All 5 Types of Hunting Dogs (& How They Actually Hunt)

The sport of hunting dates back millions of years. Human history has always been filled with hunting, from the earliest Homo sapiens to modern hunters. It should not surprise anyone that dogs have contributed greatly to hunters’ success throughout history.

The phrase “hunting dog” may be confusing, however. Each hunting dog performs a different function. Additionally, different dogs hunt different types of game depending on their job. Hunting dogs can be categorized into five types, and dozens of breeds fall into each type.

Whether you are an experienced hunter or just curious about hunting dogs, this article contains 5 major types of hunting dogs and their hunting skills. Let’s dive into it. 

5 Types of Hunting Dogs

Hunting dogs do not hunt in the same way as grizzly bears hunt for prey. It is not their responsibility to track and kill the prey. Instead, hunting dogs are trained to assist humans in finding, capturing, killing, or retrieving games.

1. Sight Hounds

Hunting dogs, known as sighthounds or gazehounds, possess superior vision and rapid speed for hunting. In contrast to gun dogs or sound hounds, sighthounds can detect prey half a mile away and pursue it while keeping an eye on it at all times.

They are extremely fast and agile hounds. They can keep up with deer, hares, and other small, swift animals. Different sighthound breeds have different capabilities but their main purpose is the same. 

Such as the Greyhound is the world’s fastest sighthound. Their maximum speed is 45 mph.

Sighthounds are exceptional hunting dogs due to the following characteristics:

  • Field of vision of 270 degrees: Hunting with sighthounds is largely a result of their excellent vision. They can detect and track movement on the hunting grounds using this unique feature.
  • A strong leg and a quick speed: As hunters use these dogs to hunt agile game, they must possess a quick speed. The important factor may be attaining a high speed when pursuing a long distance.
  • A wire-like body: A lean yet muscular frame is essential as sighthounds need to maintain their weight at a minimum. 

2. Scent Hounds

The superior sense of smell of scent hounds allows them to track down the game very effectively. When a scent hound finds a prey animal, it vocalizes a specific sound to alert hunters and other dogs about it. This is known as ‘Baying.’ By baying, humans can also scare animals into remaining in place while they catch up with them.

A scent hound breed possesses the sharpest sense of smell and an efficient olfactory bulb that processes the scent. Their physical characteristics differ significantly from those of their cousins, the sighthounds. Scent hounds are excellent at tracking and hunting because of the following traits:

  • The nose is long and wide: Unlike the average dog breed, scent hounds have large and long noses. Their ability to detect odors is greatly enhanced due to holding more scent-detecting cells. Moreover, their large noses are very moist, thereby attracting odor molecules.
  • The ears are long: Most scent hounds possess long ears that serve an important function. The dogs’ ears droop low as they sniff the floor, sweeping odor molecules toward their nostrils. Using this technique, a dog can acquire as many scents as possible.
  • Unique proportions of the body: The body of a scent hound is elongated and has short legs and a long neck. These body proportions enable the dog to keep its nose close to the ground while walking continuously.

3. Retriever Dogs

Retrievers are gun dogs commonly used to retrieve an animal after it has been struck down by a hunter’s gun and killed. The dogs retrieve from marshes, lakes, or distant locations. Hunting and retrieving prey can be significantly shortened as a result. A retriever dog has unique physical and temperamental characteristics that help them perform its duties:

  • Soft Mouth: Generally, retrievers are bred to have a “soft mouth,” as hunters do not wish to damage their game during retrieval. Retrievers have such soft mouths that they can carry raw eggs without cracking them.
  • A water-resistant coating: Many retrievers are employed to retrieve games from bodies of water. It would make sense for most of them to have a water-resistant coat.
  • A willingness to learn: A good retriever is eager to please and learn new things. You will need an obedient dog who can learn quickly to retrieve effectively.

4. Terriers

Watching a terrier during a hunt is an exciting experience, as they are excellent hunters of small mammals. Upon locating their prey’s den or set, they run towards it, killing or capturing them. Some terriers that work underground can be used for hunting and flushing out prey. The bull terrier, one of the largest terrier breeds, can also be used for larger games, like Razorbacks.

The terrier is a very intelligent breed of dog. It can hunt with other breeds, e.g., with scent hounds to find and corner prey, followed by a big, heavy terrier to attack and bite it until the hunter can shoot it. The following characteristics of terriers help them in hunting. 

  • Alertness: A Terrier is highly alert and aware of its surroundings. Due to this, they are quite valuable in hunting because it is all about vigilance and silence as any noise can alert the prey. 
  • Digging and burrowing underground: It is well known that Terriers are capable of digging and burrowing. This characteristic is especially useful when hunting small game, such as rodents or rabbits, which take refuge underground. 
  • Agility and Speed: Terriers are agile and quick on their feet. They possess the speed and agility necessary for chasing and capturing fast-moving prey.

5. Spaniels

A spaniel is used for locating and flushing out prey. The type of prey they hunted has divided them further into several categories throughout history, for example, land and water spaniels. Land spaniels have traditionally been used as setting dogs, while water spaniels have also been used as retrievers of gunned-down prey. When hunters approach their prey, they point toward it and creep toward it.

In addition, springer spaniels can point at a game and flush it out from the area. Spaniels are intelligent dogs who understand and enjoy their role in a hunt. Spaniels are often used alongside other animals, such as falcons, for hunting birds, such as pheasants and partridges, sighthounds for rabbits, etc. Some characteristics of Spaniels that help in hunting:

  • Excellent Scenting Ability: Spaniels have a remarkable sense of smell, which enables them to locate and track game birds.
  • Flushing: A Spaniel is an expert at getting game birds from their hiding places. Their ability to navigate through thick vegetation and dense cover allows them to flush out birds quickly and efficiently.
  • Soft Mouth: Spaniels have gentle and soft mouths, which means they can retrieve the game without causing any more injury. Such as an injured bird must be handled with care and they can do it quite well. 


Understanding the different types of hunting dogs is crucial for hunting enthusiasts. These 5 types are the best when it comes to hunting dogs. Each type brings unique skills to the field, and their success depends on the training and handling of their owners. By harnessing their instincts and traits, these hunting dogs make exceptional partners in the pursuit of game.

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