A History of Hunting Dogs

Dogs and humans have a long history of friendship, and hunting has been one of the main reasons people have bred dogs over the centuries.

There are ancient cave paintings depicting stories of dogs walking alongside man. The story goes back 20,000 years to the time of pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers. As far back as 12,000 years ago, there’s evidence of dogs used for hunting, guarding and hauling weight. In most every culture, dogs have played a longstanding and important role.

The ancient Chinese kept dogs as companions and for hunting. In Egypt, dogs held great cultural significance and were often mummified and buried with their owners. In the tomb of the ancient pharaoh Ramses, there are paintings of him with hunting dogs. The ancient Greeks also valued dogs. Socrates even claimed dogs to be true philosophers. Ancient Romans also kept dogs as hunting animals and guard animals.

The history of selectively breeding dogs for an intended purpose goes back at least 9,000 years. By the 14th century, hunting dogs were common in Europe. However, because of the time and resources needed to develop a dog into a trained hunting animal, this task was only feasible for the nobility.

The first book detailing dogs used in hunting goes back to 16th century Britain with the 1570 publication of Dr. John Caius’ book, Of Englishe Dogges, the Diversities, the Names, the Natures, and the Properties.

Since domestication and specialized breeding began, the tradition of hunting dogs has evolved into what has become a diverse collection of dog breeds, each crafted for a specific purpose. Today, there are a few main categories into which most all hunting dogs can be placed.

Gun Dogs

Labrador Retriever

Gun dogs are great for flushing out hidden game including fowl and small mammals.
Gun dog breeds include spaniels, pointers, retrievers, setters and water dogs.

German Hunting Terrier
German Hunting Terrier

Terriers are great dogs for hunting small game. They can locate dens and flush out or kill burrowing animals.

Terrier breeds include Jack Russell terriers, wire fox terriers, Yorkshire terriers, Boston terriers, bull terriers, Scottish terriers and border terriers.



There are two types of hounds–sight hounds and scent hounds. Scent hounds are great at tracking prey over distance and are known for their endurance in the hunt. Scenthound breeds include foxhounds, beagles, coonhounds, and basset hounds. Sighthounds are known for their keen vision and can spot and track prey across considerable distances. Popular sighthound breeds include the pharaoh hound and the greyhound.

Other Categories
Similar in size and appearance to terriers, Feists are great at hunting small game. They’re especially good at treeing their prey.

Bred to hunt burrowing animals and smaller game, dachshunds can scent, chase, and flush out game.

Contrary to popular belief, a cur is not a worthless dog. Curs are a kind of North American treeing hound. Popular cur breeds include the Catahoula and Black Mouth Cur. Curs typical hunt larger game like boars, raccoons and cougars.

If you’re ready to hunt with your furry friend, make sure you’ve got all the gear you need. If you need quality hunting apparel for you (or your dog) head over to a high-quality outfitter like Carhartt to make sure you’ve got the right gear for the job.

Now you know a little bit more about hunting dogs, where they came from, and what each breed is known for. Here are some useful links for additional research.

Further Reading
List of Hunting Dog Breeds
Dogs in the Ancient World
United Kennel Club
American Kennel Club
North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association