While some people dismiss hunting as a cruel and unnecessary practice, far more folks consider it a healthy and fulfilling pastime. For the latter, bringing a good hunting dog along makes the entire exercise even more fulfilling. Finding one can be a laborious task, however. Here is a quick rundown on some of the best dogs for hunting both bird and game:
Labrador retriever – One of the most beloved hunting dogs of all time, the “lab” is energetic, insensitive to the cold and, most importantly, can locate-and retrieve!-downed prey both on land and in the water. It is one of the most intelligent hunting dogs around. Its only downside is that it loves to eat, so keep a tight leash on these remarkable animals or you may just go hungry yourself.
Beagle – Another iconic hunting dog, the beagle loves the chase as much as any dog, as evidenced by its energetic and persistent disposition. The short legs of the breed, however, make it unsuitable for hunting faster quarry like fox and deer but it is incomparable when hunting smaller game like rabbits, groundhogs, muskrats and other burrowing animals. Also, beagles are relatively small and are therefore much easier to feed, maintain and transport than larger breeds of hunting dogs.
Foxhound – As their name implies, these ferocious little dogs are quite adept at tracking and treeing small animals like foxes. The American variety-due to rigorous inbreeding-is now considered superior to its Irish and English cousins in this regard. Indeed, this particular variety is famous for is its musical howl that can be heard for miles. It is a great companion for every type of small-game hunter.
Pointer – The relatively thin coat of this breed completely disqualifies it from use in the colder and snowier parts of the country. In the southern United States, however, where temperatures almost always stay warm, this breed of dog makes an exceptional finder and retriever for any hunter. In addition, the pointer is quite companionable and makes for an excellent “living comforter” while waiting in the duck blind.
Irish setter – With their long coat and their peaceful disposition, this breed is a particular favorite of fall and winter hunters. By the same token, their coat will retain moisture for a long, long time and makes them difficult companions after the hunt for the unprepared. Nevertheless, setters are an incredibly industrious breed. They do not want to be left alone for long periods of time without something to do. In other words, put them to work-they will love it.
Coon hound – Essentially tireless in their physicality and ferocity, coon hounds were once used almost exclusively to quell the 19th century epidemic of raccoons in the American South. These days, these sharp-toothed hunters can still root out those pests but they are also superior at retrieving ducks and other avians. They will even tree a fox or two if given the opportunity. Coon hounds are also excellent at rooting out vermin in underground tunnels.