For centuries, humans have relied on dogs for their hunting needs. When hunting evolved, the duties of the dogs evolved too, causing them to adjust to their master’s needs. Nowadays, hunting is more a sport than a life duty, and hunters are looking for the best dogs that match their needs. Whether you are planning to hunt geese, quail or rabbits, there’s a breed of dog selectively bred to excel in the task. With over 300 breeds of dogs, nowadays there are still a few selected breeds that have been purposely bred for hunting over the years and continue to be used for this task.
Types of Hunting Dogs
Not all hunting dogs are created equal. As hunters evolved, they found a need for types of dogs who could excel in precise tasks. This meant selectively breeding dogs that showed a marked predisposition for those tasks, so that over the years, they had on their hands the best hunting partner they could desire. Following are categories of hunting dogs that were purposely bred to meet the needs of certain hunting methods.
These hunting dogs are quite obedient and overall very intelligent. Their main task consists of retrieving downed waterfowl for their hunters. A top prerequisite of a good retriever is to have a soft mouth so they could bring the downed birds to the hunter without leaving teeth marks on the meat.
As the name implies, these hunting dogs are known for using their body “to point” the hunter in the right direction when prey is found. Blessed with a powerful nose, pointers work ahead of the hunter, tracking smells and then pointing when prey is spotted. These dogs are very athletic, obedient and versatile.
These athletic, motivated and patient hunting dogs have quite a unique hunting style. They will use their noses to track game, and then once they spot prey, they’ll get up close and crouch down (set), keeping the prey animal trapped until the hunter arrives.
Dogs included in this category are smaller than those in the other hunting categories. Their main purpose is to flush game out of bushes so the hunter can aim and shoot. Desired qualities of these dogs include a good nose, soft mouth, thick coat and high level of intelligence.
Best known for their powerful noses and superior sense of smell, hounds are quite popular today as helpers for police and investigative services. When it comes to hunting, they are mostly put to use for tracking game. Nose to the ground, a hound will follow scent and even chase the prey.
9 Top Hunting Dog Breeds
Ron Spomer claims that when it comes to hunting dogs, they are quite similar to hunting rifles. In his words: “they’re all good for something, but none are perfect for everything.” This means that if you need to choose a good hunting dog, you’ll have to consider what type of hunting you are planning to do. Do you want a dog that retrieves downed waterfowl? Are you looking for a dog to chase raccoons up a tree? Or do you prefer a pal that will accompany you in rabbit hunting? Perhaps though you are looking for an all-around dog that can perform multiple tasks. The following are some of the top hunting dogs you may consider wanting by your side, or refer here for a complete list of all hunting dogs.
If you’re looking for a dog that excels in versatility, don’t look further. The German pointer is the hunting dog par excellence, capable of performing several gun dog duties. He can point, retrieve and hunt both upland birds and waterfowl. He can be an excellent swimmer, but at the same time he fairs well in rough terrain. He has excellent stamina, is very tenacious, but at the same time biddable. This dog is perfect for an active, experienced dog owner.
This cute hunting dog is on the smaller side, but it sure makes a great hunting companion for close work. The American Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1934 when it was categorized as a spaniel. However, hunters soon realized that this breed also excelled as a pointer on top of being a flusher. It doesn’t come as a surprise that many Brittany win championships quite frequently, making them a top choice for hunters looking for a good pointer.
Many dogs enjoy retrieving, but if you’re looking for a top notch dog that will bring you back a downed duck, choose a Labrador retriever. Retrieving is in this dog’s bloodlines and this fellow is ready to jump into cold water to get the job done. Nature has equipped the Lab with webbed toes, a weather-resistant and water-resistant coat and a tenacious temperament, all perfect qualities for retrieving downed waterfowl. When they’re not used for hunting, Labs make great, good-natured companions.
If rabbit hunting is your favorite sport, you need a beagle. Belonging to the hound category, this breed has a wonderful sniffer, is very persistent and loves to chase. When it comes to larger game, his small legs may not make him up for the task, but if varmint, hare and rabbits are on your list of critters to chase, a beagle will be the best choice.
Tough terrains won’t stop this stubborn hunter who loves to track and chase. If you are having problems with raccoon, skip pest control and get a coonhound instead. While foxhounds are very good in hunting animals near the ground, they get confused when they can no longer track scent because the animal went up a tree. Coonhounds, on the other hand, are perfect for tracking animals both on the ground and up a tree. When raccoon or opossum go up a tree, the coonhound will bark and keep the animal treed until the hunter reaches him.
You won’t hear much gobble, gobble around you with this fellow; instead, more likely, you’ll be getting to enjoy the smell of fresh, oven-baked turkey. Indeed, the Irish setter is the perfect pal you want to take along for fall turkey hunting. Blessed with a glamorous coat that is long, silky and of a rich chestnut color, this breed is a tireless hunter that was selectively bred for setting and pointing upland game birds.
You may have never heard of this breed, but you should for many good reasons. This do-it-all dog comes from Germany and is sure to impress when he is seen in action. He is tireless, faster than most Labs and effective both upland and wetland. On top of that, he’s also quite intelligent and versatile, loves water, and yes, enjoys retrieving. Coming from a cross between German hunting poodles and English pointers, it can be said that this breed has gained the best of both worlds.
This spunky fellow is the ultimate ball of energy, always ready for a good pheasant hunt. The term Springer derives from this breed’s tendency to spring birds up into the air. Stamina is his second name though as he’ll keep going and going even when hunting in rough terrain. A good part of this persistence is due to his powerful body and ground-covering stride. Quick to learn and willing to obey, this breed has been traditionally used for two main purposes: flushing and retrieving upland game.
This is the toughest water retriever you can ask for. This dog has courage, a big desire to work and a deep lover of water. Both his outer-coat and undercoat contain oils that protect his coat from the harshest conditions. Once labeled as stubborn, a better understanding of this breed has revealed that what may look like hardheadedness, in reality is the dog’s hunting instincts taking over. Indeed, Chessies were bred more for excessive hunting abilities rather than train-ability, according to Checkmate Kennels.