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Gun Dog Hall of Fame: The Flushers

flushing bird dog

This is the third of four segments breaking down the 20 best gun dog breeds to ever hit the field.

Ranking hunting dog breeds is really an impossible task, as each is so unique.

Every hunting breed has an area in which it excels, and typically some kind of weakness or drawback to go along with it. The key is finding a breed that best meets your specific needs, rather than trying to force a dog to be something it's not.

You could categorize sporting breeds a number of different ways, but I think they really fall into four distinct groups: pointers, retrievers, flushers and hounds.

Humans have hunted over far more than 20 breeds, but these dogs have seemingly been the most iconic throughout history.

Success typically translates to popularity, too, so a breed's reputation should certainly carry some weight.

The Flushers

Most of the breeds that fall under this category are on the smaller side of the gun dog spectrum, but each brings a ton of personality to go along with its unique bird hunting technique.

Also popular among upland hunters, flushers can serve a number of purposes. Unlike pointers, flushers typically work to push a bird rather than stalk it. So instead of finding the bird, pointing and holding, a flusher will run around the other side of it and push it toward the hunter.

Many hunters prefer to have both a pointer and a flusher, as the two can compliment each other with proper training. When a pointer locks up on a bird, a well-trained flusher will push the bird so the hunter doesn't have to.

Additionally, the following breeds also have a strong reputation in the waterfowl community, as many duck hunters even prefer a strong-swimming spaniel to a Labrador retriever.

However, flushing is where these dogs truly stake their claim in the Gun Dog Hall of Fame.

Cocker Spaniel

flushing bird dog

There are two distinct cocker spaniel breeds--the American cocker spaniel and the English cocker spaniel--which just about every cocker owner will specify. However, their shared name, "cocker," comes from the cocker spaniel's storied role in woodcock hunting.

Just about every bird hunter you meet is loyal to a breed, but none more than the owner of a cocker spaniel. It seems this breed, while not as popular as your blue blood pointers, has sustained a cult-like following that won't hunt without a trusty flusher.

The cocker spaniel (both American and English) is hardworking, loyal gun dog that won't stop until its respective gunner can't walk anymore. It features a relentless drive and a stellar nose for tracking down fallen birds.

Plus, its size and temperament make it a fantastic family pet.

English Springer Spaniel

flushing bird dog

The English springer spaniel has really become one of the iconic gun dogs, but particularly for the flushing group. The term "springer" actually comes from the act of flushing or "springing" a bird from cover.

This breed has undoubtedly made a name for itself among uplanders, boasting exceptional consistency in both quartering and retrieving. However, the springer's affectionate personality is often what steals hunters' hearts.

It can also range quite a bit in size, as some won't be more than 20 pounds, and others will push 60. But usually in the 40-50-pound range, it sits at a nice, medium size, making it a great family pet.

Its impressive nose and strong drive haven't only paid dividends in the field, but also in the public service industry, as the springer often also serves as a rescue dog in rougher terrain.

Boykin Spaniel

flushing bird dog
American Kennel Club

The Boykin is a special bird dog in its versatility alone. Of the flushing dog breeds, it's not only a great upland companion but debatably the most popular among waterfowl hunters, too.

This shouldn't come as a surprise if you're at all familiar with its lineage, as it descends from the Chesapeake Bay retriever, the springer spaniel, the cocker spaniel, the American water spaniel and several pointing breeds.

The Boykin is an unbelievable swimmer and a perfectionist in the field.

Many upland hunters believe their Boykin has the ability to point, but in actuality, they're seeing what some call a "hesitated flush." This gun dog won't flush a bird until it's positive of exactly where it is, which is invaluable for upland hunters.



Gun Dog Hall of Fame: The Flushers