We love camping because it means we can take our trusted hairy companions with us. Dogs are man’s best friend, but have you ever wondered how the friendship began? Historians believe that the dogs evolved from wolves thousands of years ago. Ancient peoples built symbiotic relationships with wolves; wolves protected and helped humans hunt, and humans fed wolves. Over time, dog breeds diversified to hunt different animals, protect herds and help humans survive. Hunting dogs now come in all different shapes and sizes and their physical features help them hunt in different ways. If you’re looking to get more involved in the outdoors and you’re serious about bringing along a furry friend to help you hunt, use this quick guide as your reference point.
Dogs are best known for their keen sense of smell; their olfactory sense allows them to track their prey. Bloodhounds have more scent receptors than any other breed of dog and are 40 times more sensitive than a human’s. With this ability, they can track scents that are days old. Hunters sent bloodhounds to help hunt deer, foxes and other animals. Today, bloodhounds and other canines detect drugs and track missing persons or suspects. Other notable breeds with notable noses are Beagles, German Shepherds and Bassett Hounds.
Pointy to droopy and everything in between, a dog’s ears give it personality. Dogs don’t have a superior sense of hearing but all ear shapes serve a purpose. Some ears are bred for aesthetic purposes like Greyhounds and Bull Terriers, but others are used for hunting. Prick ears belong to breeds that are the closest related to wolves like Huskies and Samoyeds. These dogs have the best sense of hearing. Drop ears on Labrador Retrievers and Bloodhounds are present on dogs that track using scent. The floppy ears block out sound so they can focus on smelling and the flaps brush up scents from the ground. Button ears are those that stick up part way and fold over; these ears are designed to help small dogs fit through crawl spaces and tunnels.
Most dogs don’t rely on sight as their strongest sense, with the exception of Sighthounds. Sighthounds specialise in keeping their prey in sight while chasing. Dogs like the Whippet, Greyhound, Deerhound and Afghan Hound have sharp eyesight. Sighthounds are the fastest dogs and hunt swift prey like hare and deer.
The shape and length of the snout say a lot about how dogs hunt. Dogs with shorter snouts are muscular and have the ability to sink their teeth into large prey without letting go. Pit bulls, bull terriers and bull dogs are best known for their strong bites. In fact, Bulldogs have wrinkles to keep them from choking on blood while they bite!
The dog’s coat is bred for both practical and aesthetic reasons. Originally, dog coats evolved to protect them from snow or heat. Short coats are typically bred for warmer climates and long coats for colder climates. Dogs with a top coat and fuzzy undercoat are insulated from the cold, are waterproof, and are protected from the sun. Huskies have this coat to protect them from the elements. This is why you should never clip or shave a husky. Other coats are thinner but are still waterproof. Consider the coat of the dog if you plan to hunt in harsh weather conditions.
Some dogs are known for their bark, some by their bite and others by their behaviour. Dogs bark to signal that they’ve found prey, others bite to kill the prey and pointers point out the prey you’ve shot. Pointers are ideally suited for hunting fowl and small game. Duck hunters famously use pointers to find and fetch the duck once it falls from far away.
Dog breeding is artificially selected by humans to create desired traits. Today, some dogs are so severely bred that they suffer severe medical conditions. American bulldogs, for example, have such short snouts that they suffer from breathing problems and congestion. Other dogs are treated at birth with cosmetic surgeries like cropped ears and docked tails. If you are going to buy or adopt a dog, consider whether the aesthetic is worth the treatment.
Hunting dogs were and still are our hunting companions for centuries. Consider these features to get the right breed of dog with the right disposition for your hunting trips.