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A labrador retriever with a duck
A hunting dog refers to a canine that hunts with or for humans. There are several types of hunting dogs developed for various tasks. The major categories of hunting dogs include hounds, terriers, dachshunds, cur type dogs, and gun dogs. Among these categories further divisions can be made based upon the dogs' skill sets.
Breeds and capabilities used in hunting
For a list of breeds of each type, see the detailed articles for each category:
|Hounds||Hounds are further divided into sighthounds and scent hounds depending upon the primary sense used to locate quarry. Many fur bearing animals such as jackrabbits, raccoons, coyotes, and large predators are hunted with hounds.|
|Sighthounds||Whippet||Sighthounds are well adapted for visual acuity and speed. Their method is known as "coursing" - prey is often sighted from a distance, stalked, pursued and neatly killed. Sighthounds work quickly and quietly, and are by nature independent.|
|Scent hounds||Coonhound||Scent hounds are hounds that primarily hunt by scent. Scenthounds are used to trail and sometimes kill game. They hunt in packs leading the hunters on a chase which may end in the quarry being chased into a tree or killed. Some of these breeds have deep, booming barks and use them when following a scent trail.|
|Lurchers||Greyhound, 1/8 Scottish Deerhound, 1/8 Collie||A Lurcher is a sighthound crossed with a working dog breed−usually a pastoral dog or Terrier bred selectively for working.|
|Gun dogs||Gun dogs are used primarily by small game hunters using shotguns. Gun dogs are classified as retrievers, flushing spaniels, and pointing breeds.|
|Retrievers||Chesapeake Bay Retriever||Once classified as a water spaniel, a retriever's primary role is to find and return shot game to the hunter. Retrievers can spend long hours in a duck blind and visually spot and remember the location of downed birds. At command, they retrieve the birds. They may be able to follow hand, verbal, and whistle commands to the downed bird. They typically have large, gentle muzzles.|
|Setters||English Setter||Setters have a long history as upland gun dogs. They appear to have a native ability to locate and point at upland game birds. They flush the birds at the hunter's command.|
|Spaniels||English Cocker Spaniel||Spaniels have been used as hunting dogs for hundreds of years. Flushing Spaniels are used to locate and flush game for a hunter.|
|Pointers||German Shorthaired Pointer||Pointers are dogs trained to locate and point at small game allowing the hunter to approach and flush the game. Pointing breeds have greater range than Spaniels.|
|Water dogs||Poodle||Water dogs are a subclass of retrievers.|
|Feists||Feist||Feists are small dogs that hunt small game, especially squirrels, in a similar manner to large hounds hunting raccoons and large game. Feists may hunt in packs, and "bark up" on trees to alert the hunter. The feist was developed in the southern United States, reputedly from small Native American dogs and British fell terriers.|
|Terriers||Lakeland Terrier||Terriers are used to hunt mammals. Terriers locate the den or set of the target animal and then bolt, capture, or kill the animal. A working terrier may go underground to kill or drive out game. Hunters who use terriers are referred to as terriermen.|
|Curs||Catahoula Cur||Curs hunt similarly to terriers, though usually larger game. Curs are used to hunt boars, raccoon, cougars, and other large mammals.|
|Dachshund||Dachshund||Dachshund was bred to scent, chase, and flush out badgers, foxes and other burrow-dwelling animals, while the miniature dachshund was developed to hunt smaller prey such as rabbits. In the American West they have also been used to hunt prairie dogs. In Europe dachshunds are widely used for hunting deer and smaller game such as rabbits and hares. They are also excellent scent dogs and they are often used to track down wounded animals after car accident for example. Dachshund is also the only certifiable breed of dog to hunt both above and below ground.|
Further details about some types
Flushing spaniels combine hunting, flushing, and retrieving skills. English Springer Spaniels are popular gundogs for a variety of cover but are closely followed in popularity by English Cocker Spaniels. Both breeds are adept at finding and flushing then retrieving game from thick cover. Clumbers, Sussex, and Field Spaniels are also popular for their slower, methodical hunting pattern. The American Water Spaniel and the Boykin Spaniel are noted for their water work.
When trained, Beagles are particularly adept at chasing through thick briars and brush after rabbits. However, spaniels are also excellent rabbit hunting dogs. Spaniel field trials in the UK use both game birds as well as rabbits. Many hound breeds are excellent at treeing raccoons.
Sighthounds are different from scenthounds in their methods and adaptations. The long lean head of the sighthound gives it a greater degree of binocular vision. Their speed, agility and visual acuity are particularly adapted for coursing game in open meadows or steppes. They are independent in nature, and are worked singly or in a "brace" of two or three dogs. Sighthounds are generally quiet and placid dogs compared to other hunting breeds.
Retrievers are good swimmers so are used for retrieving game shot down over water. They are capable of retrieving birds in freezing water, just be sure to allow them to warm up in between retrieves. Retrievers skin secretes an oily substance that sheds water. Retrievers are good at retrieving birds on land or in water.
Hounds have sensitive noses that are used to locate small animals like rabbits and squirrels. Hound breeds include the bluetick, red tick, walker, redbone,and mountain cur.
Flushers are frequently used for pheasant hunting and can be trained to work within gun range. Other flushers, like the cocker, the Boykin and several types of spaniels pursue game until it goes for cover.
Wolf hunt depicted in a 12th-century bestiary
- Hunting dogs constellation Canes Venatici
- Deeley, Martin. "Working Gundogs: An Introduction to Training and Handling. (1990,reprinted 2002) The Crowood Press. ISBN 1-85223-764-3.
- Fergus, Charles. Gun Dog Breeds, A Guide to Spaniels, Retrievers, and Pointing Dogs, The Lyons Press, 2002. ISBN 1-58574-618-5
- Roettger, Anthony Z. and Schleider, Benjamin H. III. (2004) Urban Gun Dogs: Training flushing dogs for home and field. The Writer's Collective. ISBN 1-59411-050-6