6640 N. Old State Rd. 37, Bloomington, Indiana
The Big Rock Ranch Gordon Setters
Black and tan setters apparently originated in the 16th century in Scotland and England.
Along about 1820, The Duke of Gordon had a well documented acute interest in the
black and tan setters and sought to establish the breed with its present characteristics.
Shortly thereafter, George Blunt and Daniel Webster purchased two dogs, Rake and
Rachael, from the Duke of Gordon's kennels. Rake and Rachael were brought to the then
bird hunting paradise known as America along about 1842 by their owners, and are the
first known Gordon Setters to land in America, immediately making the New World a
Initially Gordons were bred, trained, and owned as serious bird hunting companions. Due
to their beauty, complete loyalty, and pleasant disposition, especially with children, they
have been bred for pets and show since the 20th century. In fact, Gordons routinely
score extremely well in AKC dog shows against other breeds and have won Best of
Show. However a strong line of serious hunting Gordon Setters is still very popular
among small group of knowledgeable hunting dog men in the US, including those of us at
the Big Rock Ranch.
The Gordon Setter was officially recognized as a distinct breed by the American Kennel Club in 1892. This really
put them on the map as a show dog, and interest in the breed increased. Somewhere at this point in history
there began to be two increasingly distinctive types of Gordons; the large (up to 80 pound) stature show dogs
with lots of fur feathering trimming their limbs, tail, and ears; and the serious hunting Gordon Setter, smaller in
stature (about 45 pounds) bred for all day hunting with less fur feathering for ease of coat maintenance and a
stronger, stop at nothing, hunting drive. While we have had both types, the latter is the Big Rock Ranch variety
of Gordons. We like serious hunters.
Gordon Setters are bright and
athletic, pleasant, even funny, very
vocal with a wide vocabulary
(especially when yawning or hungry)
and exceedingly loyal. They are
extremely devoted to members of
their household. In fact, they suffer
from considerable separation anxiety
when not in regular contact with their
human family members. When Boss
is gone they go into a funk. Losing
appetite and getting lethargic.
Gordons are very territorial and defensive of home. While not physically aggressive with people, they let strangers
know, in no uncertain terms, they are not welcome at their home. Our mailman, trash guy, and parcel delivery
people are the only people that do not really like our dogs. Gordons are alert and vigilant. Nothing escapes their
eyes, ears, or nose. They respond to everything that is out of place, doesn't belong, or is just not right.
In public, everyone wants to love on our Gordons and while they don't really appreciate the extra attention from
strangers, they tolerate it well. I have only seen a Gordon snap when they are being physically hurt by someone
they do not know. In fact, Gordons are so extremely loyal to Boss, they are jealous types and do not like for Boss
to have other dogs, cats, or other objects of affection. Boss' spouse is only liked when the Gordon gets more love
than the spouse, at least when the dog is looking.
Gordons are high spirited dogs and, just like children, must
be trained with encouragement and praise so as not to break
that high spirit. Their tails wag so hard you think they are
going to hurt themselves.
They go through a protracted 2 year long puppy phase. Yet,
they are best trained started very young, at weaning. Even on
live birds. One of the dog world's most satisfying sights is
seeing an entire litter of wobbly little Gordon Setter hunting
pups all on point at the same time when only 6 - 7 weeks
They do not under any circumstance want to
disappoint Boss. They shut down when whipped
or beaten, and a dog can simply be ruined with
harsh treatment. Gordons are smart dogs, so
they learn shortcuts early. Some of these may
need to be corrected (e.g., not holding steady to
wing or shot) without consistent early training.
Basic obedience training will make your Gordon a
better companion and a better canine citizen.
Gordons make fantastic household pets. Ours simply do not smell bad. In fact, most people think they smell
delightful, even when they haven't had a bath for a spell. Their coats are easy to maintain with brushing and
occasional shampooing. Shedding is generally light and easy to manage with brushing. I drool in my sleep
more than my dogs do, even when watching the family dine. House training is quick with regular feeding and
potty walk times. Our dogs prefer the soft beds with cedar in them. They are not well adapted to being city
dwellers. They must have plenty of daily exercise in a safe fenced (real fence not the invisible type) yard. Their
curiosity and hunting instinct is much stronger than the invisible fence is effective. They will break through
easily in pursuit of varmints that must be pointed or run out of the home turf. There is not room in any size yard
for even a single mole and a Gordon Setter. They must "defend this house" from infidels of all description with
barking and intimidation. They are no respecters of property boundaries, traffic on highways, or other places
they should not go when the urge to hunt or defend kicks in.
While they are of noble heritage, and may even be fed the finest food and freshest water, when afforded the
opportunity, Gordons still have an infatuation with refuse and shitty diapers from the garbage can. After which,
they prefer to slake their thirst with vintage pee-water from the toilet. Thus, prudent management of the
garbage can and toilet lid are prerequisite if they are household companions.
They must receive copious amounts of love from the
Boss and other household members. Frequent walks
tethered on a leash helps them to remember who is
charge and keeps basic obedience commands fresh in
their minds. It's also good to have the kids take them
for walks and practice basic commands with the
Gordons. They travel extremely well to football games,
the park, to pick the kids up from school, etc.
Every Gordon Setter needs a kid. They go well together. Gordons are defensive of Boss' little people. When
the brat neighbor kid teases our dogs they drift off to a brat proof hiding spot rather than snapping at the
deserving perpetrator. Similar to dogs, children must be trained how to respect a dog and treat them properly
as a member of the family that also needs respect for everyone to be happy campers. Whether you want a
Gordon for sport, show or a unique an beautiful companion, visit our web site at
www.soilandwater.com/bigrockranchkennel for more information or drop me a line.
Steve Chafin, Big Rock Ranch