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Can Irish Setters Be Black? We Found Out, Finally!

Purebred Irish setters cannot be black and will only ever be a chestnut red or mahogany kind of color. However, Irish setters are often confused with Gordon setters, who look very similar and do have black coats. Crossbred Irish setters may have a black coat depending on their mix.


Irish Setter Colors

The official colors of purebred Irish setters according to the AKC and many breeders who I have personally spoken to are as follows:

Rich Chestnut
Deep Red

You won’t find many breeders, owners, or reputable websites refer to a purebred Irish setter as any other color. Those are the official colors of the breed.

There are slight differences between the shades and tones of reddy browns. Check out the example below of one Irish setter considered to be more of a mahogany red, and another more chestnutty.

Can Irish Setters Be Black?

Many owners ask if Irish setters can be black, and the simple answer is no.

Although, there are legitimate reasons as to why so many are confused…

The most common reason why people think setters can be black… The Gordon Setter.

Gordon setters are considered very similar to Irish setters, yet they are completely different breeds and have been declared two separate breeds by the AKC for a very long time.

Aside from having a shorter muzzle, and slightly thicker neck, they are mostly very similar in all other ways. The coat style and length is very similar and is why many confuse the two. Gordon setters are black with markings of brown.

The top photo is an adult Gordon setter, and the bottom is a puppy Gordon setter.

Irish Setter Mixes Can Be Black

Then you have crossbred Irish setters, which of course, can be many different colors depending on their mix.

One of the most common mixes for Irish setters is the black labrador. As you can imagine, coat color nearly always ends up being black with this mix.

So if you know someone who is adamant they have seen or even have a “black” Irish setter, that may be the case… But it won’t be a purebred. Even if it carries most of the setter’s physical characteristics, it will still have genes from another breed.

Irish setter rottweilers are also another common mix that can sometimes lead to a long black coat with brown markings. Although physical appearance starts to change more dramatically with this mix.

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Black Irish Setter? Recessive Genes?

The answer starts getting a little more complex with recessive genes and how they can affect coat color.

Some say that Irish setter can be black due to a recessive gene mutation, but it’s not that simple.

According to VCA Hospitals, dog coat colors starts with two basic pigments, black (eumelanin) and red (phaeomelanin). It’s’ from either one of these pigments that all possible dog coat colors are created.

The Irish setter falls under the e (extension) locus category, which is responsible for creating their red coat. This also falls under the recessive red category which at the same time makes all black-modifying genes invisible.

It’s a complicated topic, but from what I’ve understood from scientific journals and articles, the answer remains to be that it’s not possible.

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Thank You For Reading! If you have something to add to this, or have a comment about how Irish setters can in fact be black, I would love to hear from you! I am always happy to receive feedback and update my content where necessary.


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