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The Ryman-Type Setter Breeder

It Takes a Hunter-Breeder was established by a group of breeders to protect the future of the Ryman-type setter. The type was developed by George Ryman beginning in the 1910s to counter the ever increasing emphasis by English setter breeders of his time on field trials and shows, much to the detriment of the dogs’ hunting abilities. Ryman understood that if you were going to produce setters that are hunting specialists you had to hunt… That is as true today as it was then.

Because we are all dedicated hunters, breeder members understand what Ryman understood, and by adopting a cooperative approach we can direct our 400+ years of hunting and breeding experience towards the goal of continuing what he began- producing superior hunting setters. aka Ryman-type setters.

Why Does It Take a Hunter to Breed Hunting Dogs?

Someone who isn’t an experienced hunter simply can’t produce high quality hunting dogs any more than someone with no experience in field trials or the show ring could produce champions in those venues. It’s not possible to select for or keep essential hunting traits in your dogs if you don’t know what they are.

What Does It Take to Breed Great Hunting Dogs?

To be successful goes beyond just hunting, owning a dog, and producing a litter of puppies.

First a breeder needs to thoroughly understand hunting wild birds- food sources, habitat preferences, where the birds are going to be and when, how they behave normally and under hunting pressure… experience that isn’t gained casually or on an occasional hunting trip, but is essential for understanding your dog’s interactions with the birds and the cover.

Taking the next step is critical- the purpose of the hunt evolves into evaluating the dogs’ abilities. This transition begins with comparing them- wanting to know why one performs better than another and what special talents each demonstrates. It’s not until the hunt is approached from this perspective that a breeder begins to see and understand the inherited traits that allow an individual dog to excel, and develops the expertise required to properly evaluate hunting dogs.

For the hunter-breeder bird hunting becomes the pursuit of fully understanding our dogs’ performance, and determining which are breeding prospects. It is only through this never-ending quest for improvement that a hunter gains the experience and knowledge to successfully breed superior hunting dogs.

Breeders who lack this perspective based on critical examination of performance on wild birds are doomed to produce an average dog, an average that will be ever-declining, as bird hunters witnessed in the Irish setter 75 years ago and the Golden Retriever more recently.

What Makes Our Group Different?

It takes time, effort, and dedication for breeders to develop this critical understanding of their dogs. By working together and tapping into our members’ 400+ years of collective experience, our group’s expertise is raised to a level beyond the reach of an individual breeder. From new breeders just beginning to select their first breeding dogs, to those of us who have been at it for decades, we each add our own perspective and experience to the group’s pool of knowledge. We all learn from each other.

What Does the Ryman-Type Setter Need Now?

The Ryman-type setter was nearly lost to rampant Hip Dysplasia and indiscriminate breeding in the late 1980s. We’ve come a long way since then, but those threats to the type haven’t gone away.

While there is much to discuss about threats, the major new one is the proliferation of misinformation coming from pet-focused breeders who may believe they are producing Ryman-types but aren’t. These breeders understand very well the appeal of Ryman-type setters, but because they are not genuine hunters they don’t understand what they really are. George Ryman was harshly critical of their approach to breeding English setters. Though these pet setters are beautiful and make lovely companions they are no substitute for a Ryman-type setter when it comes to performance on wild birds.

Although things have improved there still aren’t enough active breeders of Ryman-type setters to ensure a solid gene pool. Let’s learn from the past and recognize the threats of today. We welcome breeders who are hunters and who do know what Ryman-type setters are to join us in working to secure their future.


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