The relationship between a hunter and his dog is unlike anything else. My first experience of this was at a young age with my family's Weimaraner, who loved nothing more than to retrieve birds and be a part of the hunting camp. Hunting with a dog is hardly a new thing. In fact, archaeologists believe that humans may have started using dogs to help them hunt over 20,000 years ago. Since then a lot has changed, training has become more advanced and dog breeding has turned into a lifestyle of its own.
Breeds such as Labradors, German Shorthaired Pointers, Wirehaired Griffons, Brittany Spaniels, and may more get all of the attention for being the best hunting dogs. This is well deserved, as those are all incredible breeds with a long bloodline and an impressive hunting heritage. However, there are some other breeds of man's best friend that stay more under the radar while being just as great of hunters. Here are six dog breeds that you probably didn't know were excellent in the field.
Poodles have developed an image of being cute, hypoallergenic, and a symbol of luxury from the upper class. However, they have a rich history in hunting, and are one of the oldest hunting breeds, with records back to the Medieval era, when they would flush birds for falconry-style hunting. Poodles are known to be highly intelligent and have an excellent sense of smell, allowing them to flush and retrieve game birds. While mostly known for upland bird hunting, they can be just as effective on the water when retrieving ducks and other waterfowl.
Welsh Springer Spaniel
Believed to be a close relative of the Brittany, Welsh Springer Spaniel's are much less common, in fact, there are only about 300 of these breeds registered by the American Kennel Club each year. These dogs are very effective swimmers and have endurance that is unmatched by most other dog breeds, making them some of the best waterfowl dogs that I have ever witnessed. Even on land, the Welsh Springer Spaniel practices great obedience, and remains at appropriate distances to their owners for great flushing. If you're looking for a great hunting dog that nobody else will have in camp, the Welsh Springer Spaniel is in a league of its own.
It would be hard to consider a Boykin Spaniel as "uncommon," given the fact that the Boykin is the official state dog of South Carolina, where they were bred specifically for waterfowl hunting. However, they still don't seem to generate the same publicity that breeds like Labradors and GSPs do. One characteristic that makes Boykins so special is their tolerance for extremely hot weather. This makes them highly desirable for avid dove and quail hunters. Although highly intelligent and great retrieving skills, this breed can take slightly longer to train and shake puppy-like tendencies.
Never seen one? Maybe you've never even heard of them? You aren't alone; the Kennel Club reports that there are only about 600 breeds registered worldwide. While this is a very rare breed, and finding a puppy to adopt will surely be difficult, these dogs were meant to be hunting superheroes. Originally bred to hunt otters in England, this dog breed has fallen off the radar given that England has since outlawed otter hunting. However, maybe it's time for the breed to make a comeback. Their rough coat makes them essentially waterproof, and their webbed feet allows them to be one of the best swimmers out of any other dog breed. Sounds like the perfect duck dog!
The Small Munsterlander is the smallest of the German pointing dog breeds, but good things often come in small packages. They are excellent pointers and have a never-ending drive that allows them to work the fields without ever seeming to get tired. Like Boykins, the Small Munsterlander can be slow to mature, but once they develop their point, their skills are extremely impressive. These dogs are very popular bird dogs in Europe, however, they are overlooked here in the states. However, their registrations by the AKC are growing each year.
I've spent all of this time talking about bird dogs, but have failed to mention dogs that hold a special place in my heart for a type of hunting that is near and dear to me: raccoon and squirrel hunting. Growing up in Ohio, treeing raccoons and hunting squirrels was something my family was passionate about, and having an intelligent and fearless dog was crucial. While breeds like Blueticks, Treeing Walkers, and Redbones get most of the credit for coon hunting, the Mountain Cur has some of the best instincts for treeing. These are extremely loyal dogs that put a heavy emphasis on obedience. They are very fast trackers and generally will track silently with their head in the air. They can be easily trained to leave undesired game, which is a characteristic all hunters look for. They are also great with other animals and children, making them excellent family dogs.
Is there anything better than having your best fur friend as a hunting partner? Dogs play such a special role in the life of hunters, and oftentimes, the hunts wouldn't be possible or even enjoyable without them. While common breeds such as Labradors and Setters are amazing, don't overlook the effectiveness and amazing characteristics of some of the more uncommon breeds. While somewhat rare, these breeds will make incredible hunting partners and even better best friends.
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