Hunting dogs were bred primarily to work with people to hunt animals, fish and birds. Hunting dogs have been bred to suit varying environments and climates. Some Hunting dogs were bred specifically to work in water whilst other dogs are more suited to work on land and many of the dogs are comfortable and capable of working in either land or water environments. The evolution of the many breeds of Hunting dogs were dictated by the changing requirements of man. Hunting Dogs have been bred specifically to enhance their skills in helping man to hunt. Hunting dogs have been used by man dating back to Antiquity when their very survival was dependent on their hunting skills. The quarry sought provided man with food, clothing and even the hides were used for shelter. The advent of new agricultural methods, animal husbandry, manufacturing and new weapons saw the diminished need for Hunting dogs in modern times. The evolution and History of the Hunting Dogs was inextricably linked with man's own evolution.
The Evolution of Hunting Dogs - The Sight Hounds
The Hunting dogs in the category of Sighthounds specialise in hunting their quarry by sight rather than scent. Sighthounds have distinctive characteristics, features and traits which are perfect for hunting. The Afghan Hound is a good example of this with its padded paws and powerful legs which gave them the equal abilities to skim across sands or snow and to climb rocky mountains. Sighthounds, as their very name indicates, have extremely good vision. They also have a long jaw and lengthy neck which assists them in sighting their quarry. Their lean muscular body, deep chest and long powerful legs essential assets when following any fast and agile prey.
Hunting Dogs History & Evolution - The Scent Hounds
The Hunting Dogs categorised as Scent Hounds specialise in following the scent or the smell of its quarry. It was not necessary for Scent Hounds to be as fast and agile as Sighthounds - they do not need to keep their quarry in sight. Scent hounds as Hunting Dogs are built for endurance. They can follow a scent for long distances and even across running water. Scent Hounds have distinctive characteristics, features and traits which are perfect for their purpose as Hunting Dogs. They have large noses which have deep, open nostrils and their lips are loose and moist, designed to pick up scent particles and follow the trail of an animal. Their ears are long which concentrates the scent on the nose. Their bodies are designed for endurance, an essential asset when following any scent trail - a major asset for one of the Hunting Dogs. The Bloodhound, as pictured above, was bred originally to hunt wolves, deer and large game. Man's requirements changed with new hunting technology and the dogs role changed to that of a police dog to track missing people, fleeing suspects, or escaped prisoners.
Hunting Dogs Evolution & History - The Hound Dog Breeds
Hunting Dogs in the Hound Dog Group have been bred to chase (or hound) a quarry by sight or smell, or a combination of both senses. The Sight hound Hunting Dogs have exceptional eyesight, combined with the speed and stamina necessary to catch the intended prey once seen, typical examples being the Greyhound and the Whippet. Hunting Dogs which rely strongly on the sense of smell to follow the trail of a prey, such as the Bloodhound, quite literally follow their noses, speed and eyesight is of less importance.
Hunting Dogs Evolution - Sporting Dog Breeds - Retrievers, Pointers and Setters
Hunting dogs categorised in the Sporting Dog group hunt by air scent, as opposed to ground scent. The Retriever, Pointer and Setter dogs were bred selectively which resulted in them fulfilling the needs of man. Hunting Retriever dogs find and return killed game to the hunter. Some Retrievers are especially equipped, for instance with a water-repellent coat and webbed feet, for retrieving downed waterfowl. Hunting Pointer dogs stand in front of their quarry, with their nose and body rigidly still , thus directing (or pointing) the hunter to its location. Hunting Setter dogs were originally trained to set, or crouch, in front of game preventing the escape of the quarry. The hunter would make the capture with a net. The picture above demonstrates how other breeds of Hunting Dogs actually chased their quarry into a waiting net. The African Basenji Dog was used for such hunting. They chased their prey, such as small antelopes, into hunting nets or out into the open where their quarry could be shot with a gun or a bow and arrow. Man's own evolution and development in technology moved the traditional hunting methods away from primitive tools and nets - the Hunting Sporting Dogs were then called the Hunting Gundogs.
Hunting Dogs History and Evolution - The Terrier Dog Breeds
Hunting Dogs categorised in the Terrier group were developed to hunt and kill vermin. The vermin included rats, mice and other predatory animals such as foxes which might raid a farmer's produce and livestock. The very nature of these tasks required an energetic, tenacious, brave and determined Hunting dog and the Terrior breed was perfect for such work.
Evolution Hunting Dogs - The Otterhound
The Otter Hound - Otterhound and is a dog of considerable size and was bred originally to hunt the otter in order to ensure the trout supply in rivers. It's origins can be dated back for thousands of years and it is classified as one of the Hound Dog Group of Hunting Dogs. The above picture shows an Otter hound looking on at the hunters who have speared the luckless otter and have raised the animal out of the reach of the dogs. The picture also illustrates how the Otterhounds hunted in packs. The history and evolution of the various breeds of Hunting dogs continues today. The Otterhound, a scent hound, is a perfect example of this evolution process. The Otter Hound ( Otterhound ) verged close on extinction when its targeted quarry, the otter, was made a protected species.
The Hunting Dogs and their quarry
The Quarry of Hunting Dogs varied considerably from Fox Hunting to Coon Hunting and from Wolf Hunting to Deer Hunting. Listed below are some Hunting Breeds and their particular quarry:
Fox hunting dogs - American and English Foxhounds
Deer Hunting dogs - the Irish Wolfhound
Hog Hunting dogs - the American Staffordshire Terrier - see Bay Dogs
Wolf Hunting dogs - the Borzoi
Badger Hunting Dogs - the Basset Hound
Bird Hunting Dogs - the Sussex Spaniel
Rat Hunting dogs - the Cairn Terrier
Coon Hunting Dogs - the Black and Tan Coonhound
Bear Hunting dogs - the Neapolitan Mastiff
Elk (moose) Hunting dogs - the Norwegian Elkhound
Duck Hunting dogs - Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Rabbit and Hare Hunting dogs - the Beagle
Big Game Hunting dogs - the Rhodesian Ridgeback