Since dogs had been domesticated centuries ago, they have been the loyal companions of human beings. They have always been used to guard and protect human homes and their love is unconditional. But since ancient times, they have been used for a more deadly purpose too- they have been used as hunting dogs. A hunting dog refers to a canine that hunts with or for humans. Since ancient times, dogs have helped humans hunt for food and/or game. For this reason, humans have developed many types of hunting dogs for different purposes. Following are the different categories of pet dogs that are used as hunting dogs:
- Hounds: Hounds are the suitable hunting dogs. They chase the prey and kill it. They are sub divided into 3 categories:
a) Sight Hounds: Also known as gazehounds, they chiefly hunt by sight and speed. These dogs pursue their prey by keeping it in sight and catch up with it using their great speed and agility. Sight hounds can capture deers and hares too! They have a very flexible back, long legs, deep chest, large heart, efficient lungs and have a lean, wiry body to keep their weight at a minimum. Examples of sight hounds are Afghan Hound, Russian Wolfhound, Polish Greyhound), Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, Italian Greyhound, Hungarian Greyhound, Rajapalayam(India), Scottish Deerhound, Silken Windhound etc.
b) Scent Hounds: As the name suggests, they principally hunt by scent and have the most sensitive noses amongst canines. Most of these breeds have long, drooping ears and deep, booming voices. They are not as fast as the sight hounds but they have more stamina as they may have to follow their prey for a long time. The best scent hounds can follow a scent trail even across running water and even when it is several days old. They hunt in packs. Examples of scent hounds are American foxhound, Basset Hound, Beagle, Bloodhound, Coonhound, Dachshund etc.
c) Lurch hound: A Lurcher is a sight hound crossed with a working dog breed. Lurchers can chase and kill their prey like all hounds. Most lurchers today are used for pest control (rabbits, hares, and foxes), although they can catch game like wild boar and deer too. They do not have any specific breeds.
- Gun Dogs: They usually catch or direct their handlers to the target that is usually a bird like bobwhite, quail, pheasant and grouse. They have 5 sub categories:
a) Pointers: The namepointer comes from the dog’s instinct to point towards the game by aiming its muzzle in its direction. This reveals to the hunter the location of his prey and allows him to move into gun range. Examples of pointers are German Longhaired Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Old Danish Pointer, Old Spanish Pointer, Portuguese Pointer, Pudel pointer, Slovak Rough-haired Pointer etc.
b) Retrievers: The name says it clearly – retrievers retrieve fallen game. Many times they are not able to see the where the game fell and use their handlers commands to locate the game. Their mouths are soft so that they don’t damage the game. Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Curly-Coated Retriever, Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever etc. are some of the Retriever breeds.
c) Setters: A setter finds its prey silently by scent or sight and freezes in a crouching position which is what gives them the name ‘setter’. They wait in that position for the birds to get caught or killed by their handler. English Setter, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Irish Red and White Setter are all setters.
d) Flushers: These types of gun dogs locate the game and flush it out of its hiding place for their handler to shoot and kill it. E.g. all types of spaniels.
e) Water Dogs: Water dogs may do all the functions of all the above types of gun dogs but in a different terrain. They locate, flush and retrieve game from water! Many types of Spaniels and Retrievers fall under this category.
- Feists: Feists are small dogs that hunt small game. They love to chase squirrels! They may hunt in packs, and “bark up” on trees to alert the hunter. Some Feists are Baldwin Feist, Buckley Feist, Denmark Feist, Galla Creek Feist, Kemmer Feist, Lost Creek Feist, Sport bred Feist etc.
- Terriers: Terriers are used to hunt mammals. Terriers locate the hideout of the target animal and then bolt, capture, or kill the animal. A working terrier may go underground to kill or drive out game. Larger members of this class can even hunt razorbacks. E.g. Jack Russell Terrier, Patterdale Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier etc.
- Curs: Curs hunt similarly to terriers, though usually larger game. Curs are used to hunt boars, raccoon, cougars, and other large mammals. E.g. Black Mouth Cur, Mountain Cur, Stephens Cur, Treeing Cur etc.
- Dachshund: Dachshund was bred to scent, chase, and flush out badgers, foxes and other burrow-dwelling animals. They are also excellent scent dogs and they are often used to track down wounded animals. They are the only ones that can hunt both above and below ground. But they are a little stubborn and hard to train. E.g. piebald dachshund, long-haired standard dachshund, short-haired dachshund, wire-haired dachshund etc