The Fox & The Hound: 15 Best Dog Breeds For Hunting

While they make great pets and companions today, dogs have a much longer history of serving more utilitarian purposes. And one of the most important purposes throughout both dog and human history was to function as hunting partners. The cold hard truth is that, when properly trained, dogs are much more resilient and capable hunters than humans for their athleticism, sense of smell, and acute hearing. They just need us to teach them how to use those talents.

Nowadays, hunting is more sport than necessity — but dogs are still one of the best tools any hunter can have at their disposal. The thing is, not all dog breeds are suited to hunting like their ancestors might have been. As such, dedicated hunters should search for specialized breeds designed for the task, should they want to find success out on the game trails. If you count yourself amongst them, then you’ll certainly want to take a look at our list of the 15 best dog breeds for hunting.

American Foxhound

As you might imagine from their name, American foxhounds were bred specifically for the purpose of hunting. Their heritage, paired with a long history of loyalty and capability makes them excellent candidates for all sorts of hunting, tracking, and more — though they certainly excel when it comes to, you guessed it, hunting foxes. While, to some, they might look like beagles, American foxhounds tend to be a bit taller and leaner, lending credence to their reputation for being athletic, hard-working canines. They’re also extremely easy to care for, as they require little in the way of grooming, and are great family dogs because their easy-going demeanor makes them kind, loving companions to adults and children alike. But don’t let their kindness deter you, these dogs can be very scrappy when it comes to the hunt. All around, these are excellent hunting dogs.

Average Size: 45-75 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Medium to Large Game

Adopt: MFHA

American Pit Bull Terrier

What many people don’t know about pit bulls is that one of their original functions was to serve as nanny dogs for families with small children, as they can be both incredibly loving and remarkably loyal. In fact, when trained with respect and love, they are some of the sweetest animals on the planet. Of course, they also have a reputation for being remarkably robust, tenacious, and dangerous — which is why many folks have turned to them for use as guard dogs. Those combined attributes also make them top-tier hunters — especially for large, scrappy, daunting game like the wild boar. Between their muscular frames and remarkably strong jaws, American pit bull terriers are superb sport animals (again, with the right training) and even better companions. With this breed, however, we cannot stress enough how important adoption is, as there are so many around the world that need a good, loving home.

Average Size: 30-65+ Lbs
Life Expectancy: 8-15 Years
Specialty: Large Game

Adopt: APBF

Beagle

The perennial family dog, beagles have a tendency to be playful, curious, and cute. But it’s important to remember they were also bred originally for the purposes of hunting game like foxes, rabbits, and even birds and small deer. A bit stouter than their American foxhound counterparts, they share a lot of the same qualities — including their colors, their tenacity, and their loyal and obedient demeanor. It’s also worth noting that, when it comes to hound dogs, these are the most popular in America and have been for years — which means it shouldn’t be too difficult to find one that’s up for adoption. They can also be quite intelligent, leading to moderately easy training under the right tutelage. This comes especially in handy when it comes to teaching them how to hunt alongside you, whatever your prey may be.

Average Size: 20-25 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 12-15 Years
Specialty: Small to Medium Game

Adopt: NBCA

Bloodhound

If Sherlock Holmes were a canine, there’s a pretty solid chance he’d be a bloodhound — not just because of their heritage and appearance, but for their superb investigative skills, as well. Few dogs on this list are quite as astute as the bloodhound when it comes to tracking the scent of their quarry. And it’s their legendary nose that can be credited primarily for their playful nickname, Sleuth Hound. That’s also why they are so commonly used by law enforcement agencies to help find missing persons. If you need something sought out, the bloodhound is the dog for you. It doesn’t hurt either that, when not tasked with a search, they’re remarkably docile and easy-going — making for a great companion both on and off the game trail.

Average Size: 80-110 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Large Game

Adopt: ABC

Boykin Spaniel

In all truth, every spaniel breed is a solid choice for a good hunting dog, especially if your hunting of choice is that of birds. Experts in flushing and retrieving, the Boykin might actually be the best of the greater class, both for their easy trainability and their utter and uncompromising determination out on the hunt. Hailing from South Carolina, this particular breed of dog is well-suited to heavy brush and wetlands, making it ideal for shooting waterfowl, like turkey and duck. What’s even better is that, outside of hunting context, these dogs are supremely loving and easy-going, making them excellent house pets, too. Due to their long fur, however, they do require a bit more maintenance than, say, a beagle. But that is balanced out by just how regal and handsome they look (if that’s a concern of yours).

Average Size: 25-40 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 14-16 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: BSC

Brittany Dog

Commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as a spaniel, the Brittany dog is actually more akin to setters — though it could be said that they fall somewhere between the two classes. And while that can be a confusing bit to sort through, it does mean one very important thing: they’re incredibly versatile when it comes to hunting tasks. Whether you need a dog to flush, retrieve, point, or even partake in competitive agility contests, the Brittany is an excellent choice of breed. They’re also especially handsome, yet require minimal maintenance in regards to grooming. One thing to keep in mind if you are considering this breed — be it for hunting, companionship, or even as an adventure buddy — is that they require a lot of exercise and can become restless if they don’t get it.

Average Size: 30-40 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 14-15 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: ABC

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay retriever has the singular distinction of being the only dog on our list that was bred entirely in the United States, which gives it a bit of a boost to anyone who values American gusto and patriotism. But their heritage is far from the only thing they have going for them, as they are also incredibly athletic, great for hunting in wet regions — like those in which you’d find waterfowl — and they are tireless when given a task to perform. It’s also worth noting that their coat is waterproof and, therefore, will not get bogged down when fetching ducks, geese, or whatever other birds you might find in the wetlands. As with other retrievers, they also make great companion dogs, which is an added bonus.

Average Size: 55-80 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: ACC

Coonhound

There are actually several variations of coonhound, including the Bluetick, Black & Tan, Redbone, American English, and Treeing Walker — all of which make excellent hunting dogs, as their heritage might dictate. If we were to pick a favorite, however, it would be the Treeing Walker for their remarkable tenacity, intelligence, and unadulterated determination. They’re not what you might call a cautious animal (they’ll run through a bramble patch during a chase), but they are also supremely tough and will give you little trouble in that regard. You might also note that a Treeing Walker fits in nicely in regards to appearance alongside the beagle and American foxhound — though the Treeing Walker is more akin in size to the foxhound. These dogs also have incredible stamina, which is desirable if you’re the kind of hunter that stays determined all day long.

Average Size: 50-70 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 12-13 Years
Specialty: Small to Medium Game

Adopt: TWBFA

English Setter

While they definitely count amongst the most beautiful dogs on our list, the English Setter’s long and luxurious fur is also their biggest drawback when it comes to hunting — as it can get dirty and tangled almost immediately out on the hunt. If you don’t mind the grooming, however, there’s no reason the English Setter shouldn’t be at the top of your list of hunting dogs — especially if you’re interested in shooting birds. Built to thrive in uneven terrain, these athletic animals are fierce, intelligent, and obedient. And their temperament off the trails is sweet and loving. They do, sometimes, like to get into mischief — especially when it comes to food — so it’s best to keep your counters clear and cupboards closed when you’re not watching them at home.

Average Size: 45-80 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: ESAA

German Shorthaired Pointer

To some, there is no better hunting dog than the German Shorthaired Pointer. These dogs embody everything you could want out of a sport animal: athleticism, intelligence, determination, loyalty, obedience … the list just keeps going. If there’s one thing their lacking, it’s an “off” button. These animals need a lot of stimulation and exercise. So, if you were hoping for a calm lap dog at home and a fierce beast out on the trails, you might find a better mate in something like the Bloodhound. If you’re big on the outdoors and like to spend as much time as possible on the hiking trails, on the hunt, or even swimming at the beach, this is the perfect companion animal for you.

Average Size: 45-70 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 12-14 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: GSPCA

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is, at this point in time, one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. And that might make you think that they are more companion pet than hard-working hunter. You’d be wrong, however. Their beautiful and luxurious appearance belies the fierce and determined animal underneath that’s just as suited to hanging out in the suburbs as hoofing it through the brush in search of its quarry. They are, after all, retrievers. Happy in disposition, high in stamina, and supremely intelligent, these are some of the best dogs available to hunters of all kinds; though they excel when it comes to bird hunting. If you want a sure thing, a dog that’s easy to train and will join you eagerly on any trip, this is it.

Average Size: 55-75 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: GRCA

Irish Setter

Like their English counterparts, the Irish Setter requires a bit of maintenance — a result of a beautiful, luxurious coat of fur. But, if you can get past that, they are similarly equipped to hunt alongside you day-in and day-out. Great at fetch — whether it be a tennis ball or a pheasant — these energetic animals are resourceful, smart, and determined. Back at home, however, they are known to be loving, if not a bit rambunctious. That does mean it requires a patient hand to train them but they will definitely serve you well out in the brush so long as you can stay positive and determined when it comes to discipline. It’s also worth noting that this particular breed has been popular amongst hunters and sportsmen alike for over 200 years.

Average Size: 55-75 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 12-15 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: ISCA

Jack Russel Terrier

Do not let their small stature fool you, Jack Russell Terriers can keep up with even the most athletic of quarry. These animals are like little powder kegs, just waiting to be unleashed. And their energy reserves seem practically endless. Sure, they’re not a particularly good choice of animal for anything other than small game, but they’re also a lot better at flushing and hunting squirmy little pests than just about any other dog on this list. If you’re keen on hunting rabbits, you should definitely put the Jack Russell near the top of your list. Just keep in mind, their energetic demeanor also means they can be a menace back home if they don’t get enough exercise. Still, they are supremely smart and incredibly loving. So long as you can curb their energy, you will not be disappointed by this breed — at home or on the game trail.

Average Size: 10-20 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 13-16 Years
Specialty: Small Game

Adopt: JRTCA

Labrador Retreiver

Topping the list in regards to popularity, the Lab is the USA’s favorite dog. And there’s a good reason for this. They’re smart, obedient, even-keeled, and loving (even when it comes to small children). But let’s not forget their first purpose, as evidenced by their name, was to assist hunters in fetching kills out on the hunting grounds. Especially when it comes to bird hunting, these dogs are exceptional companions that will stay by their master’s side through thick and thin. Their short fur also makes them very easy to take care of, as they require virtually no grooming maintenance. It’s hard to say that there is any downside to this breed because, truly, there isn’t one.

Average Size: 55-80 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-14 Years
Specialty: Bird Hunting

Adopt: LRC

Weimaraner

Now known as lanky, energetic goofballs, it’s important to remember the Weimaraner has a hunting pedigree, having originally been bred, in part, to take down large game — even predators, like wolves. Today’s Weimaraners are still well-equipped for this kind of hunting, though they do require a lot of discipline and exercise, as these dogs can be extremely willful if not handled sternly. Still, their stubbornness is secondary to their athleticism, intelligence, and other capabilities. They’re also very little maintenance when it comes to grooming, bond well with adults and children alike, and have very healthy appetites.

Average Size: 55-90 Lbs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Large Game

Adopt: WCA

10 Best Hiking Dogs For Outdoor Adventure

Maybe hunting isn’t your thing but you still want to get away from the city and into the great outdoors with a loyal pooch by your side. If that’s the case, you’ll definitely want to have a look at our list of the 10 best hiking dogs breeds for outdoor adventure.

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