Not just affectionate, loyal or a great pet for families, dogs are also great hunters. Hunting dogs are canines that hunt with humans or serve their masters by hunting. While some are extremely cute and adorable the others are beasts and hunters.
The history of hunting dogs is about 20,000 years old. The hunter-gatherer groups used hunting dogs for small game and fowl. In those times the hunting dogs breeds were considered domesticated wolves experts in spotting and flushing out the target.
Hunting dogs became famous throughout the era of the middle-ages. This widespread phenomenon resulted in specialized breeds of hunting dogs. These dogs can be grouped based on their extremely strong bloodlines. Below are some of these groups:
- Sight Hounds – Sight hounds have exceptional vision which makes them able to spot the prey from miles away. They are superbly skilled in quickly targeting their prey.
- Retrievers – Retrievers were used for retrieving birds that landed on water bodies after being shot. They have water-repellent coats and toes that are webbed to provide them with quick and powerful swimming.
- Pointers – The Pointer breed functions as their name suggests, which implies on first locating the prey and then pointing out the prey. The pointer dogs have strong senses capable of locating even the most disguised and secretive game.
- Scent Hounds – Scent hounds breed was one of the hardiest dog breed ever known till date. They specialize in locating and tracking the prey and game using their scent. Very methodical and efficient in the ways of tracking, they can follow a particular scent for days without any rest.
Nowadays, hunting with dogs is a controversial sport. The above mentioned dog breeds are specifically used for particular hunting purposes. Their traits vary greatly. Each dog has its own unique skills and natural behavior.
Now that we know the groups of these hunting dogs, below is a list of hunting dog breeds.
15 Best Hunting Dogs
The dog breed Beagle belongs to the scent hound group. The beagle was initially developed for hunting hares. Belonging to a scent hound group it possesses great sense of smell and tracking instincts.
They were bred with the intention for serving as hunting dogs. Their hunting purpose was to hunt games like rabbits, birds, small deer and also foxes. They share similar qualities with their much larger identical twin the American foxhound. They not only share the same qualities but are equally popular in America.
Beagles are short dogs weighing approximately 22-44 pounds and 14-16 inches tall. They are called the miniature foxhound. Grooming this little hunter is quite low-maintenance. Just a quick brush every day should be enough.
Beagles are very intelligent and under the right guidance and training they can be easily taught how to hunt.
14. American Foxhound:
This dog breed belongs to the scent hound group. The American foxhound was bred to hunt foxes by identifying the scent. It is also known as the cousin of the English foxhound.
Specifically bred for hunting their name itself gives out the idea of their purpose of hunting. They have a long history of loyalty and capability which makes them outstanding candidates for hunting, tracking, locating the prey and more.
They particularly excel at hunting foxes. The dog breed Beagle is pretty similar to the American foxhound in terms of looks but the American foxhounds are taller and leaner. These are very athletic and hard-working dog breed. The American foxhounds can be very scrappy when it comes to hunting.
Their average weight is 45-75 pounds and their life expectancy is 10-12 years. They have a specialty in medium to large game and make as a great hunting partner. Extremely easy to care for these dogs require very little grooming.
Overall, they are the best hunting dogs.
13. Golden Retriever
A medium to large sized gun dog the Golden retriever was originally bred to retrieve shot waterfowl and upland flushing of birds. The term “retriever” means to retrieve shot game considering their soft mouth.
Golden retriever are water babies and love to be in water, this makes them easy to train in retrieving dead game. One of the most popular dogs, the golden retriever is also one of the best hunting dogs.
They are not just great family dogs and companions but also hard-working hunters. Always happy in appearance these fierce and intelligent dogs are more than the cute and adorable outside. They possess almost all hunting skills but bird hunting tops the list.
This dog is easy to train and with its happy-go-lucky nature it is always up for adventure and to accompany you everywhere.
12. Boykin Spaniel:
Boykin spaniel is a Spaniel breed originally bred for hunting wild turkeys and ducks. It is slightly taller than the English Cocker Spaniel but much heavier and wide.
A versatile hunter, the Boykin spaniel is an upland hunter flushing the birds into flight. It is not well known for Pointing as a hunting style but people confuse it with its “hesitant flush” quality.
A spaniel breed is always a good choice for hunting, especially for hunting birds. Boykins are experts in flushing and retrieving. They are easy to train and have an uncompromised determination for hunting.
They are well-suited for heavy bush and wetlands. This makes them ideal to hunt turkeys and ducks. They are very easy-going and loving this makes them great family dogs.
They need good grooming and extra care because of their long fur. Boykin spaniels are smart and intelligent hunting partners.
11. Brittany Dog
The Brittany dog got its name from the place of its origin “Brittany” a region in the northwestern France. This dog is a gun dog breed. Gun dogs are dogs used for hunting birds.
The working and hunting characteristics of the Brittany dog are similar to those of pointers and setters. These dogs are great at retrieving and hunting games, mostly birds.
Combining the qualities of pointer or setter dogs the Brittany dog is very versatile in hunting. This dog is excellent at everything from pointing, retrieving to flush.
They weigh around 30-45 pounds and are 17-20 inches tall. These dogs are handsome in looks and quite low-maintenance. Very friendly, loving and caring they also make great companions at home and for hunting.
One more from the group of scent hounds is this huge dog, the Bloodhound. The Bloodhound is believed to be a descendent of the Hounds. Bred primarily for hunting, the bloodhound is great at hunting wild boars, deer and also tracking down humans.
This breed gained popularity for its incredible ability to recognize human scent over great distances. The bloodhound can be termed as a canine detective considering its great ability to track people by their scent. Even after days the bloodhound is able to track the same scent.
They also have a nickname, Sleuth Hound, owing to their nose. These are great dogs for investigation. If you need to find something or someone, the Bloodhound is a great choice for help.
The Bloodhound is an average sized dog weighing around 80-110 pounds. Apart from hunting these are very easy-going and friendly dogs.
The coonhound or the coon dog is another type of the scent hound and a member of the group. These dogs were developed to hunt wild boar, bear, feral pig and raccoons.
There are about six different breeds of the coonhound, some of which are the Black and tan, Bluetick, Redbone and Treeing Walker. Coonhounds were actually considered to be inadequate for hunting because they were unable to hunt preys capable of climbing trees.
This is why the Treeing Walker was developed. They are very intelligent and determined hunters. These are very tough dogs but no so much of the cautious characteristic. They are also closely similar to the American foxhound and the Beagle.
If you are looking for a hunting dog with excellent stamina, you have found your match.
8. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
A large-sized breed the Chesapeake Bay retriever also called CBR belongs to the Retriever and gun dog group. The Chesapeake Bay retriever has a hunting history of retrieving waterfowl, rescuing fishermen, pulling fishing nets.
They make as great hunting companions and family dogs. It is also very similar in appearance to the Labrador retriever. These dogs are extremely athletic and well-suited for hunting in the wet regions.
The Chesapeake Bay retriever has a waterproof coat which makes it easy for it to fetch bogged down geese and ducks or any bird. Alike the other retrievers they make great family dogs.
7. English Setter
A member of the setter group, the English setter is a medium-sized dog breed. English setters are great hunting dogs and also loyal hunting partners. The name “setter” implies its abilities of setting or getting low on ground level to hunt and find birds.
English setters have great hunting skills and considered as great hunting dogs considering energy and stamina to go on hunting for long stretches of time. They also have a great sense of scent they can smell birds from over a distance.
However, their coat marks a drawback for these excellent hunters as it gets dirty and tangled very easily and quick. This makes their grooming quite a task which is why it doesn’t top the list of hunting dog breeds.
Even then they make a great choice as hunting dogs considering them being intelligent, fierce and obedient.
6. English Springer Spaniel
Belonging to the gun dog breed of hunting dogs and the spaniel family, the English springer spaniels were traditionally used for retrieving and flushing game. They are considered as one of the best dogs for hunting.
The English springer spaniels also have a unique feature of excitedly wagging their tail in fast circular motion hinting their human partner about a bird nearby.
English springer spaniels are excellent upland flushing dogs. With proper training they can learn several skills for hunting. They need to be trained in delivering the game without puncturing it with their teeth and they do so really well.
This springer also has a great sense of scent of birds. With proper training and hunting experience a springer will undoubtedly offer immense pleasure in hunting with you.
5. American Pitbull Terrier:
The American pitbull terrier is a purebred dog. Solidly-built, medium sized and intelligent it is 6-8 inches tall and weighs 23-35 pounds. This breed varies a lot in sizes.
What people don’t know about pitbulls is, they originally functioned as nanny dogs and served the families as a nanny to their children. They are incredibly loving and loyal.
American Pitbull terriers have a reputation of being tenacious and very dangerous. All these traits combined together make them the best hunters specifically for a large game like the wild boar. They have amazing hunting skills of vision, tracking and locating the prey, all combined.
With the right training they are excellent sport animals and great companions for hunting adventures.
4. German Wirehaired Pointer
The German wirehaired pointer is not very popular and limited information about its hunting is available on the web. Compared to many other hunting dogs, the German wirehaired pointer is not famous and doesn’t hold much history in hunting.
The German wirehaired pointers are medium to large sized breed of dogs developed in Germany for hunting. They were developed with the intention of them being all-rounders in hunting.
They can possibly hunt on both land and water. The German wirehaired pointer is good at pointing and retrieving game on land and in water. These dogs are also great swimmers. They are mostly used for search and rescue and less as hunting dogs.
At homes they eager to please their owner and love attention.
3. German Shorthaired Pointer
Also known as GSP the German shorthaired pointer is a medium to large sized dog breed developed in Germany. The German shorthaired pointer has many qualities similar to the German wirehaired pointer.
The GSP is also a member of the sports group. They have pretty much everything you may want out of a sport dog: the intelligence, obedience, determination and more.
Some also consider that there are no better hunting dogs other than the German shorthaired pointers. Thus, they need much exercise to live up to what’s expected of them.
There’s only one thing the German shorthaired pointers lack, they don’t have an “off” button to turn off their energy and athletic streaks.
2. Jack Russell Terrier
Having its origin in fox hunting, the Jack Russell Terrier is a small terrier breed. The Jack Russell terriers also known as JRT’s were originally bred for hunting purposes.
JRT’s can hunt foxes and is able to enter underground burrows and dens where the prey is hiding. Amongst all the other hunting dogs specially bred for hunting the Jack Russell terriers is alone capable of performing such tasks.
The small build of the JRT often fools people in believing them to be just domestic dogs. In fact, their small stature is their unique hunting advantage.
They have too much energy which practically seems endless. They are suitable for hunting large game but good at small game and best at hunting and flushing little pests.
Being super active and energetic on field these dogs can be tough to handle at home without proper exercise and regular activities. Even so, they are incredibly smart, cute and loving.
1. Labrador Retriever
Widely known and very popular the Labrador retriever or just Lab is a retriever-gun dog. Labrador retrievers are not born hunters but have the potential of becoming great hunting dogs.
Labradors are already high on energy, desire and enthusiasm but with proper training, patience and persistence the missing link can be filled in. With intelligence and distinctive good looks the Labrador retrievers also contain boundless energy.
The hunting Labrador retrievers are always up for playtime or hunting, any given time of the day. Even the mention of ducks, guns or birds will send them into tail-wagging excitement.
To get yourself one that has hunting abilities and genes you need to get them from a licensed breeder who sells Labrador retrievers who are line-bred as hunters.
We hope this blog helped you know about hunting dogs and make a choice to buy one if you are searching for sporty dogs.
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