Hunting Dogs

For millennia, man has teamed up with the dog to make his hunts more successful!

Hunting dogs

The dog's keen nose, quickness, and strength have enabled people to find and capture a wide variety of wild creatures. Breeders have changed and modified some of these early hunting dogs' traits to create the sporting breeds of today.

The main categories of hunting dogs are discussed below:


These breeds use their sense of smell or their sight to find both small and large game, e.g. rabbits, deer, foxes, wolves, and raccoons. This category is divided into sight hounds and scent hounds.

  • Sight hounds: These dogs have excellent vision, speed and agility. Because of their uniquely shaped heads, most sighted hound breeds are equipped with stereoscopic vision, giving them the advantage of a wide field of vision and thereby detecting small movements. Many of these breeds were developed in the desert or in other areas of vast expanses. The most popular sighted hunting dog breeds are:
    • Greyhound
    • Saluki
    • Irish Wolfhound
    • Whippet
    • Borzoi or Russian Wolfhound
  • Scented hounds: These dogs use their amazing noses to track and find game. They do not have and do not need the speed of seeing-eye dogs, but they do have the endurance to pursue prey over long distances. These dogs usually hunt in packs and often "yodel" as they get closer to their prey. In some cases the scent hounds are used to hunt prey up in trees, while in other cases their purpose is to chase game out into the open so that the hunter can shoot it. In a few cases, it is permissible for the dogs to kill the prey, especially if it is considered a nuisance. Popular scent hounds include:
    • Beagle
    • Bloodhund
    • Basset Hound
    • Redbone Coonhound
    • Black and Tan Coonhound
    • Bluetick Coonhound
    • Walker Hound
    • American Foxhound
    • Dachshund
    • Norwegian Elkhound
    • Rhodesian Ridgeback


Retrieving dogs are sporting breeds that work closely with an armed human in the pursuit of game birds. Typical prey includes quail, pheasants, pigeons, partridges, and several ducks and other waterfowl species. Some of the gun dog breeds use their sense of smell to find the birds, some retrieve downed birds, and some breeds do both. 

    • Retrievers: Retrievers are usually medium to large dogs that find downed birds after they have been shot by the hunter. They then bring them back to the hunter, unharmed. Most retrievers are born with a natural desire and instinct to retrieve. To get a good gun dog, however, these instincts usually need to be honed and sharpened. Retrievers are typically so eager and happy to find dead birds that they often ignore brush, thistles, and cold water. They fetch ducks, geese, pigeons and other birds. Retriever breeds are among the most popular of all breeds and include
      • Labrador Retriever
      • Golden Retriever
      • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
      • Curly-Coated Retriever
      • Portuguese Water Dog
    • Pointers: Birds of prey such as quail and grouse spend most of their time on the ground and live in groups. When birds leave, they leave a scent trail. The standing hounds sniff the air and the ground until they catch a scent of the birds, after which they can track their location. When the dog finds the individual bird or the flock, it freezes in a position referred to as a "point", hence the term Pointer. A well-trained pointer or setter remains in position until the hunter approaches and frightens the birds into flight, usually by stamping his foot near the hidden flock. Setters do much of the same work as pointers. The main difference is that setters usually have long coats, while pointers have short coats. Each has its own unique advantages. The long coat is better adapted to cold weather, while the short-haired pointer is often preferred for hunting in warm weather.
      Popular pointers include.
    • English Pointer
    • German Rough-haired Pointer
    • German Shorthaired Pointer
    • Rough-haired Pointing Griffon

Popular setters include:

  • English Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Gordon Setter

Breeds that both point and retrieve ground-dwelling bird species, but are neither classified as pointers nor setters are:

  • Brittany Spaniels
  • Hungarian Vizslas
  • Weimaraner
  • Spaniels: These dogs are used to locate birds such as pheasants. They don't single out the birds because, unlike quail, pheasants don't hide and cower when pursued - they run. Pointers would allow the birds to escape, whereas the spaniels does the opposite - they flush or force birds out of cover so that the hunter can shoot their prey. For this reason, these dogs must work more closely with the hunter. While pointers and setters can run in a large circle around the hunter, waiting for him when they find a pack, the spaniel has to stay within range of the rifle.


    Fetching dogs consist of several spaniel breeds, including:

    • American Cocker Spaniel
    • English cocker spaniel
    • English springer spaniel
    • Cocker spaniel
    • Curly coated Retriever
    • Welsh springer spaniel


    Terriers were originally bred as hunting dogs, and are still used as such. Especially in the pursuit of burrowing animals, and those that inhabit underground burrows and holes, such as foxes, rabbits, hares, marmots, raccoons, badgers and possums. Terriers use their keen sense of smell to find prey, which they either flush out of a hide for the hunter to shoot, or they kill the animal themselves and take it to their master. They are determined diggers and often underground for hours in their search for prey. These aggressive hunters must be intelligent enough to trick their prey and to survive suffocation in the burrows/holes. Smaller terriers are also used in exterminating vermin such as rats and beaver rats.

    Popular terrier breeds include:

    • Airedale Terrier
    • Scottish Terrier
    • Jack Russell Terrier
    • Wheaten Terrier
    • West Highland White Terrier
    • Welsh Terrier
    • Border Terrier
    • Fox Terrier
    • Rat Terrier
    • Norwich Terrier


    Curs was created from a variety of dog breeds to serve as an all-purpose hunting and pest-control dog. Greyhound, Mastiff, and Native American canines are a few of the breeds that have impacted modern Curs. In the southern region of the country, where bears, wild boar, and deer are commonly hunted, curs are particularly well-liked. While a pack of Curs can be employed to hunt prey like raccoons, bobcats, and bears, a single dog is frequently used to track injured animals and find squirrels. Curs are daring dogs who frequently charge at larger creatures than themselves, occasionally biting and grabbing hold of their prey's nose. Curs breeds are not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but several breeds are recognized by the United Kennel Club and the Continental Kennel Club.

    Curs breeds include:

    • Blue Lacy
    • Catahoula Cur
    • Mountain Cur
    • Mountain View Cur
    • Treeing Cur
    • Stephens Cur 

    An example of one of the most popular breeds, the Black Mouth Cur, is Disney's famous Old Yeller.

    Click on the link to read about other dog breeds

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