Dogs are very popular pets. They make excellent family companions. However, long before many of these canine breeds have been turned into lap dogs, they have been used extensively for more utilitarian endeavors. One of the dog’s most important roles in human and dog history is that of a hunting partner. Man can have the best hunting rifle, but he can never match the athleticism, agility, resilience, tracking prowess, remarkable scent sensing abilities, and acuity of hearing of the world’s best hunting dog breeds. Here are the 10 that make up the cream of the hunting world.
1. American Foxhound
Called the “master of hounds,” the American Foxhound is best known for its relentless spirit. They’ve got remarkable scenting abilities and will never stop searching, looking for the source of the scent. They’re best known for hunting foxes, fully capable of running for countless hours, only stopping if they lost the fox’s scent. Surviving with an American Foxhound on its tail requires a fox to be as cunning as ever. It can dodge, evade, and dance in an effort to throw off the Foxhound. Unfortunately, most foxes panic and once they dart into the open, there’s no escaping the Foxhound. The American Foxhound is athletic and hard-working. It may look like the Beagle but is usually leaner and taller, too. While they may be formidable fox hunters, they’re loving and affectionate companions for the whole family.
2. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
The Chessie may not be as popular as the Golden Retriever or even the Labrador Retriever, but it has long been considered as the Sherman tank of the dog world. It is tenacious and tough, fully capable of withstanding the brutally cold and very rough waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the rest of the Eastern Seaboard. It was bred primarily to hunt for ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. But what is truly admirable with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is its unmatched loyalty. Sure, other retrievers like the Lab and Golden are very loyal, too. But they can be very friendly even to strangers. The Chessie only recognizes its family as its friend. It will still welcome strangers, but don’t expect it to be very cordial. This makes the Chessie an excellent watchdog and a pure hunter at heart.
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Not many know that the Beagle is an excellent hunter. It is one of the best when it comes to hunting rabbits. Like the American Foxhound, this shorter yet equally relentless hunter can easily pick up the scent of Bugs Bunny right through its burrows. But the real joy in the Beagle is in its ability to work in packs. They can easily swarm through brambles and briers like the well-coordinated charge from a cavalry. When not on the hunt, the Beagle enjoys playing with its family. The only issue you will have with the Beagle is its stubbornness. Yes, it is smart and quite intelligent. But, even seasoned dog owners have been known to give up training the Beagle because of its stubborn streak. However, under the right tutelage, the Beagle can be such a joy to teach.
4. Labrador Retriever
The darling of the American dog-loving community, the Labrador Retriever is best known for its gentle and mild temperament. But what many don’t realize is that the Lab is a venerable hunter. Sure it doesn’t have the scenting ability of the hounds, but its easy trainability and natural intelligence have been harnessed to the fullest by those who know and fully appreciate its capabilities. The Lab, with its friendly and soulful eyes, can also be as relentless as any other hunting dog. But what many four-legged hunters lack is the softness of their mouths. Labs and Goldens are well-known for having soft mouths, fully capable of picking and retrieving prey without necessarily shredding it to pieces. Labs are the favorite of hunters as they are very easy to train and very easy to take care of. They will also stay by the hunter’s side until it’s time to retrieve the game.
5. English Setter
Long before the development of the hunting rifle, hunters relied on the ‘setting’ skills of the English Setter – crouching low on the ground to signal the presence of game birds nearby. This allows hunters to throw their net over the bird. With the advent of the hunting rifle, the English Setter had to adapt, too. It would now stand like a Pointer to show hunters just where the game is. They can point with style or point as if the Setter is waiting for its ride home. It’s easy to train but can easily test even the most avid hunter. It’s perfect for hunting, running, and pointing birds and does it so well that the images will forever be seared into your memory.
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The Bloodhound is undeniably the Sherlock Holmes of the canine world. When it comes to its scenting and tracking ability, no other dog can dethrone or even match the legendary nose of the Bloodhound. If there is anything or anyone that you want to be found, the Bloodhound can easily track it. It is for this reason that search and rescue organizations and even law enforcement agencies have a Bloodhound in their employ. As tenacious as the Bloodhound can be at work, it is nevertheless lovable and sweet. It thrives on especially-vigorous activities. Don’t believe what the TV portrays about this dog. They’re never lazy despite their droopy eyes and long sad face. These dogs are a natural companion for adults and kids alike. As long as you’ve got the determination to train them, they should make for an excellent hunting partner and family companion.
There are different types of Coonhounds that can provide hunters with varying skills that they need. Black-and-tan Coonhounds are particularly known for their ‘cold nose’. They have this remarkable ability to track even an old trail, meaning they can easily pick up the scent of possums and raccoons no matter how faint the scent. Interestingly, Coonhounds got their name from their remarkable ability to hunt raccoons. The Treeing Walker Coonhound, on the other hand, is best known for its speed and agility. It looks like an oversized Beagle. However, having descended from hounds, it also uses its scenting abilities to zero-in on prey. It’s super-fast, too. The Redbone Coonhound has a more laid back temperament. Unlike other scenthounds, the Redbone is the easiest to handle and train. The Bluetick Coonhound has the looks of the droopy-eyed Bloodhound, but it is an efficient hunter of squirrels.
8. German Shorthaired Pointer
When it comes to America’s bird dog, nothing can come close to the raw efficiency of the German Shorthaired Pointer. Biddable, easy to train, and very versatile, the German Shorthaired Pointer is also an excellent retriever. It can match the Labrador Retriever’s remarkable ability to retrieve downed fowls on bodies of water. The dog embodies everything that a seasoned hunter can hope for in a hunting partner – athletic, determined, loyal, intelligent, and very obedient. That being said, the GSP is not only a reliable hunting partner, it is also a venerable four-legged outdoor adventurer that you can take almost anywhere with you. It requires plenty of mental stimulation and vigorous exercises, though, if you want it in tiptop shape.
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9. Golden Retriever
The ever-friendly, gentle, and sweet Golden Retriever may not look like a venerable hunting partner, but it is. Like its forebears, the Yellow Retriever, Red Setter, and Tweed Water Spaniel, the Golden is a hunter. It can be easily trained because of its natural intelligence and a natural disposition to please its owner or handler. It has the stamina and intelligence to go after prey. But what sets it apart from other four-legged hunters is its ability to retrieve or pick up prey without mangling it beyond recognition – a trait it shares with its Labrador Retriever cousin. They are especially adept in hunting birds. With their happy disposition, the Golden Retriever can make for an excellent partner in the wild.
When it comes to hunting deer and boar or even more ferocious animals like wolves and bear, seasoned hunters always go to the Silver Ghost. The Weimaraner is a large hunter specifically bred in the 18th to 19th century to help noblemen in their hunt for large wild game. As the practice declined towards the latter part of the 19th century, the Weims were used in the hunting of foxes, game fowl, and rabbits. The Silver Ghost, because of its classic silvery-gray short coat, is an all-purpose dog fully capable of being a dedicated family companion and a venerable hunting partner. The Weimaraner may not be as lightning-quick as Pointers, but one can easily admire the breed’s thoroughness when it comes to searching for the game.
These dogs may have built a solid reputation as excellent family companions. But no one can deny their excellence when it comes to hunting. Given the right owner and the right opportunity, these dog breeds can easily showcase their natural hunting abilities.
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