Hunting is arguably the sole reason we have dogs as we know them today. They were the first animal to be domesticated by humans and the only animal domesticated by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. As the millennia passed by, we went on to breed dogs for other purposes like herding or companionship – but hunting dogs always remained a staple of human culture.
Types of Hunting Dogs
Hunting dog breeds are split into 7 different categories or “types”, depending on they type of prey and method of hunting they’re best at.
- Retrievers: Dogs bred to retrieve game (typically birds) and bring it back to the hunter without damage. Their “soft” mouth enables them to accomplish their job with ease.
- Scenthounds: Dogs with incredible patience who follow their nose and sniff out prey all day, if needed, without getting tired. They often double as prime candidates for search and rescue work.
- Sighthounds: These dogs have keen eye-sight, are skilled at spotting prey, and will chase it down in a flash. Many of the fastest dogs in the world are sighthounds.
- Setters: Dogs that sniff out birds and then lie still to alert the hunter to the location. This allowed the hunter to throw a net over the birds and dog to catch them.
- Gundogs: Dogs trained to work alongside a loud firearm while hunting or retrieving. Many gundogs also fall into other categories.
- Flushing: Dogs that locate and flush out birds, provoking them into flight. Compared to other types, flushing dogs don’t stay still after they’ve located game birds.
- Pointers: Dogs that excel at locating wild game and will freeze, pointing their nose at the location to alert their hunter.
10 of the Greatest Hunting Dog Breeds
Over the past 100 years, many of these dogs have excelled as family companions, but their hunting roots remain strong – and are often the reason they have been welcomed into family life.
One of the world’s most popular and versatile hunting dog breeds is the Labrador Retriever. They are excellent gun dogs that will easily and enthusiastically retrieve waterfowl and upland game. They have a strong sense of smell, a soft mouth, and a high level of trainability. They are also friendly, outgoing, and eager to please their owners.
Golden Retrievers are another popular and versatile hunting dog breed that originated from Scotland. They are also great gun dogs that can retrieve waterfowl and upland game skillfully and gracefully. They have a keen nose, a gentle mouth, and a high level of intelligence. They are affectionate, loyal, and playful with their owners and families.
The Bloodhound is a legendary hunting dog breed that originated from Belgium. They are renowned for their ability to track and trail game over long distances and challenging terrain. They have an exceptional sense of smell, a powerful body, and a deep voice. They are gentle, patient, and noble with their owners and children.
The American Foxhound is a classic hunting dog breed that originated from the United States. They are excellent hounds that can hunt foxes, coyotes, and other small game with speed and stamina. They have a keen nose, a lean body, and a melodious voice. They are also independent, alert, and cheerful with their owners and pack.
One of the rarest and certainly most unique breed on our list is the Lagotto Romagnolo. This Italian breed was originally used a waterfowl retriever before the marshlands of its home were drained. They now specialize in hunting truffles, the edible fungi that grow underground. They have a curly coat, a sharp nose, and a natural instinct for digging. They are also friendly, loyal, and energetic with their owners and families.
The Basset Hound is a charming and amusing French hunting breed, known for their exceptional scentwork and stubborn streak. These superb hounds can hunt rabbits, hares, and other small game with persistence and determination. Their long body, droopy face, and long ears help them scent the ground. Despite their relatively small size, these dogs are quite heavy boned – having more bone per pound than any other breed.
The Bluetick Coonhound is a striking and spirited hunting dog breed originating in the United States. They are outstanding hounds that can hunt raccoons, bears, and other large game with courage and endurance. They have a mottled coat, a cold nose, and a loud voice. They are also loyal, smart, and adventurous with their owners and companions.
The Weimaraner is a graceful and elegant German hunting dog. They are versatile gun dogs that can hunt birds, deer, and boar with agility and finesse. These dogs have a unique hunting style, often referred to as stealthy and cat-like. To mask their scent and sneak up on prey they will often roll in something stinky beforehand.
This walking beard is an ancient French dog, dating back to 1387, bred for flushing and retrieving waterfowl. Their name, Barbet, comes from the french word “Barbe” – meaning “Beard.” They have a nearly unmatched passion for water, which frequently ends in them being a wet, muddy, mess. Earning them the nickname “Mud Dog”
No list of hunting dogs is complete without the English Springer Spaniel. These lively and lovely hunting dogs originate from England. They are excellent gun dogs that can hunt and flush birds and small game with speed and enthusiasm. They have a silky coat, a wagging tail, and a high level of obedience. They are also affectionate, loyal, and playful with their owners and families.