Hunting Hunting Dogs

Great American Gun Dogs

5. English Springer Spaniel (27) While the springer is best known as an upland pheasant specialist, this 40- to 50-pound flushing dog is a great all-around bird getter and house companion. Springers love water and work well on ducks and geese. They are also good retrievers on doves and flush and fetch quail. Close-working Springers also are excellent in grouse and woodcock cover. In fact, the origins of the dog dating back to England link the Springer to the Cocker Spaniel. Small dogs were selectively bred to work in tangled coverts for woodcock, the diminutive spaniels eventually being named "cockers" for their specialty. Larger spaniels were adept at "springing" into cover to flush game, thus their name, which they still carry today. The two dogs became different breeds in the 1800s. Outdoor Life Online Editor
14. Boykin (?) If you want to start an argument, tell a Boykin spaniel owner that his dog isn't a distinct breed. While not officially recognized by the AKC, there's little doubt that a Boykin is, well, a Boykin. Most hunters who have spent time afield with Boykins love the diminutive spaniels, and believe it's only a matter of time before the AKC officially recognizes them as a distinct American breed. Few dogs are better at marking and retrieving birds for shooters than Boykins. While used often in dove fields in its native South Carolina, Boykins also excel as small, compact retrievers of quail and ducks. They also perform well as flushing dogs for pheasants, grouse and woodcock. The dark chestnut color of a Boykin is advantageous when hunters are concealed for ducks, doves and other game. Outdoor Life Online Editor
13. Pointer (106) No pointing dog breed covers ground wider, faster, and arguably better than a Pointer, which for years was known as the English pointer. For this reason the pointer is revered by quail, Hungarian partridge and sharp-tailed grouse hunters who must course wide and far to locate coveys and singles. Pointers are so far-running that most field trial, and many hunters, keep pace with fast dogs on horseback, or from hunting buggies. While not large (35 to 65 pounds), Pointers are not generally favored as family pets, chiefly because they have been bred almost exclusively for far-ranging hunting, and are usually kennel kept. They are extremely popular throughout America's bird hunting regions, especially in the South. Many owners of large gun dog kennels breed their own animals, and seldom register them with AKC. Pointers are recorded in England back to 1650, from mixes with Spanish Pointers, greyhounds, foxhounds, bloodhounds and bull terriers. Pointers were brought to the U.S. in the late 1800s, where they slowly began to dominate the field trial circuit, displacing the once-dominant English setter. Outdoor Life Online Editor
12. English Setter (93) An English setter on point in a woodcock or grouse cover is a thing of beauty. Its long, flowing speckled coat with feathering at the tail and chest add to the classic pose of a dog on point. The Setter's coat, however, while beautiful, requires grooming, and can tangle and matt in thick cover where quail, pheasants and other game birds abound. Speckled coats in English setters are called belton, and colors vary from black-and-white, to fawn-and-white, and sometimes an almost blue-like shine. The English Setter was a trained bird dog in England more than 400 years ago. It's a cross of the Spanish pointer, large water spaniel and springer spaniel. The modern English Setter strain (weighing 45 to 80 pounds) was developed by Edward Laverack (1800-1877) and Richard Purcell Llewellin (1840-1925). The famed name Llewellin setter is still in use today, referring chiefly to close-working English setters that hunt well for walking sportsmen. Outdoor Life Online Editor
11. Gordon Setter (91) Arguably the most beautiful of all pointing breeds, the Gordon setter is not seen as often afield as it once was. That's unfortunate, since a Gordon on solid point is a thrill to see. It is the largest of the setters, with weights up to 80 pounds. The Gordon is a wide-ranging dog still used in Scotland and Ireland for grouse and ptarmigan. In the U.S. it's more often used for quail and pheasants. Gordons originally evolved from the old setting spaniels, and black-and-fallow dogs are mentioned as early as the 17th century. However it was Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon (1743-1827, for whom the dog is named) who seriously began breeding the black and tans at his castle in northwest Scotland in 1825. A Gordon Setter has a black coat with distinctive markings of chestnut on the paws and lower legs, one spot above each eye, and two spots on their chest. A Gordon's coat is straight or slightly waved, not curly. A little bigger and heavier than either an Irish or English setter, the Gordon is nevertheless descended from the same genetic mixing pot. The name "Gordon Setter" was assigned to the breed by the AKC in 1924. Outdoor Life Online Editor
10. German Wirehaired Pointer (70) Some hunters still call this hard-working and distinctive-looking pointing dog a Drahthaar. But whatever the name, this German-origin, mid-size pointing gun dog was developed in the 1800s, and has a Griffon look. The functional wiry coat is the breed's most distinctive feature, offering weather resistance, and insulation against cold. The outer coat is straight, harsh, wiry and flat to protect against rough cover. Colors vary widely from dark brown and chocolate, to black, roan and white– solid and freckled. Early bonding with an owner and hunting training are recommended, and owners do not advise keeping them in kennels. The dog is believed descended from the wirehaired Griffon, poodle-pointer mixes, foxhound and bloodhound. Average weight is 60 to 70 pounds. Outdoor Life Online Editor
9. Chesapeake Bay Retriever (47) While sometimes known as a "one man dog," the powerful Chesapeake Bay retriever is one of the most dutiful and determined waterfowl dogs on earth. The Chessie is well known as perhaps the toughest ice-and-snow retriever a hunter could want, and will repeatedly break ice to fetch even the largest Canada geese. A double coat of thick, slightly oily hair makes the Chessie practically impervious to foul weather and cold water. Most dogs are a solid dark brown color, sometimes confusing them with the chocolate-colored Labrador. But the average Chessie is stockier and powerfully built, with a large, blocky head, rugged neck, shoulders, back and loins. Weighing 55 to 80 pounds, some dogs are easily distinguished by their yellow-hue eyes. The breed dates its origins to the shores of Chesapeake Bay to the early 1800s. It was documented that an English ship in 1807 wrecked off the coast of Maryland, and two Newfoundland dogs were rescued. The dogs were bred to local retrievers, soon resulting in the Chessie blood line. It was recognized in 1877 as the Chesapeake Bay Ducking Dog, and in 1964 it was declared the official dog of Maryland. Outdoor Life Online Editor
8. Vizsla (42) Sometimes mistaken for the German shorthair or Weimaraner, the Vizsla pointer is a smaller, leaner dog (40 to 65 pounds), with a rust-colored nose that blends to the same coat hue of short, slick hair. Any other color is not a pure-bred Vizsla. This excellent pointing dog is very popular in the Midwest, where it's used for pheasants, quail and grouse. However, it does not have an under coat of hair, and can't take cold weather and water like some other breeds. Vizslas originated in Hungary, and are one of the oldest of modern hunting breeds used in U.S. It is a loyal and affectionate dog, becoming popular in America following World War II. Ancestors of the present Vizsla were hunting dogs of the Magyar tribes who lived in the Carpathian basin in the Eighth Century. Stone etchings over a thousand years old show Magyar hunters with falcons and Vizslas. The Vizsla is described in writings by Carmelite Friars in 1357. Vizslas were highly prized as hunting and companion dogs for land-owning warlords and aristocracy. Outdoor Life Online Editor
7. Weimaraner (30) Sometimes mistaken for the German shorthair pointer, the Weimaraner is easily distinguished by its often-solid gray coat and haunting amber, gray or yellow eyes. The Weimaraner has a deep, thick chest and a short, slick coat. However, there is also a longhair line of Weimaraners, rare in America, but available in Europe. The Weimaraner is used chiefly as an upland game bird pointer. But its origins in Europe were used to hunt all manner of game, including rabbits and foxes. They range in size from 55 to 85 pounds, and have a reputation of being fiercely territorial and protective, much more so than dogs of similar large size like Labradors and Goldens. Owners advise socializing young dogs with other pets and people to subdue aggression. Weimaraners are strong-running, fast dogs, with remarkable hunting endurance. They have ancestral links to the Vizsla and can be traced back to the 1200s. The modern Weimaraner was developed in the last 1800s as a hunting hound for royalty, most notably the German Grand Duke of Weimar, Karl August, where the dog name originates Outdoor Life Online Editor
6. Brittany Spaniel (29) The only spaniel that points makes the Brittany popular among quail hunters, especially since they are a close-working breed that minds and works well with other gun dogs. Most Brittanys are light tan or lemon and white in color. However, coloring covers a wide range, and some black-and-white Brittanys often are mistaken for springer spaniels. Brittanys are generally lighter in weight (35 to 45 pounds), taller and leaner in body structure than Springers. Developed in the Brittany region of France in the 1800s, the breed has surged in popularity over the last half century. While fast, with a need for exercise, Brittanys make excellent house pets, in a size manageable for most homes and suburban yards. Outdoor Life Online Editor
4. German Shorthair Pointer (18) This outstanding upland hunting dog is slowly increasing in popularity, likely because of its good disposition, intelligence and ease of training. Shorthairs are available in a wide range of colors, from almost all-white to all-brown, tan and in beautiful multi-colors. Their coat is short with a dense undercoat featuring stiff guard hairs for water resistance and insulation against cold. Shorthairs are popular with many northern hunters who prowl snow and ice for pheasants and grouse, and the dogs are serviceable water retrievers, even in frigid weather. In Scandinavia, shorthairs have even been used in sled dog racing, showing their stamina and cold weather toughness. Originating in Germany in the 1800s, the 45- to 70-pound shorthair is believed to be a descendent of the old Spanish pointer, which was brought to Germany in the 1600s. The shorthair has an excellent tracking nose, with some owners believing its bloodline is linked to foxhounds. Outdoor Life Online Editor
3. Beagle (5) No rabbit hunt is complete without a compliment of yipping and howling beagles. With a great disposition and willingness to please, these 15- to 35-pound dogs are among the most popular. Although beagle-type dogs have existed for over 2,000 years, the modern breed was developed in England in the early 1800s. It's believed they are a mix of several breeds, including the Talbot hound, the North Country beagle, the southern hound, and possibly the Harrier. Beagles and bloodhounds have among the most highly developed canine senses of smell. In one experiment, researchers placed a single mouse in a one-acre field and found that beagles could locate the mouse in less than one minute. Other breeds, including terriers, could not even locate the mouse. Outdoor Life Online Editor
2. Golden Retriever (4) Few dogs are more beautiful and distinctive afield than the Golden Retriever. With its flowing coat and tail, a hard-working-and-hunting golden is a joy to watch. While originally used for water work, goldens are often used afield for pheasants and other upland birds. Goldens originated in Scotland in the late 1800s, a cross-bred mix of the now-extinct Tweed water spaniel and the wavy-coated retriever. Outdoor Life Online Editor
1. Labrador Retriever (1) The Labrador retriever is by far the most popular dog in the world, for both hunters and for companion pets. Their amiable personality, ease of training and passion for hunting make the dog a winner for all purposes. Strong swimmers, Labs are famed for their distance retrieving in frigid temperatures for fallen ducks and geese. In more recent years they have become popular as flushing dogs for pheasants, grouse and even quail. Some even are bred to point upland game. Weighing 50 to nearly 100 pounds, Labs are available in black, yellow and chocolate colors. One downside to the breed is its propensity for hip dysplasia, and many breeders strive for pedigrees of dysplastic-free animals. Origins can be traced to Newfoundland where commercial fishermen relied on the dogs to retrieve fish and haul nets. Crossed with setters, spaniels and other retrievers, the Lab eventually was bred as a pure retriever of game with a great work ethic and mild disposition. Outdoor Life Online Editor

Sportsmen use a wide variety of gun dogs for hunting, and here are fun facts on the top 14, listed according to pedigree rank (in parenthesis) by the American Kennel Association (AKC).