The 7 Best Hunting Dog Breeds

The 7 Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Author WDF Staff


Humans and dogs have been hunting side by side for thousands of years and some historians believe that that is the reason why canines were domesticated in the first place. Hunting together played a huge role in developing each of our species because hunting was necessary for us to survive.

Not all dogs are bred to be hunters. They will need to possess a certain set of skills to be great at hunting and some are better than others. A hunting dog should be athletic so it can run down the prey of the hunter’s choice. It should possess the endurance to follow the prey as long as it needs. Hunting dogs should be trainable and fairly intelligent so they can learn to follow commands and not to spoil the hunt.

If you are a hunter and you are thinking of getting a dog that will assist you during your hunt, you should be aware that there are two main types of hunting dogs - gun dogs and scenthounds. Your hunting style and the type of game you are hunting should play a huge role in picking what kind of dog you should have.

Gun dogs are usually used for hunting small game and their main prey is birds and waterfowl. Their main job is to detect, flush, and retrieve prey.

Scenthounds are usually used for hunting large game and their hunting strategy is to follow prey with their extremely sensitive noses. Some scenthounds follow prey and others are trained to “tree” the prey and wait until the hunters arrive.

We bring you the list of the 7 most popular hunting breeds and their different hunting styles.

1. Pointer

No decent hunting dog breeds list should begin without the mention of the Pointer dog breed. These dogs are born and bred to hunt. They have an extremely high prey drive, high energy levels, and are very susceptible to training. These traits make them highly effective, skillful and sought after hunting dogs.

Their main prey is birds like pheasant or quail and they will hunt them 24/7 if they are allowed to. They are relentless and it is no wonder why these dogs are the breed of choice for many hunters of this world. They were also known to retrieve caught prey.


2. Irish Setter

The Irish Setter can be differentiated into two strains - the working line and the show line. Those dogs that were bred for their show potential were developed with their looks and bone structure in mind. Those traits are usually highly praised in the show ring.

The working Irish Setter line was developed with its character and working ability in mind. They should be energetic, obedient, and able to hunt in the toughest of conditions. These dogs were a part of the gun dog hunters and were mostly hunting birds and waterfowl.

irish setter

3. English Foxhound

The English Foxhound is a dog breed that was primarily used to hunt foxes, just like its name suggests. These dogs were developed in the 16th century and they were developed as pack hunters. They are used for traditional foxhunting in which men on horseback hunt foxes with the help of the pack of Foxhounds.

This sort of traditional British hunting style was declared illegal and since 2005 hunting with more than 3 dogs is not allowed except in certain conditions. Nevertheless, the English Foxhound is still considered as one of the best pack-hunting dogs there is.


4. Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is the most popular dog breed in the world, and for a good reason. They are extremely trainable and biddable. The Labrador is a gun dog and is used for retrieving caught birds in the water and on land.

The Labrador is also a skilled flusher. They can locate prey and flush them out of the hiding where hunters can get a clear shot. These dogs are used to work within the gun range and they are known to have “soft” jaws. They are most commonly used for duck hunting.


5. English Springer Spaniel

The English Springer Spaniel is a fairly old hunting breed that was mostly used for bird hunting and flushing. These dogs excel at finding prey and “springing” it out in the open where hunters can have a clear shot. Their main prey is pheasants and they do extremely well in grouse hunting.

There are two strains of the English Springers and those are field and bench. Field Springers are the main working breed that can also be great family pets. They are active, biddable, and smart. They need to be properly trained because they have a strong hunting instinct that can be translated outside work so proper behavior is a must.

springer spaniel

6. Bluetick Coonhound

The Bluetick Coonhound is popular for many reasons and one of them is a famous cartoon where this dog is featured. Not many outsiders know that this is one of the best possible hunting dog breeds in the world. The Bluetick is fearless and is known to go up against some of the most dangerous prey out there like cougars.

These dogs have extremely sensitive noses and their trailing abilities are just short of the famous Bloodhounds. They are extremely athletic and can follow prey for miles. That should not come as a huge surprise because only a special dog breed could be able to hunt prey as dangerous as the mountain lion.

bluetick coonhound

7. Bloodhound

Not only do these dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but they also have one of the scariest sounding names out there. The Bloodhound is a hunter “par excellence”. They are the best at hunting and tracking and they have the strongest sense of smell out of all dog breeds out there.

These dogs are also fearless and will go toe to toe with any prey they are tracking. Bloodhounds were used for tracking large and dangerous game like deer, boar, and bears. That was certainly their primary use and these days they are mostly used as search and rescue dogs. They were also used to track escaped convicts. 


Whether you are looking for a hunting partner or a family pet, these breeds can certainly make a great partner, just keep in mind that they are natural hunters and make sure their needs are fulfilled. If you do that, you will have the best possible dog companion.

If you want to explore more hunting dog breeds, you can check the full breed list here - hunting dog breeds.

World Dog Finder team