Hopes ‘fantastic’ Scottish dog breed on the brink of extinction can be saved

Hopes are high that a Scottish dog breed on the brink of extinction could be saved - if people knew the gundogs existed.

A Gordon Setter. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.
A Gordon Setter. Picture: Wikimedia Commons.

Gordon Setters were first bred by Scots aristocrat Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, sometime before his death in 1827.

The black-and-tan dogs were immortalised in verse by poet William Somerville, who described his pet bounding towards prey: ‘His nostrils wide inhale, quick joy elates/His beating heart’.

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The handsome dogs would have hunted partridge, grouse and pheasant.

And their temperament is said to be ‘intelligent, noble, and dignified’, according to the American Kennel Club breed standard.

The original kennels still remain at the Gordon Castle Estate in Fochabers, the Highlands.

But after the Second World War, the popularity of the Gordon Setters declined as Labrador Retrievers became a favoured breed of working dog.

A Kennel Club report showed a 60 per cent decline in breed registrations in the past six years, described as ‘deeply concerning’.

Secretary Caroline Kelso said: “People just don’t know they exist.”

However, ancestors of the Duke of Gordon are hopeful of a revival of the setters’ popularity.

Angus Gordon Lennox, owner of Gordon Castle Estate, said: “The Gordon Setter breed was developed in the late 18th century by my ancestor, the 4th Duke of Gordon, on this estate.

“We still have the original kennels the dogs were bred in at Kennels Cottage, now available as a holiday rental.

“We hope that by arranging a gathering during our popular Highland Games day we can educate visitors about this fantastic breed and in turn, inspire them to consider owning one in the future.

“We must all work together to keep our native breeds thriving for centuries to come.”

Angus and his wife Zara have invited Gordon Setters and their owners to join them on May 19 as they attempt the largest gathering of the breed, at the Gordon Castle Highland Games.