A natural coat length is the breed standard for English Setters, whether they are hunting stock or show stock. While the topside of the coat is not extremely long, the feathers on the legs, tail, chest and underbelly can be quite long. Some hunters allow the coat to grow feathers that nearly reach halfway down the length of the legs, but do not allow the coat to extend much beyond that length.
The English Setter originated in England 400 years ago from the Spaniel Setter stock. These dogs used by hunters to track and point their owner toward game fowl. The coat should be flat and can be of any length as long as it does not interfere with the dog's ability to hunt and track game. While the breed standard requires long feathering on the legs, tail, chest and underbelly, some owners trim back the cut to reduce coat maintenance.
While some English Setters do have feathering that is not extremely long, the breed’s coat is capable of extending beyond the halfway point of the leg. As a result, some hunters choose to trim back the feathering on the legs and underbelly to prevent excessive matting or soiling. While this is done to increase performance and reduce maintenance, an extremely short or excessively trimmed coat is acceptable for hunting stock, but not for breed competitions because it hides the coat potential.
Grooming and Trimming
A strict grooming schedule is not necessary for this breed, but regular coat maintenance such as brushing and bathing keep the coat at its optimal level of performance. Grooming brushes and trimming shears are all that are required to keep the English Setters coat free from mattes and dirt. Most pet supply stores carry different types of brushes and combs that are designed for breeds with flat, feathery coats. Wet or dry baths are only necessary if the coat becomes excessively soiled.
Ideal Coat Texture
Whether short or long, the English Setter coat should be soft and flat as opposed to course and curly. Any traits that result in a course or wooly coat are considered a flaw to the breed because they hinder the dog’s performance in the field. A soft, light coat sheds water easily and dries quickly, thus increases speed and agility. A course coat reduces speed with water weight, and a wooly coat does so because it catches on underbrush.
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