A long-lasting partnership
Some scientists believe that the first wolf-dogs helped humans become the dominant species. At one time, humans, wolves, and our distant rival the neanderthal were all competing for the same resources. Forming an alliance with the wolf-dogs greatly improved our hunting abilities. It meant we could track animals for longer, and use less energy in doing so. We could then take down more prey and at less risk to human life. It meant more food for us, less for our rivals, and plenty of leftovers for the wolf dogs! Today's pooches might seem a bit more domesticated than their distant relatives, but many still retain their hunting instincts.
Hunting dog breeds
Standing at just 15 inches tall, the Beagle isn’t the first hunting breed that you’d normally think off. However, these small dogs are natural hunters. Born with exceptional tracking abilities, the Beagle is a scent hound used by gamekeepers to control wildlife populations in rural areas. This might sound a bit cruel, but managing the population of certain wildlife is crucial in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. If the population numbers get out of sync, it can have lasting and devastating consequences on the local environment.
2# Golden retriever
As well as being one of the most popular family dogs, the Golden retriever is a highly skilled hunting companion. They have a long history as working dogs and were first used to retrieve ducks, waterfowl, and other game. Some Golden Retrievers also helped fisherman. They would pull nets and even catch some fish themselves.
3# English Setter
The English setter has been used as a gundog for the last 400 years. Gun dogs find and retrieve game, usually birds, and they're split into three different categories: retriever, flushing dogs, and pointer. The English setter is more of a pointer, using their strong sense of smell to track game and lead hunters in the right direction.
4# Dogo Argentino
Developed in Argentina, the Dogo Argentino is a serious dog. These big, muscular, and athletic animals are used for big game hunting, including wild boar. Dogos have bags of stamina and courage and are also very intelligent. These are all great qualities for a hunting dog, but it does mean they can be quite stubborn and even domineering. The Dogo is an extremely impressive specimen, but they're not the dog for an inexperienced owner.
Hunting dogs: Representative species
5# Rhodesian ridgeback
Another one of the big dogs, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was first bred in an area of Africa that is now Zimbabwe. The Rhodesian Ridgeback was also known as the African lion dog. These powerful and athletic dogs would work in packs to track and run down lions. They would then hold the lions at bay until their masters arrived. Again, think extremely carefully before even considering adopting a Ridgeback. The Ridgeback is strong, willful, and very independent. This dog requires nothing less than an expert handler.
6# Wire fox terrier
Tiny but tough, small but feisty, the Wire Fox Terrier was putting in the work as far back as the 16th century. Their small and sturdy bodies allowed them to chase prey through the undergrowth and down into burrows. Once they caught the scent, these enthusiastic dogs rarely let it go.
You don’t earn a name like Bloodhound for doing nothing! The Bloodhound was originally used to take down big game, but hunters soon noticed their exceptional sense of smell and decided to use them as tracking dog instead. Since then, this determined and enthusiastic dog has tracked all kinds of animals, including escaped prison convicts!
8# Cocker Spaniel
This popular and gentle family pet once earnt its living as a hunting dog. Cocker Spaniels were first bred in Britain during the late 19th century, where they flushed out and retrieved game birds. The name “Cocker” is actually derived from the woodcock bird.
Although the majority of these dogs are now living a more domestic life, they still have a hunters instinct. It doesn't mean they’ll go chasing after everything that moves, but they do have certain needs. A natural hunting dog, however domesticated, will require plenty of rigorous exercise. These dogs need to run, chase, and even swim. Owning one will be a lot of fun, but it also means you'll need to buy a new pair of walking boots! It's also a very big commitment; a hunting dogs lifespan is between 10-15 years.