The best hunting dogs come from a range of breeds, all with one goal to help support your hunting endeavors.
The best hunting dogs are excellent at picking up game scents, tracking, treeing, retrieving, or bringing down big game.
Depending on whether you hunt wildfowl, small game, or the big boys, these are the best hunting dogs to consider for your trips.
Pick a dog breed to match your hunting requirements and one that will also be a valuable home companion.
Beagles date back to the Greek times around 400 B.C. who used a similar animal to help them hunt. Fast-forward to the U.K. in the early 1880s when breeders mixed the Southern Hound, Talbot Hound, and the North Country Beagle to give us the current version of this breed. The modern beagle may also include the Harrier.
Beagles are relatively small dogs with a life expectancy of around 12 to 15 years and an average weight of 17 to 33 pounds.
Moving away from the Beagles’ background, they were bred as hunting dogs. With an excellent nose, these dogs are excellent hunters.
Their owners explicitly raised beagles to help them take down rabbits, but they also make excellent helpers when chasing down other small prey like wild pigs and jackals. Loyal and hard-working to the core, this breed also makes a beautiful family pet.
2. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers, or Labs as they are more commonly known, are also thought to date back to the early 1830s.
Newfoundland’s European settlers first sent this breed over to Britain as part of the trading activities between Canada and Dorsetshire. The Brits then combined this import with local hunting dogs to create the modern Lab.
Labradors generally live to around 10 to 12 years and their weight averages between 55 to 78 pounds.
The hunting prowess of this breed focuses on duck hunting and retrieval. Able to endure the cold northern climates and being great water lovers, the Brits used these characteristics to their advantage as great hunters themselves.
Like many other dog breeds, the Lab is exceptionally loyal, enthusiastic, and non-aggressive. These dogs make for excellent water retrieval experts and gun dogs. Labradors are also sought-after family pets.
Pointers also have British origins going as far back as 1650. British hunters first used these animals to support greyhounds by tracking hares which the greyhounds would then catch.
Later, in the 1800s, the Brits trained Pointers to retrieve birds and be excellent gun dogs, making this breed multi-talented as hunting dogs.
Pointers have a life expectancy of 11 to 14 years and attain average weights of 50 to 73 pounds.
This dog breed has a thin, short coat that enables it to endure high humidity and extreme heat. Add voluminous amounts of stamina and loyalty, and you have one of the best hunting dogs to accompany you on your next duck hunting excursion.
4. Bluetick Coonhound
The Bluetick Coonhound is the U.S. creating haling back to colonial times. Thought to have first been bred with the English Foxhound and the French Staghound (Grand Bleu de Gascogne) among several others in Louisiana, this is a big dog breed.
Old fashioned Blueticks are well-muscled and weigh an average of 45 to 80 pounds. The life expectancy of this breed averages around 11 to 12 years.
Known to be fearless, the Bluetick is one of the best hunting dogs for the big game. Take them with you when tracking cougars and other large prey because you will need a fearless assistant at your side.
You can also trust the Bluetick to trap prey in a tree and bark its head off with excitement while waiting for you to catch up and finish the job.
During the Middle Ages, hunting was as popular as today, but people hunted boar and wild deer for food as much as for the sport. People in the Middle Ages used the Bloodhound to hunt wild animals as they did for criminals.
Bloodhounds are believed to be the descendants of the dogs kept by Belgian monks at the Abbey of Saint-Hubert. This breed is known as the le Chien de Saint-Hubert in French. It has a powerful build and can rock the scales between 77 and 120 pounds and lives anything from between seven and ten years.
As far as being the best hunting dogs, Bloodhounds are famous for their keen noses and being intrepid trackers. When you need help locating game, Bloodhounds are a viable option.
6. Catahoula Leopard dogs
The Catahoula Leopard dog is another hunting breed whose origins in the U.S. Catahoula’s result from interbreeding native American dogs, Greyhounds, and Spanish Mastiffs.
Native Americans took this dog with them when they wanted to take down large prey. Early colonialists in Louisiana took this breed with them on hunts in local swamps, and they were valuable in protecting and herding their livestock.
The Catahoula Leopard is adept at locating trail scents to track and tree small game as much as they are proficient at hunting big game animals.
Catahoula Leopard dogs reach weights of 50 to 90 pounds and live between 10 and 14 years.
7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
As the name suggests, the Chesapeake Bay retriever has its origins in the U.S. Like the Labrador and its British connection, the Chesapeake Bay retriever also comes from the St. John’s Water Dogs but was bred in the U.S.
Being bred near a bay, their purpose as hunting dogs is evident. The Chesapeake Bay retriever is a top choice for the best hunting dogs and is enthusiastic about retrieving waterfowl, so they are the ideal choice for anyone who loves duck hunting.
This breed makes for excellent gun dogs and flushing and is easily on par with other retriever breeds in its love for water and ability to withstand cold, icy conditions.
Its coat is oily, and it has webs between its toes, ensuring that this industrious hunter is also an excellent swimmer.
The Chesapeake Bay retriever can live for 12 to 14 years and grows to weights of between 44 to 55 pounds. Take this gun dog on duck hunts to flush out your prey without missing a beat.
8. American Foxhound
American Foxhounds go back to the mid-1600s after Robert Brooke brought hound packs back with him from his trip to Britain.
This dog breed later became famous in Maryland and Virginia in the early part of the 1700s and gained recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1886.
The American Foxhound was then bred as distinct types, including field trial, slow-trailing, drag, or trail hounds–each with specific skills as the best hunting dogs.
Field trial American Foxhounds are competitive and speedy. Slow-trailing hounds were bred to hunt foxes. Drag or trail hounds are best for hunting big game, preferably in packs.
American Foxhounds are well-known for their fascinating baying while on the hunt. This breed makes an ideal, non-aggressive family pet and weighs approximately 55 to 73 pounds. These animals can live up to 11 or 13 years on average.
9. Norwegian Elkhound
History traces this dog breed back as far as 5000 B.C. to Norway, where these animals were used for hunting sizeable game-like elk. Norwegian Elkhounds were also known to be valuable working dogs as they protect livestock. Another of their duties was to pull sleighs.
Today, the Norwegian Elkhound is one of the best hunting dogs for the big game, including bears, moose, and elk. These animals are fearless despite their relatively small stature and are also excellent guard animals.
Norwegian Elkhounds can attain weights of 40 to 60 pounds and live up to 12 years. When you want the best hunting dogs for the big game in the U.S., the Norwegian Elkhound is full of confidence in achieving this goal while also protecting you from danger.
The Weimaraner is a uniquely German, gray-coated hunting breed that was first bred in Weimar. Noblemen raised these animals to be the best hunting dogs around the late 1700s to early 1800s.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Weimaraner breed in 1943, and it still retains its popularity as a hunting dog and a family pet.
Weimaraners are recognizable for their skill in hunting small or large game animals like coyotes, bears, and deer.
This breed has considerable skills as the best hunting dog because it is a good gun dog and provides the perfect support when hunting upland birds such as pheasants.
Weimaraners are agile, fast, have an excellent nose for scents. This breed will help track, trap, and retrieve prey. As one of the best hunting dogs imaginable, the Silver Ghost is the perfect companion on the hunt for prey.
Despite its elegant structure, the Weimaraner is well-muscled and reaches weights of 55 to 66 pounds. This best hunting dog has a lifespan of up to 13 years, so train your Weimaraner for long-term hunting exploits.
Vizslas are a Hungarian dog breed that is over 1,000 years old. This breed is believed to result from the mixture between the Turkish yellow dog and the Transylvanian hound.
Hungarian Magyars bred this animal for its stealth and quickness on the hunt and for its readiness to alert hunters to prey in the vicinity. Initially, this breed was trained in hunting hares and game birds and was later trained to point and retrieve.
Although the Vizsla almost went extinct in the late 1800s, breeders managed to save this animal for its hunting characteristics.
Vizslas have a strong resemblance to the Weimaraner in size and structure, but their coats are a beautiful, burnished copper color.
Vizslas reach weights of between 55 and 60 pounds and can live up to 14 years. Although this breed is one of the best hunting dogs and a good companion, do not keep it around smaller animals like cats, rabbits, or guinea pigs as its prey drive is well-honed.
12. Irish Setter
Irish Setters were popular in Ireland in the 1700s before crossing the ocean to make North American their home in the mid-1800s. Breeders believe that today’s Irish Setter, with its distinctive red coat, is the result of mixing the English Setter Spaniel and the Gordon Setter.
Although the Irish Setter looks like quite a delicate dog breed, looks are deceptive. Irish Setters are in top place as the best hunting dogs for tracking small game.
These animals are also famous for being bird trackers. Irish Setters are not only beautiful but effective. These dogs are agile and develop a powerful intent to catch their prey when out in the field.
Irish Setters may be somewhat delicate looking, but they are also large dogs and reach 53 to 70 pounds. Train these animals, and you will have the best returns on your investment as they have a lifespan of up to 15 years.
13. English Springer Spaniel
The English Springer Spaniel has one of the oldest histories in dog breeding. This dog breed is thought to have been brought to England by the Romans and traced to Spain and Wales in 300 A.D.
This breed first set foot on Canadian shores in 1913, having been brought from England. It later found its way to the U.S., where it is now among the best hunting dogs and family pets.
For as long as the history books reach back in time, the English Springer Spaniel’s existence, nobles, and peasants alike have used this best hunting dog.
Its talents include hunting small game by flushing them from their hiding places. Whether you’re after birds or animals, the English Springer Spaniel has a taste for this sport.
This breed makes superior gun dogs and the best for flushing out game, whether a cocker or a springer spaniel. The English Springer Spaniel is slight, only reaching 44 to 55 pounds, and it can live between 12 to 14 years.
What is your hunting need? Do you want help with bagging big game, waterfowl, or do you have your eyes set on small game animals?
Whatever your hunting preferences, you can find the best hunting dogs to accompany you in the field.