Irish Setters are only red.

Other Setter Breeds

If you run into Irish Setters of other colors than these four, there is a good chance they could be a mixed breed. There are four species of Setter, including the Irish Setter, that can be used to create convincing mixed breeds that can look like purebred dogs to the untrained eye.

The four breeds of Setters are:

Both the Irish Setter and Irish Red and White Setters are primarily red. The English and Gordon Setters have more color variations than the Irish Setter.

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Conclusion

Unlike other dog breeds, Irish Setters have a very specific and narrow color pallet. Some dogs can be dozens of different colors. Irish Setters can technically only be three official colors with some white markings thrown in. The ideal standard for the Irish Setter is a solid red dog with a uniform coat with no markings and no other colors. There are no black or gray Irish Setters. All purebred Irish Setters are largely red with some white thrown in. That makes it easy to remember what makes an official Irish Setter and what can potentially tip you off to a mixed breed or non-standard dog.


Featured Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock

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