Man with Hunting Dog

Popular Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs consist of both the sporting dog breeds (retrievers, pointers, spaniels, setters) and the hound breeds (scent hounds and sight hounds). These dogs make up some of the most popular breeds, according to the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, and other sources. Some people still hunt with these dogs, while others simply enjoy them as loving pets. The hunting dog breeds also excel at many other dog activities such as obedience, agility, tracking, and search and rescue. Here are some of the most popular hunting dogs around today.

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed in the United States for over 20 years, and with good reason. Labs are one of the smartest of all breeds; easy to train; gentle and affectionate; devoted to their families; and they are great with kids. They make a wonderful family dog. The breed originated in Canada and was developed in England. They are terrific water dogs and their retrieving skills are outstanding. They are still used by sportsmen in the field. Whether you are looking for a retriever for hunting purposes or a great companion, the Labrador Retriever must be at the top of the list.


From the Hound group comes the diminutive Beagle, in both 13” and 15” varieties. Beagles are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. Most people probably think of them as fun pets but hunting with Beagles is extremely popular and lots of hunters keep packs of Beagles for hunting rabbits. With their outstanding noses and scenting abilities, Beagles excel in the field. They also make great pets. They are smart little dogs but they can have a mind of their own, especially if they smell something interesting. They are not always easy to train because they think for themselves. They can be prone to digging under fences if they want to follow a scent. Even with these issues, Beagles are loving and sweet dogs and they are great with kids.

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Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is another extremely popular hunting breed in the U.S. and around the world. Goldens are very smart and easy to train. They are devoted to their owners, fun-loving, gentle, and sweet. They love kids and they make wonderful family dogs. They also make great retrieving dogs and are still used for this purpose by hunters to some extent. Goldens are more often seen participating in dog sports such as obedience and agiliy now but they still have strong retrieving instincts. Goldens can learn to do anything and they are often the dog of choice as guide dogs for the blind, service dogs for the disabled, search and rescue dogs, and for many other tasks, along with Labrador Retrievers.


The Dachshund is a member of the Hound group and they were originally bred to go to ground after badgers. The dogs still have the courage and ferocity needed to pin an animal in its den. Although they are not used for this purpose any longer, many owners like to take part in earthdog activities with their Dachshunds. These are events which allow the dogs to go underground and hunt for vermin. The rats are caged so they aren’t hurt, but the dogs love the sport that allows them to use their natural hunting instincts. Dachshunds are brave dogs who are devoted to their owners. They do not always get along well with other pets or with small children, however, but they are a popular breed and a good choice for people who live in apartments.

German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a continental sporting breed developed in Germany in the 19th century. Like many of these breeds, the dogs are very versatile and intelligent. They continue to excel as hunting dogs today, performing all of the tasks in the field that were once done by specialist breeds in Britain (finding, flushing, retrieving birds). The GSP is easy to train and they make good family dogs. As an all-purpose gun dog, the GSP can be used to hunt different kinds of game birds, raccoons, and even deer. They are very athletic dogs and need plenty of daily exercise.

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Cocker Spaniel

The (American) Cocker Spaniel is a very popular breed. For a long time it was the most popular breed in the United States. Although they are a small dog, they can still be good in the field. They have been used to find and flush woodcocks, a small gamebird. At one time the American Cocker Spaniel and the English Cocker Spaniel were one breed but the breeds were separated in the 1940s because they were diverging in appearance. Cocker Spaniels, in general, are one of the oldest of the spaniel breeds, dating back to around the 14th century in England. The (American) Cocker is the smallest member of the Sporting group. They are gentle, devoted little dogs who make good family pets.

English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel makes a wonderful pet and family companion. They were originally found in the same litters as Cocker Spaniels. The smaller dogs were used for finding birds and the larger dogs were used for flushing or “springing” the birds. In the late 19th/early 20th century the Kennel Club in Britain separated the breeds and created the Springer Spaniel as its own breed. The AKC recognized the new breed soon after. Since that time the English Springer Spaniel has become larger and developed its own look. It is now a medium-sized dog with a medium-long coat. Some English Springers are still used for field work, especially in Britain. English Springers are great pets but they are active dogs and they need regular exercise.

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The Brittany is well-known today as a hunting dog. More than many sporting breeds, they have avoided a field-show split and it is not uncommon to see the same dogs at the dog show and in the hunting field. Brittanies are gentle, sweet dogs who are also fun-loving. They make wonderful family dogs and they get along well with kids and other pets. At one time they were called “Brittany Spaniels” but this was inaccurate and they are officially called the “Brittany” now. They are not a spaniel breed. They point game like a Pointer or Setter. Brittanies are also very good at events like agility and rally which require speed and intelligence.


The Weimaraner is a highly intelligent, fast-working gun dog. The breed is often referred to as the “gray ghost” because of its distinctive gray coloring. They are sleek and elegant in appearance. They were developed in Germany in the 19th century from the same general stock of dogs as the other continental breeds. The breed was originally used to hunt big game such as wolves, bear, and deer but as these became scarce the dogs were used to hunt birds. Weims are smart, brave, and they love to be part of the family. They make great family dogs.

These are the most popular hunting breeds registered with the American Kennel Club. The United Kennel Club, which registers a large number of working dogs in the United States, reports that the most popular dog registered with them is the Treeing Walker Coonhound. Four other coonhound breeds are in their top ten registrations, as well as the Beagle, the Labrador Retriever, and the Plott Hound, which is another hunting hound.

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