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Brown and white German Shorthaired Pointer dog in the woods

12 Best Hunting Dog Breeds

Hunter and hunting pet is a pairing that seems nearly as old as the survival sport itself. After all, who would argue with a little help out there in the bush? That’s not to mention the loyal companionship a dog always delivers, hunting breed or otherwise. Awwww, who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy!? You are! Yes, you are!!!

Of course, not all dogs are hunter dogs and not all hunter dogs are created equal. In other words, don’t pick up a French bulldog or chihuahua and expect to do you a lick of good out there in the wilderness, and for obvious reasons. As an aside, did you know that standard-sized poodles (but not miniature ones) actually make for great hunting pets? You won’t find them on our list, but we thought you should know just in case.

Meanwhile, the best hunting dog breeds generally fall into one of two categories. First up are “gun dog breeds” (aka “bird dog breeds”), which flush out birds and small animals on the hunter’s behalf, and often retrieve the catch after it’s been killed. Then you have scent hounds, who use their high-powered sniffers to locate and track prey. On occasion, they’ll even chase the prey up a tree and trap it there until the hunter arrives.

Also, don’t forget that even the best hunting pets are only as good as their owners. A certain amount of bonding and training is required before Rover performs on a consistent basis. Combine that with his natural instincts and you have yourself a certifiable hunting pet. But what breed is Rover, exactly? Let’s find out with our list of the 12 best hunting dog breeds.

Yellow labrador retriever on green grass
Labrador Retriever | Image: Radomir Rezny

1. Labrador Retriever

Widely considered one of the best duck hunting breeds, Labrador Retrievers are as friendly as they are effective (friendly toward humans, that is—not toward ducks). Between their ability to withstand cold temperatures, perennial loyalty, and downright enthusiastic behaviour, this is a bird dog breed that no hunter can refuse. They also make for terrific family pets.

Average Size: 25-35 kgs
Life Expectancy: 10-12 Years
Specialty: Water retrieving

Golden Retriever on forest tracks
Golden Retriever | Image: Holger Leue

2. Golden Retriever

Like the friendly Labrador, Golden Retrievers will track down ducks or birds and smile the whole way through. Easy to train and fun for the whole family, these dogs are both man’s best friend and one of the best hunting breeds you can find.

Average Size: 25-35 kgs
Life Expectancy: 10-23 Years
Specialty: All-round retrieving

Beagle on green grass looking at camera
Beagle | Image: Siloto

3. Beagle

Equipped with a powerful snout and voluminous bark, the beagle ranks among the best scent hounds in the world. In addition to its savvy sniffer, the breed tends to have a muscular body and long, floppy ears. As with the retriever, this top hunting pet will serve you well in the bush and also at home with the fam.

Average Size: 8-14 kgs
Life Expectancy: 12-15 Years
Specialty: Scenthound, Rabbit and Hare Hunting

American Foxhound on green grass
American Foxhound | Image: Mary H. Swift

4. American Foxhound

True to its name, the American Foxhound tracks down foxes or deer with impeccable precision. Bursting with energy and determination, these classic hunting pets demonstrate solid running skills and fierce loyalty. Just remember to read up on your local ordinances before hunting larger game, which aren’t always in season.

Average Size: 25-33 kgs
Life Expectancy: 11-13 Years
Specialty: Large game

English Springer Spaniel on green grass
English Springer Spaniel | Image: Aneta Jungerova

5. English Springer Spaniel

You might think of the English Springer Spaniel as an ideal family pet, but it’s also a downright classic bird dog breed. Thanks to its compact size, it can get into spaces that larger dogs might not be able to penetrate. When you’re feeling like pheasant for dinner, this hunting dog will serve you well. Plus, it’s just a flat-out beautiful breed!

Average Size: 20-25 kgs
Life Expectancy: 12-14 Years
Specialty: Flushing, Gun dog

Pointer dog on grass
Pointer | Image: Tim Alford

6. Pointer

With a name like pointer, you can probably guess that this is at least a good hunting dog breed. More than that, it’s one of the most iconic bird dog breeds in the world. Thanks to a thin coat, pointers can withstand extreme heat and humidity. They’re also known to deliver all-day stamina and loyal companionship.

Average Size: 23-33 kgs
Life Expectancy: 11-14 Years
Specialty: Gun dog, pointing, can be trained as a retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever on grass with fallen leaves
Chesapeake Bay Retriever | Image: Ricant Images

7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a hunting pet in the truest sense of the concept, and also one of the best duck hunting dog breeds. With its oily coat and webbed feet, it has no problem swimming into ice-cold water when retrieving prey. Train yours properly and it will never let you or your family down. That said, Chessies can be somewhat temperamental with those outside their immediate circle (i.e. non-family members).

Average Size: 20-25 kgs
Life Expectancy: 12-14 Years
Specialty: Flushing, Gun dog

Bluetick Coonhound on green grass
Bluetick Coonhound | Image: Porody Sobak

8. Bluetick Coonhound

More than one of the most energetic hunting hounds, the bluetick coonhound is quite fearless. According to legend, this breed is willing to punch well above its weight class by taking on cougars or even lions. Otherwise, it will chase all sorts of game into a tree and then trap it there until you arrive. Should you buy a bluetick coonhound, prepare to get used to barking both in the bush and at home.

Average Size: 24-35 kgs
Life Expectancy: 11-12 Years
Specialty: Big game

English Setter on green grass with small white, yellow, and purple flowers
English Setter | Image: Dorottya Mathe

9. English Setter

Look beyond the English Setter’s noble appearance and you’ll find a truly versatile hunting pet, who can point and run with considerable efficiency. When properly trained, this bird dog will also retrieve your catch from the thicket. Due to the breed’s increasing popularity over time, most setters now fall into two distinct categories: conformation dogs (i.e. show dogs and pets) or field dogs (i.e. hunting dogs). In case it’s not yet obvious, you should go with the latter when looking for a top hunting pet.

Average Size: 24-32 kgs
Life Expectancy: 11-15 Years
Specialty: Gundog, working dog

Irish Setter on green grass
Irish Setter | Image: Natallia Yaumenenka

10. Irish Setter

Similar to their English counterparts, Irish Setters are as handsome as they are effective. It’s then no surprise that this breed likewise breaks down into either conformation dog or field dog. Stick with the latter and you’ll get a quintessential hunting pet, which demonstrates solid work ethic, impressive agility, and fierce determination when tracking birds or other game. At home with the family, meanwhile, this breed couldn’t be sweeter.

Average Size: 24-32 kgs
Life Expectancy: 12-15 Years
Specialty: Tracking, working dog

Bloodhound on green grass with small yellow flowers
Bloodhound | Image: Lenkadan

11. Bloodhound

You knew this was one of the best hunting hounds as soon as you saw the name, and the common bloodhound is indeed a fearless tracker. In addition to its superior snout, this breed touts a hefty build, commonly weighing anywhere from 80 to 120 pounds.

Average Size: 35-50 kgs
Life Expectancy: 7-10 Years
Specialty: Tracker

Weimaraner on green grass
Weimaraner | Image: Mylos Artworks

12. Weimaraner

Good for hunting pheasant and other upland birds, each Weimaraner dog is distinguished by its long legs, elegant appearance, and calm demeanour. Of course, no amount of inner sanctitude will stop it from springing to life when prey is in sight, and then taking off at top speed.

Average Size: 30-35 kgs
Life Expectancy: 10-13 Years
Specialty: Small game

General FAQ

Here are some questions (and their answers) that people commonly ask about the best hunting dog breeds.

What breed is the best hunting dog?

Some of the best hunting dog breeds are Labrador Retriever, bloodhound, American Foxhound, Golden Retriever, pointer, and beagle. The effectiveness of any given breed will often depend on the type of hunting.

What dogs are used for fox hunting?

Scent hounds are the best dogs used for fox hunting, with American Foxhounds and English Foxhounds representing two of the most popular breeds.

Are poodles good hunting dogs?

Like their ancestors, standard-sized poodles make for good hunting and retrieving dogs. However, toy or miniature poodles are best left at home.

What is the smartest hunting dog?

Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are widely considered to be some of the smartest hunting dogs in the world. Breeds such as pointers, English Springer Spaniels, and bloodhounds are also quite intelligent.

Can a hunting dog be a family pet?

Most of the best hunting dogs make for terrific family pets, including Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, beagles, and Irish Setters.

What is the best gun dog?

According to most experts, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and English Setters are some of the best gun dogs.

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