12 Best Breeds Of Hunting Dogs

A dog carrying a bird on its back

Hunters have been hitting the fields and forests alongside man’s best friend for centuries. The companionship of a good friend in the great outdoors is always something to be appreciated, but the companionship of a 4-legged hunting buddy is something special.

Dogs have skills, abilities, and instincts that people don’t, and harnessing those powers for a hunt can make the experience more enjoyable and more efficient. A well-trained dog can increase your chances of success in the field as well.

Modern dog breeds have become so specialized for specific types of hunting. Dog breeds are wired to do various things on a hunt, including retrieving waterfowl, flush upland birds, blood trail downed deer, wrestle with hogs, trail rabbits, find squirrels and tree raccoons.

When picking a hunting dog, it’s essential to consider what type of hunting you primarily plan on using the dog for. It’s also important to research personality traits and associated pet care needs with each species to make sure you and the dog mesh and you have the resources and time needed to train and take of the dog.

Here are a few of the best dog breeds and some information on what type of hunting they are best cut out for. This list is in no particular order and it was compiled from a variety of expert hunting sources, including Mossy OakAmerican Kennel Club, Field & Stream, and Project Upland

Labrador Retriever

A dog holding a fish

There are many reasons that labs are one of the most common pet and hunting dogs in the world. They are one of the most upbeat, friendly, energetic, and enthusiastic dog breeds out there, and they are versatile hunters.

They have fur coats specially designed to keep them warm in cold water, webbed feet that make them adept at swimming long distances, and a high hunting drive makes them fantastic retrievers of downed birds.

German Shorthair Pointer

A dog running in a field

One of the most athletic and energetic dogs on the list also has some of the most beautiful fur patterns of all dogs. As their name suggests, they point birds in the field, and their nose cocks forward, tail stiffens, and front paw lifts off the ground making the dog look like an arrow indicating the location of a game bird.

They are also excellent retrievers with a high drive for hunting. They weigh between 45 and 75-pounds on average.

Bluetick Coonhound

A dog with a red collar

Specialized for raccoon hunting, these dogs are some of the toughest and hardiest hounds out there. Their incredible nose and loud barks make them well equipped to track down raccoons and relay their location. Blueticks are also some of the best night hunting dogs out there, which is good considering raccoons are primarily nocturnal.

They are highly energetic dogs with a powerful hunting drive, so they must be trained to channel their energy accordingly, or they can have discipline issues. They can weigh as much as 80-pounds.

Brittany Spaniel

A dog with a chicken head

Perhaps the most popular of all small breed hunting dogs, they weigh only about 35-pounds. Most commonly used for hunting upland birds, they are also adept at retrieving waterfowl and capable of being trained to hunt small game.

What they may lack in size, they make up for with energy and determination.

American Foxhound

A brown dog with a collar

American foxhounds were originally bred to hunt foxes, but since that is not as popular of an activity as it once was, the breed is now used mostly for deer hunting.

They’re incredibly fast and athletic dogs with a high hunting drive.


A dog standing in a field

Beagles are fantastic options for hunting small game, most notably rabbits. They are eager and persistent hunters that seem to explode with an endless supply of energy once afield. They have fantastic noses capable of picking up even a cold rabbit trail.

They are capable of hunting solo, but the most efficient way to hunt with beagles is to deploy a pack of them. They are small dogs and need strict training to get them to listen to commands instead of following their nose.

Mountain Feist

A dog standing on a rock

A small dog uniquely bred for hunting squirrels, the Mountain Feist traces its roots back to Appalachia’s rich small game hunting culture. Once a relatively scarce breed of dog, they are again increasing in popularity. No other modern dog more closely resembles the type of dogs that early American pioneers likely hunted with than feists.

They are believed to be some combination of Beagle, Jack Russel, and Rat Terrier. They are wired to set up at the bottom of a tree and bark at squirrels enough to freeze them in their tracks until a hunter can come get a shot. They typically weigh less than 30-pounds.

Plott Hound

A dog in a bush

One of the most capable of all big game hunting dogs, Plott hounds are used for species as big as bears and mountain lions. They are strong dogs and agile at covering great distances over rough terrain and have arguably the fiercest attitude of all hunting dogs.

Though they hunt big game, they pack a lot of punch for their size and usually only weigh between 40 and 60-pounds.

Irish Setter

A dog running in a field

One of the most easily recognizable dogs due to their flowing, rich, red coats and they are popular upland hunting dogs but also more than capable of retrieving waterfowl.

In states that permit turkey hunting with dogs, this is the preferred species. They tip the scales at about 75-pounds on average.


A dog walking in grass

Bloodhounds have an incredible sense of smell, and as their name suggests, they are adept at using their nose to follow blood trails.

They can be a somewhat tricky species to train because their nose is so intense. The dogs are pretty big as well, often weighing over 100-pounds.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

A dog running in a field

An extremely intelligent and devoted breed, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are one of the most historic hunting species in North America. Similar in appearance to a lab but with a thicker, curlier coat, they perhaps the only dog more at home in the water than a Labrador. They are built for big water and cold conditions.

Because of their high hunting drive and seriousness in the field, they can be somewhat more complicated to train than other dogs, and instilling discipline in the dogs at an early age is critical to their success as a hunting dogs.

English Pointer

A cow with a red harness

Their short fur makes them great for early-season hunts or running birds through the southern heat. They are one of the most muscular and most athletic dogs on the list and have the stamina to hunt all day long.

They are bred to be hunting machines which can, in turn, make them somewhat challenging to handle as a house pet, but if you’re a serious bird hunting, then this is one of the most serious bird hunting companions you will ever find. 

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