Not only are dog’s man’s best friends, they also make excellent hunting companions. Egyptians used greyhounds to track gazelles in ancient times. Since then, scores of canines have been bred to track down and sniff out prey so skillfully that it’ll be impossible to go home empty handed.
There are quite a few factors that go into the desirability of a hunting dog. Whether it’s the size, how its been trained, the target prey, or the terrain, each plays into the type of dog that’ll become your best field partner. The characteristics of a good hunting dog often match those that families look for in pets. They tend to be obedient, easily trained, loyal and healthy, as well as good with people and other animals (since they usually prefer to run in packs).
Naming the ‘best’ hunting dogs is like cussing in church. There are some very well recognized breeds for specific, or general, hunting but this list is not meant to offend anyone as everyone has favorites. Dogs become a beloved member of the family and require copious amounts of love and attention. The old saying ‘you get out of it what you put into it’ is 100% true with hunting dogs. They take work to train, but their eagerness to please will show results for many years to come.
English Springer Spaniel: While Spaniels may not come to mind when speaking of hunting dogs, the English Springer Spaniel showcases all the qualities for a top hunting breed. They are perfect as gundogs or bird dogs. These medium-sized canines get their name from their talent for flushing, or springing, birds out of hiding for their masters to shoot.
While smaller than typical gundogs – 40 to 50 pounds and about 20 inches tall – the English Springer Spaniels make up for their small size in spunk. Their strong legs and high energy level make them ideal for long days on the hunt, and their dense, short undercoat covered by a long topcoat, can effectively withstand any weather and climate condition.
Though they were bred primarily to flush game, the springer spaniel's gentle mouth grip is also well suited for retrieving without inflicting damage. These qualities, combined with an eager-to-please attitude and trainability, make this versatile hunting dog a preferred companion for many outdoor enthusiasts.
Boykin Spaniel: In the early 1900’s, the Boykin Spaniel was ‘born’ from a South Carolina hunter named L. Whitiker Boykin who bred his stray white spaniel with American water spaniels, pointers, retrievers, and springer spaniels. A few generations later a separate breed had been developed.
Boykins are an extremely versatile hunting dog – known for their ability to flush game, track prey, or retrieve. They aren’t the tallest of breeds – 14-18 inches tall and 30 to 40 pounds - They are a favorite of upland hunters, where it’s a lot easier to pull a 40 pound dog into a boat rather than a much larger 75 pound cousin. They are known for their distinctive liver colored coat and hypnotizing eyes, they have a very gentle mouth and are great around families and other dogs.
Brittany: The Brittany is a long-legged, medium-sized - 17 to 20 inches and 30 to 40 pounds - dog known for its smarts, stamina and willingness to be trained to hunt. Named for the French province in which it is believed to have originated, this popular bird-hunting breed has been used for both pointing and retrieving quail, pheasant and grouse since 1894.
These canines are prized for a hearty ability to adapt to conditions on a variety of terrain, such as woods, plains and hills. Curious dogs, they have a tendency to roam, but remain popular due to their size, ability and general good nature.
Coonhound: The coonhound is another dog that makes a hunter's job easier. This breed relies on scent rather than sight to locate prey, hounds generally go after small mammals like raccoons (from which they get their name) or opossums, chasing the animals up trees and barking until their owner arrives. Approximately 2 feet high at the shoulder and blessed with plenty of courage, they're also helpful in hunting large game like deer.
Coonhounds likely originated from breeding two excellent trackers (bloodhounds and foxhounds) together, combining a keen sense of smell with increased speed and stamina. The dog's dense coat also allows the coonhound to tolerate a range of weather conditions, equally adaptable to heat and cold. Their courage and loyalty are immortalized in the beloved children's book "Where the Red Fern Grows," and the coonhound's reputation as a warrior of the hunt is so valued that the American Kennel Club's judging regulations advise that "scars from honorable wounds shall not be considered faults" in evaluating the breed for show.
German Shorthaired Pointer: GSP’s are workhorses. They are known for being very versatile in the field, but work equally well on land and in water. While they're best known as bird dogs, they are skilled trackers of raccoons, opossum and deer. Highly intelligent, the pointers are very obedient and easy to train.
Ranging in size from 55 to 70 pounds and 23 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder, the pointer's athleticism is apparent as it tracks far ahead of the hunter to locate prey. Considered to have the best scenting ability of all the bird dogs, the German shorthaired pointer is another breed that doesn't flush, but freezes and points at tracked prey.
Labrador Retriever: The Labrador Retriever (and Golden Retriever) is a well-rounded hunting companion. Labradors are best known as water dogs because of their moisture-repellent coats and web like feet that help them swim like fish. Retrievers have a very high level of intelligence an excellent temperament, both of which make them ideal for training. These qualities serve as part of the reason that Labradors and Golden Retrievers are consistently ranked as the most popular breeds in the United States.
Retrievers' mouths also have a gentle grip that lets them retrieve and carry prey without damaging it. They have an amazing willingness to please, which lends well to tasks other than retrieving. Labradors also make good trackers and pointers, and they quickly adapt to a wide range of environments.
With a sturdy build and weighing about 55 to 75 pounds, Labradors are true utilitarian dogs, equally at ease gathering quail as they are fetching fallen ducks from an icy pond. Their well roundedness makes them quality hunting dogs in any season.
With any good hunting dog should come a good Veterinarian. Make sure that your dog has his yearly check ups and is up to date on all shots, etc. Ensure that your dog gets plenty of exercise and has a good diet, and you’ll have a healthy companion for many years to come.
Share photos your favorite hunting dog with #onwardreserve or email them to MaryHamilton@onwardreserve.com.
Posted By Onward Reserve