Man’s best friend hasn’t changed a bit over time. And when it comes to the hunter, this special canine is the one who, more often than not, does all the work while us humans sit back, watch and wait. You gotta give them credit for being as loyal as they are. (The dogs, not the humans).
So, it seems right that we take a moment to give a shout-out to the ‘hound dog’ for all the time, energy, unconditional friendship and valor that they have earned over all these years. When it comes to hunting dogs, the breeds that are the ‘best of the best’ include the hounds, dachshunds, gun dogs, curs and terriers. Each and every one of these breeds has their own special skill set that makes them absolutely perfect for various types of hunting.
There are lists everywhere to study, but one of the most popular ‘hunting’ aides is the English Springer Spaniel, which are extremely skilled when it comes to flushing out and retrieving prey. A true ‘gun dog’ in all senses of the word, this spaniel is excitable, however they are beyond affectionate and owners love them. Of course, affection does seem a bit odd considering that this breed is actually linked to a rare illness people refer to as “rage syndrome.”
The next in line when it comes to pure fame and popularity is the English Cocker Spaniel. This dog not only comes with affection for one and all, but they are literally brilliant in tracking down game in the thickest cover imaginable. There are others in this breed that are most definitely better when it comes to working in the water. Like a Great White, they have true skill at retrieving and dealing with game that love to ‘play’ in lakes and streams.
Beagles, which are among the cutest breeds imaginable, are also absolutely necessary for any hunter who feels the need to hang out in thick briars and overgrown brush in order to score that trusty rabbit for dinner.
What many are unaware of is the extremely large variety of hounds that exist. There are both ‘sighthounds’ and ‘scenthounds’ to choose from. What separates them is the fact that sighthounds have long heads which gives them vision as powerful as a pair of binoculars. And added to that vision, is a speed and agility that is unmatched when it comes to hunting game in open meadows. Calm, cool, collected and quiet – the sighthounds are basically loners, but they do love their ‘best friend.’ Scenthounds, of course, do exactly what their name implies. Instead of hunting with their sight, they hunt by scent and are known to have the most sensitive noses of any breed. They also have long, drooping ears which, experts say, help to collect the prey’s scent and store it right by the dog’s nose so that he never loses track of his prey.
When it comes to swimming, retrievers are the ones to go with. Not only can they retrieve game that’s shot down over the water, but they actually go much further by retrieving birds in freezing cold water. In other words, if you are a resident of North Dakota – these are the ‘best friends’ to choose.
Like spaniels, retrievers fall under the ‘gun dog’ category. And when people speak about the most popular retriever the agreement seems to be that the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is one of the very best. They can spend a great deal of time in one place and not only spot their prey, but always remember the location of every downed bird. The owners of large, gentle muzzles – this is one dog that can not only aid in the hunt, but also steal the heart.
Setters are another facet of the ‘gun dog’ world and have the innate ability – especially the English Setter – to locate, point and flush out game birds at a hunter’s simple command.
Pointers also have a great many fans. They know a great deal about how to locate and point at small game which lets the hunter approach and flush it out. And Pointers have an even greater ‘distance’ range than the spaniel family.
You have to love the name of these next little guys. The Feists are very small dogs that like to hunt game their own size (probably makes them feel tougher). Squirrels are what they like to bring down most often, unlike the raccoons and large game that spaniels and retrievers go after. The Feist also isn’t against sharing with his fellow dog. They can easily hunt in packs, and simply “bark up” trees in to let the hunter know that the Feist has located the ‘feast.’
Add to this the Cur – which is definitely not what the name implies – and you have some seriously amazing breeds to choose from. Unlike the feisty Feist, Curs are used to hunt everything from boars to cougars.
And let’s not forget the Dachshund. This extremely recognizable breed knows all about tracking, chasing and flushing everything from badgers to foxes. They are also quite popular in the great ‘American West’ to take care of the overpopulation of prairie dogs. The Dachshund also has the further distinction of being the only breed certified to hunt above ground and below.
There are many others to choose from, but no matter what breed engages your heart and falls neatly into the niche of hunting that you love the most – I think we can all agree that being nothin’ but a hound dog is truly something special!