Man has used hunting dogs for centuries. The London Museum hosts a relief dating back to 650 BCE showing ancient Assyrian hunters with their dogs. At the time, these hunting dog breeds were mostly useful for survival, rather than game as they are today. In this guide, we will consider 20 of the top hunting dog breeds with pictures.
Characteristics of hunting dog breeds
Hunting dog breeds make wonderful family pets but you must select a dog that is emotionally stable. When you go to choose your puppy, observe him carefully. Avoid ones that show signs of aggression or disobedience. You also want a pup that is intelligent and easy to train. If you are planning to use your pet for hunting and retrieving, you must ensure he possesses the right physical attributes to hunt hard and well.
Here are some of the best all around hunting dog breeds popular in the USA.
Top 20 hunting dog breed list
Hunting dogs are further divided into two categories: gun dogs and hounds. Gun dogs include retrievers, spaniels and pointing breeds while hounds include Beagles, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds.
The Ainu is one of the top deer hunting dog breeds and also one of the bear hunting dog breeds. It originates from Japan and is a strong, medium sized dog. Ainus can be headstrong, so early training is a must. If you are not planning to use your Ainu for hunting, make sure you provide him with plenty of exercise and an open yard to run about.
This is another Japanese hunting dog breed used originally for hunting large game. In Japan, the image of Akita is used to symbolize good health. This is a large, well balanced dog. He is loyal, courageous, loving and docile towards its family and also watchful, alert and protective. Their good nature and excellent guarding skills make them an excellent family pet.
3. American Foxhound
The American foxhound was first developed in Virginia and bred specifically to hunt fox singly and in packs. This is a medium sized, large musculature dog with an energetic, friendly and independent personality.
4. American Water Spaniel
This beautiful breed was developed to hunt water fowl and small game. Apart from being an excellent hunter, this breed makes a wonderful companion. Their intelligence and eagerness make them highly trainable.
Also known as barkless or Congo dogs, the Basenji was used for hunting, pointing and retrieving and bolting prey. This is a medium sized dog with muscular build. They are alert, intelligent, curious and extremely loyal and friendly with their family members.
6. Basset Hounds
This is one of the most popular hunting dog breeds in the United States as they also make great family companions. Basset hounds are medium sized, friendly and easy going. Their strong hunting instincts make them susceptible to run away or roam.
7. Bedlington/Rothbury Terrier
This medium sized, lamb-like dog was originally developed in the mid 19th century to battle vermin as well hunt badgers, foxes and otters. They are mild, gentle, alert, curious, and energetic. The Bedlington terrier is also sensitive to human emotions.
Known for its unique scent tracking ability, this popular hunting dog is good-natured and independent minded. It is outgoing and friendly but needs training and socialization.
This is one of the ancient hunting dog breeds. Their sense of scent is so highly developed that owners report seeing their pet only after days when they go tracking. Bloodhounds are good natured, children friendly dogs. This large and powerful dog must always be kept on leash.
10. Chesapeake Bay Retriever/ Chesapeake Ducking dog/Gunpowder River dog
Fondly known as Chessies, this breed is excellent as a waterfowl hunter’s companion. For over a century, this breed was kept as a gundog and hunting comes naturally to them. The hardy Chesapeake Bay retriever is known for its excellent swimming ability. A fine working dog breed, it also makes a friendly household companion.
11. Chow Chow
This breed from China is excellent for hunting small game or pheasants and partridges. Chow Chows are medium and sturdy. They make great family pets and are intelligent and trainable. This is a dignified and aloof breed.
12. Cocker Spaniel
This is the smallest of all hunting dog breeds. They used to hunt woodcocks mainly and today are mostly used as companion breeds. This is a small compact dog with a beautiful coat. They are intelligent and friendly but need training.
Curs is the name given to various hunting dog breeds that were originally bred throughout pockets of rural America for multiple purposes such as hunting, as watchdogs or livestock and guard dogs. They are believed to have descended from mongrels and terriers in Europe and later brought by immigrants to America to fit the needs of rural Americans. Few of the better known hunting curs include Mountain Cur, Leopard Cur, Canadian Cur and Black Mouth Cur.
The Dachshund has a high prey instinct and hunting ability as the breed was developed originally for the purpose of hunting. Today however, this is mostly a companion dog breed known for their alert, friendly, playful and energetic personality.
15. English shepherd
This versatile dog was bred as herding, hunting and guarding dog. The medium sized English Shepherd is intelligent, energetic and fearless. It is a great worker and companion breed too.
16. German shorthaired pointer
German shorthairs are a unique mix of excellent hunting capabilities, keen intelligence and endearing personality. They are not the perfect breed for everyone; non hunters should think twice before purchasing one. Pointers need lots of exercise and open space.
17. Golden Retriever
This popular hunting dog breed is also an all round dog that can be trained to perform different roles like hunting, search and rescue, therapy dog, military dog etc. This medium to large sized family dog is friendly and great with children. The breed is also popular as mixes such as Golden/Lab etc.
18. Irish Setter
This hunting dog breed was developed from another hunting breed-the English setter. Both breeds are used for hunting upland game birds. This is an outgoing, friendly, lively and active dog breed.
19. Labrador retriever
This is one of the most popular breeds in the world. In UK, it is number one in the top 20 dog breeds. They were bred as hunter and water retrievers. In the United States, this is still the most popular hunting dog breeds and also a favorite family dog. This smart dog is capable of doing many other jobs apart from hunting and retrieving.
Nicknamed the Grey Ghost, this hunting dog was originally created to hunt big game. They are known to follow scents that baffled Bloodhounds and were a popular deer and bear hunting dog breed in the early half of the nineteenth century.