Legend has it that the finest hunting dog that ever lived was a red dog named Modder Rhu. From there, the reputation of the red setters (Irish: sotar rua, literally “red setter”) who hunted the rugged terrain of the Irish moors spread far and wide. The breed was developed to track fowl with its sharp sense of smell, and to silently freeze in position so the hunter could follow and bag the prey. Holding its position also kept the dog from getting shot.
Red and White Setters may have been the earlier setters, but solid red setters we now call Irish Setters were known in Ireland by the 1800s. In the late 19th century, the setters were brought to the United States to work as gundogs on partridge, pheasant, teal, wild duck,quail, grouse, prairie chickens, and woodcock. The breed was accepted by the AKC in 1878, and quickly become beloved for its jocularity, enthusiasm, and friendliness towards children.