Dogs have been hunting wild animals and birds for centuries. In fact, we all know that originally, dogs were domesticated by humans primarily to help out with hunting, whether by becoming the best-hunting dogs on their own merit or by assisting human hunters.
Even back in medieval times, canines used to go alongside hunters on horseback to hunt wildlife, and many writings point to dogs being original hunters.
Today, hunting with dogs by your side is not as popular in many US states, but the practice didn't go away completely. Not by a long shot.
Hunting is still prevalent, and hunters are always looking for the best hunting dogs, often chosen and listed by other professional hunters who evaluate every gun dog's capabilities and assess which gun dog breed is most appropriate for certain types of hunts.
When it comes to choosing only the best hunting dogs, that is a tough pick to make. All dogs are unique in their own regard and are best for specific hunting tasks.
For example, some gun dog breeds are better at catching fast prey, such as rabbits or foxes, while others will be pros at sniffing out hiding places of certain animals.
The bottom line is that there's no one single best hunting gun dog. Multiple breeds are considered to be the best hunting dogs by professional hunters, and I'll list those for your below.
You be the judge on this one, and let us know in the comments below which gun dog breed you prefer to go hunting with and why.
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30 Best Hunting Dogs for All Types of Game
1. Boykin Spaniel
A close relative of (or rather a mixture of) American Water Spaniels, Pointers, and Retrievers, Boykin Spaniel is a breed that has originated in South Carolina back at the beginning of the 20th century.
Serious hunters especially love these rare best-hunting dogs. They have gathered some decent (but not highest) rankings on the hunting dogs charts across multiple dogs hunting online resources.
Boykin Spaniel is a very energetic dog breed that loves to work hard. They are often used in hunts for mainly pheasants, grouses, or quail (upland).
Occasionally, hunters will also take Boykins with them for hunting ducks and geese, although this is not their specialty.
2. Brittany Spaniel
Brittany's dog breed, which originated in France sometime in the 1800s, is across different Spaniels and English Setters.
Brittanies were bred for pointing and retrieving. They are a quick and curious breed, and they do need a lot of exercise daily, as they can get quite destructive when they do not get enough of it.
Aside from being simply cute, adorable, and friendly family dogs, Brittany's breed is different from other pointers because it is closer to the ground and will outmaneuver most other pointers by deftly running through its bushes and trees.
Brittany is considered an all-around great hunting breed.
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3. Wire Fox Terrier
Energetic, lively, and small, Wire Fox Terriers are one of the best-hunting dogs because that is what they were bred to do back in England in the 17th century.
These dogs go up to only 20 lbs in size and are fairly rare these days among hunters, but their powerful frame and fast speed make them a very suitable chaser of foxes.
Today, Wire Fox Terriers are home dogs that are great with kids. Back in the day, these dogs would chase foxes into their underground burrows, where hunters would finish the job, or vice versa – out of their dens and other hiding places.
Because Fox Terriers, both smooth and wirehaired, have small bodies, they can get foxes in most places. And their relatively long legs allow them to keep up with foxes, too.
4. English Pointer
Pointers are a popular breed, but because there several types of Pointers, the original one is often called English Pointer.
The genetic makeup of Pointers includes some of the most talented breeds, such as Greyhounds, Foxhounds, Bloodhounds, and setting spaniels.
Pointers have originated in England sometime in the 1600s. As their name suggests, they were bred for pointing out prey during hunts.
This is a very hard-working breed that is especially fascinating by catching anything with feathers.
Pointers can endure different types of climates and will be able to maintain high energy levels while searching for that prey in the tall grass.
Today, they make great companions and are considered one of the best-hunting dogs ever to exist. Two other breeds in the Pointer family are both covered on this best hunting dogs list.
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5. Bluetick Coonhound
Mostly popular because of certain cartoons, Bluetick Coonhound is actually one of the best-hunting dogs one can wish for.
This breed is most famous for standing toe to toe with some of the most dangerous animals, such as mountain lions.
Bluetick Coonhound is a great mountain lion hunter, and they have the power, stamina, and sense of smell to keep up with an “enemy” of that level.
Coonhound's ability to pick any trail and follow it to the letter is famous among avid hunters, and most of them know the true value of this breed.
Originally, they have purposefully bred a slower version of foxhounds, but Bluetick Coonhounds evolved to have a lot of athleticism and threaten animals like cougars.
6. Irish Setter
Most Setters were first bred for bird setting, retrieving, and pointing. Irish Setters originated in Ireland in the 1700s. They are a mixture of spaniels, pointers, and other setters.
This is one of the best-hunting dogs because they are fast workers and especially talented at bird setting and retrieving. It's a vivacious breed that is willing to work hard for you.
They will most often use Irish Setters in hunting small game and occasionally for turkey hunts. This breed is not a hunter's first choice, especially with English Setter, or Brittany, who is much better at the same task.
Nonetheless, Irish Setters are still great for hunting, and they're also lively, beautiful, and friendly dogs for home and kids.
7. American Water Spaniel
A close cousin of the already mentioned Boykin Spaniel, American Water Spaniels has originated in the United States around the late 1800s.
These dogs were bred for bird flushing and retrieving, and quite frankly, we all know they're great at it.
In fact, AWS (which is how they are often abbreviated) is rated much higher than Boykins by dog hunting professionals.
Like Boykin Spaniel, these best hunting dogs are adept at retrieving that small game in the tall grass, and they will work hard until the prey is found.
AWS is not by any means lazy dogs, which makes them perfect for those multi-day long hunts. On the flip side, they do not require excessive exercise daily, just long walks.
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Possessing quite possibly the coolest and scariest sounding name, the Bloodhound dog breed is exactly what it sounds: they are ruthless hunters prepared to face whatever prey they are after.
Bloodhounds are truly the best hunting dogs that always consider themselves leaders of the pack, and they are prepared to take on any challenge with their amazing tracking skills and sense of smell.
This large breed was originally bred for hunting big and potentially dangerous games, such as wild boar or deer.
However, after people discovered how strong of a sense of smell these dogs have, they began using Bloodhounds to track people, which is the primary reason these dogs are still bred today.
9. Clumber Spaniel
Originated from England in the 1700s and bred for bird flushing and retrieving, the Clumber Spaniel dog breed is not a name of the breed you'll hear too often.
Nonetheless, this is still a Spaniel, and Clumber Spaniel shares many the same traits with other Spaniels, all of whom are great dogs for hunting.
Clumber Spaniels love their walks and may need more baths than other dogs to keep their beautiful white coats shining white.
But in terms of hunting, this gundog is ideal for upland hunting in dense cover. They were originally bred for partridge and pheasant hunts, but their slower speed doesn't allow them for effective chases.
However, Clumber Spaniels have a wonderful sense of smell, and they're great on stamina.
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America's iconic hunting dog, Beagles (breed profile), are the breed of choice for hunting rabbits – one of the toughest assignments for a hunting dog.
It's been over two hundred years that Beagles have been known as professionals of small game hunts. They continue to maintain this name to this day, with most professionals considering them to be the absolute best-hunting dogs.
Beagle dog breed will usually have a strong nose, too, and they are often used for assignments as detection dogs. F
fortunately or not, they love barking, which allows hunters to keep track of where the Beagle is currently at when on a hunt.
But on the other hand, this is not the type of dog your neighbors will appreciate you bringing home one day.
11. American Foxhound
Speaking of America's iconic dogs, there are very few breeds with as rich a history as American Foxhound.
George Washington's dog of choice, this breed originated in the USA from a mixture of English foxhounds and other similar breeds.
As the name suggests, their original purpose was to hunt foxes, but today, they will most often run deer during hunts.
American Foxhounds are very energetic and stubborn with a good amount of stamina, making them the best hunting dogs for many different hunts.
They also have a good nose and are amazing at working in packs. This dog will love chasing rather than tracking, and needless to say, American Foxhounds have the tools for that.
12. Cocker Spaniel
Another popular and famous “home” dog breed, Cocker Spaniel, was first bred in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century or early 20th century, and the breed was used for bird flushing and retrieving.
For those wondering, the name “Cocker” is derived from the fact that this breed was all about hunting Woodcocks.
After Cocker Spaniels were brought to the United States, the breed was further improved, and their hunting abilities expanded.
Even though this gundog is used in hunts today mostly for small bird retrieving, and very often at that, Cocker Spaniels are a popular cute home dog.
Their gorgeous coats will need extra attention to keep in good condition or cut short for easier grooming.
13. Labrador Retriever
Easily the best hunting dog for any waterfowl, Labrador Retrievers (breed profile) is among the most beloved canines for all hunters worldwide.
These dogs are perfect for hunting around water because their physical abilities and attributes are exactly what a small game bird dog needs: a muscular and strong body, double coat, and a thick tail for balance when maneuvering.
In addition to all the hunting trains of Labrador Retrievers, another reason why this breed is considered to be the best hunting dog is their intelligence.
These dogs are amazing at being trained, listening to commands, and simply grasping the essence of obedience training.
Labrador Retrievers mature faster than most other dog breeds and can be easily trained as puppies, which is why not only are they often used for hunting but also as working, service, and therapy dogs.
14. English Setter
English Setter might be a better choice for those who do not consider an Irish Setter a good hunting companion.
This is a talented field hunting gun dog and one of the most popular for bird hunts.
They are great at pointing and retrieving small game, and the chances are that if you see a bird hunt with dogs involved, there will most likely be an English Setter used for retrieving.
Even though the Brittany dog breed is often rated higher by professional hunters than English Setters, this highly celebrated breed is great at what they were bred to do.
Aside from the popular shorthaired pointer, here are two other types of English Setters – wirehaired and longhaired. AKC's registry acknowledges all, and all are, inborn hunters.
15. Appalachian Turkey Dog
Appalachian Turkey Dogs are the type of canines that we learned more about from true hunters.
Many dogs will be skilled enough to hunt turkeys, but no breed is better at this job than Appalachian Turkey dogs.
AKC's registry does not yet recognize these dogs, and they are, essentially, still in the making.
Appalachian Turkey dogs have been bred from a mixture of Plott hounds, setters, and pointers.
Even though the name suggests a canine that would be great at chasing turkeys, the focus with this breed was an all-around best hunting dog: good stamina, speed, desire to chase, and skills for hunting waterfowl.
16. Golden Retriever
It's not your regular family dog. Golden Retrievers (breed profile) are among the most common and popular retrievers considered best-hunting dogs for a specific type of assignment, right after Labrador Retrievers.
Goldens are amazing small game hunters and will be a good second choice.
Aside from being ideal for hunting, these dogs are simply perfect companions anywhere else. Their loyalty, companionship, and happy-go-lucky attitude are something every hunter will benefit from.
Golden Retrievers are not simply your good-looking family dogs, and the majority of hunters respect this breed as a decent choice for certain types of hunts.
17. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Originating from South Africa and African lion dogs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred around the late 19th century.
Their primary purpose was to keep the lions at bay either while on hunts and waiting for the owner to make the kill or as protectors at home.
Rhodesian Ridgeback dog breed has always been known for their ferocity and bravery, which is why they were often used not as hunting dogs but rather as good guard dogs.
Eventually, this breed became a hunter of big game. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were hunting lions and many other wild African animals, such as baboons and wild pigs.
Unlike lions, where they wait for the hunter to make the kill, Ridgebacks have been known to fight and kill smaller animals like baboons on their own without any intervention of the owner.
18. Treeing Walker Hound
Known as one of the best all-around hound dogs, Treeing Walker Hound is known to have a strong sense of smell and the ability to chase after many different types of animals: cougars, raccoons, coyotes, deer, and bears.
Just as you would expect from hounds that are best-hunting dogs, they are also perfect on speed and prey drive – two things which hunters love these dogs the most for.
Treeing Walker Hounds are descendants of Foxhounds and are better for short and quick hunts where you expect to find the prey within a few hours rather than days.
Their stamina will allow them to keep up with some of the fastest animals and other skills to catch up to them.
19. German Wirehaired Pointer
Another amazing all-around hunting breed is the German Wirehaired Pointer, also known as Deutsch Drahthaar.
These dogs are versatile best-hunting dogs ideal for most animal prey.
They are of medium to large size, have a calm temperament and thick coats, and have been known as a leading gun dog in Germany since the middle of the 20th century.
Most professional hunters know this breed as the best all-arounder because of their ability to hunt any game on any terrain type.
They have a strong nose, coat, and great tracking skills, making them a perfect hunting dog for both land and water. Oftentimes, these dogs will work with groups of hunters, particularly at this task.
20. Field Spaniel
Not a common choice, mostly because of how rare these dogs are, Field Spaniels are definitely good small game retrieving dogs, just like most of their Spaniel cousins.
They've also originated from England and were first bred for bird flushing and retrieving.
Field Spaniels might not be the absolute best-hunting dogs mostly due to their temperament, but they have the skills and body for it.
These dogs are also very affectionate and happy most of the time.
Because of their ancestry, they need to be used as working dogs and are expected to either hunt or do other physical labor; otherwise, a Field Spaniel can turn into a destructive brat if not given enough exercise and things to do.
Overall, these dogs make excellent family companions. They are very cautious with strangers, though.
21. Plott Hound
Those of you looking for an adamant dog that will face the danger in the eyes should look no further than a Plott Hound.
These dogs are some of the best-hunting dogs one can ask for when on the quest for the big game, such as bears.
Plott Hounds are intelligent canines who know how to track and approach the prey, stand their ground, threaten when needed.
A purebred Plott Hound will have a muscular body and a strong frame; they are tenacious canines with a lot of athleticism in them.
Understanding the principles of hunting is also what these dogs are good at, and a Plott Hound will make sure to constantly release short and sharp barks so that you can keep track of where the action is happening while on the fast track of a prey.
If you're after cougars, bears, or wild boars – this is your breed.
22. Dogo Argentino
Another great big game hunting dog is the oddly sounding Dogo Argentino breed. If you think Pit Bulls are scary, wait till you see this big and muscular beast.
The physical abilities of this breed are much more suitable for hunting than even Pit Bulls'. This catch dog will change places with your chase dog whenever the time comes and fight whoever he needs to fight – a hog, cougar, or bear.
They will sink in their teeth and hold onto the prey until the hunter catches up.
This South American breed is much stronger, larger, and more athletic than Pit Bulls. First, Dogo Argentino started hunting pumas and wild pigs.
Still, afterward, hunters realized the type of best-hunting dogs these canines are, and soon, Dogo Argentino became the most popular choice for those hunts when you expect the dog to meet the prey face to face.
23. Sussex Spaniel
Naturally, Spaniels are inborn hunters, which is why we're seeing many different types of them on this list.
Now it's the Sussex Spaniels' turn; another Spaniel originated from England that was bred for particular hunting conditions and later almost became extinct.
They are not a hunter's quintessential best choice but are still considered some of the best hunting dogs for bird hunts.
Sussex Spaniels are slow working dogs but have great noses for small game tracking and flushing.
The biggest problem with Sussex Spaniels is their stubbornness, which makes them quite difficult to train. But once you get there, your dog will forever be your trusty hunting companion.
This breed is the most laid back of all the spaniels to be great for city life. They also tend to howl and bark when left alone.
24. Mountain Cur
Hunters looking to embark on small game chases after animals such as squirrels or raccoons will not find a better hunting dog than Mountain cur.
Remember the time you enjoyed chasing after pigeons and how fun that was? Well, Mountain cur still enjoys doing that for a living.
After originating in Europe, Mountain curs were brought to the US in the 20th century, specifically hunting and protection from raccoons.
It's a well-known fact that Mountain curs will always dominate any squirrel hunt, as they are the most adept at it.
The way their bodies are design, their athleticism, medium-sized frame, and speed, as well as their enthusiasm for small prey, makes them some of the best-hunting dogs out there.
25. German Shorthair Pointer
Another famous looking canine is the German Shorthair Pointer. This breed has the nose and stamina to hunt even the most hard-to-catch birds in the wild.
The problem with some of that small bird game is keeping up with their pace, and German Shorthair Pointers are quite possibly the only dog breed that can do that.
Their intelligence will allow the dog to outwit the prey, and their stamina will let them keep up with the bird for as long as is needed.
German Shorthair Pointers are great for climbing steep and rugged hillsides and chase through even the nastiest terrains.
This breed is a combination of pointers and hounds, which is how the perfect hunting dog was born a long time ago in Germany.
Hunters looking for one of the best-hunting dogs for bird hunts will never, ever go wrong with a German Shorthair Pointer.
26. Spinone Italiano
Spinone Italiano is one of the earliest breeds which as used as pointing dogs. They originated in Italy as far back as the 1200s.
Spino Italian is a very versatile gundog breed that mostly enjoys helping with pointing and retrieving different types of games. Many years have gone into perfecting this breed, and the result is an intelligent, loyal, and easily trained bird hunting dog.
Although Spinone Italian is definitely one of the best-hunting dogs, their primary disadvantage is their speed. Spinone Italiano is quite slow for an all-around best hunter, but their intelligence and stubbornness are what sell them.
Additionally, these dogs are very devoted and loving canines that love to please the owner. They are a good breed to have around children and other dogs as they have calm temperaments.
Hungarian dog Vizsla is a known and skilled hunter of fowl and upland game.
These dogs were bred to work at pointing, falconry, and trailing, and they are quite good at it, with hunters using Vizslas today as one of the best-hunting dogs for turkeys pheasants, grouse, woodcock, and quail.
As natural hunters, Vizslas have strong noses and are one of the most easily trained dogs. Their fearlessness also adds a few solid points to hunting.
Vizslas are gentle and very affectionate yet sensitive dogs. They originated from Hungary sometime in the middle ages and have been great hunters since then.
This dog breed tends to be stubborn and excitable, and they make great companions for truly active pet owners.
This unique and interest-looking breed originated in Germany in the early 19th century and has specialized in hunting large game, trailing, and pointing.
This dog was royalty's first choice for hunting boars, bears, deer, and other games of that type and size.
They love running and hunting and do not like being penned up, where their true attitude comes into play.
This is an all-purpose gun dog breed, and all their origins point to them being one of the best-hunting dogs that ever existed.
Weimaraners have a solid instinctive prey drive, and there are very few animals they can tolerate for a long time.
Their urge to constantly hunt is undeniable. Weimaraners can also be too much for small children as they can be rambunctious due to their nature.
29. Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – another gundog breed known well from the old days. These canines are extremely skilled at what they do – mostly pointing and retrieving – and are most certainly among the best hunting dogs around.
They originated in France in the 19th century as dogs for hunting in and around water, as well as through thick undergrowth. Their coat is absolutely perfect for those types of hunting locations.
Wirehaired Pointing Griffons are an intelligent breed willing to go through a lot to please the owner.
Even on the job, these dogs remain playful and have an upbeat, puppy-type personality, which can be a good and a bad thing for serious hunters.
The excitable temperament will often cause issues, but Wirehaired Pointing Griffons will do the job they have set out to do in the end.
30. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Last on the list of best-hunting dogs, but definitely not least, is the Chesapeake Bay retriever, who has a fascinating story of how they originated.
Back in the 19th century, a shipwrecked brig from England was rescued by an American ship. Onboard, there were two Newfoundland puppies, one black and one red.
They proved to be great water retrievers later on, and they became so popular that people would bring their retrievers to be bred with them.
The breed became very advanced in their water retrieving skills later on. Today, Chesapeake Bay Retriever are some of the best retrieving dogs.
This is a hard-working dog breed that is not afraid of water, dirt, or brutal terrain.
Compared to Labrador Retrievers, Chesapeake has a more solid build, and their coat is more suitable for hunting that involves a lot of water contact.
Usually, these dogs absolutely love to swim and will do so eagerly, especially for the prey.
Common Questions about Hunting Dog Breeds
If you want to know more about hunting dog breeds, then consider the following. Some of these questions also make it easier to compare various dog breeds.
What Is the Best All-Around Hunting Dog?
The best hunting dog breeds for all-around hunting include German Shorthaired Pointers, Vizslas, Labrador Retrievers, and Brittanies. Others are the English Springer Spaniel and Boykin Spaniels.
Remember that most hunting breeds do best for one specific type of game.
What Kind of Dog Is Used for Deer Hunting?
The American foxhound is perhaps the best option for deer hunting. This is not only a good hunting dog but also has a rich history in the United States.
Many experts credit George Washington as the father of this breed.
How Do I Choose the Right Hunting Dog?
Whether you want to rabbit hunt, go hunting birds, go hunting pheasant, or other game, there is a similar process to choosing a working dog.
Always start by researching which hunting breeds are best for your preferred type of game.
Then, get the dog from a reputable breeder. Choose a pup with good credentials and parentage. Start training him from a young age, and you should be set.