June 26, 2013
Sometimes you take more out on a hunt than a shotgun and a dream. Sometimes you take a dog along, too. But what kind of hunting dog breed should you have at your side? Ron Spomer knows ...
Best All 'Round Hunting Dogs?
For as long as there have been different breeds of gundog, there have been hunters arguing for the merit of one breed over the other. So, which canine really is the best all-around hunting dog? Ron Spomer thinks he has the answer.
Hunting dogs are a bit like hunting rifles—they’re all good for something, but none are perfect for everything. Those of us who want it all might be barking up the wrong tree, but we keep searching for the .30-06 of dogs, a breed that comes closest to handling all our hunting chores: find, point, flush, trail, chase and fetch. And clean their own kennels ... maybe hunt antlers in spring … guard the castle and look handsome doing it. That’s a good dog.
But it ain’t gonna happen. Nevertheless, we can sort out those breeds that come closest to our ideal
Let’s start by identifying what we mostly hunt with dogs: upland birds and waterfowl. Scent-hounds for trailing coons, bears and cats are a specialty. So are hog dogs for baying and tackling pigs. Even rarer are sight-hounds for coursing game and terriers for digging out rats and other burrowing rodents. Big-game hunting with dogs is almost universally forbidden.
So let’s identify the best, all-around waterfowl/bird dog, the breed that can most consistently win the feathered decathlon. Here’s a best-dog tournament featuring my top choices in each category, followed by my overall winner.
- Pros: best at finding upland birds
- Cons: worst at retrieving; nearly useless for waterfowling
- English Pointer: best nose; lithe, fast, covers much ground; some are adequate retrievers; can be hardheaded
- English Setter: longer-haired pointer; gorgeous aristocrat; lousy retriever, especially in water
- Brittany: blockier version of setters; close-working, affectionate; best retriever of the three, especially from water
- Pros: best for pushing upland birds from tight cover; excellent, persistent retrievers on land and water
Click here to get the rest of Spomer's list of the best all 'round hunting dogs.
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