As a kid, I followed my dad through pheasant fields and spent hours mesmerized watching dogs work the fields. In fact, I became so dog-obsessed that I asked my parents for a breed book. I memorized every breed in that book (true story) and became fascinated with different dogs, what they were bred to do and their history.
Today, watching the natural birding instinct of a pointer or retriever turn on like a light bulb still brings me joy. These dogs love their job, and it shows. Labradors and German shorthaired pointers seem to dominate hunting fields, but there are many lesser-known gun dogs that make not only great hunting companions but also quality canine family members.
I fell in love with this hound-resembling a pointer when I first saw one a couple years ago. This ancient breed is one of the world’s oldest pointing dogs. It is known as a versatile hunting dog, meaning it does it all — from pointing to flushing to retrieving. The Bracco Italiano was introduced to the United States in the nineties and is known to be tireless in the field yet quiet and comfortable in the home.
This American breed originated in the Wateree River area of South Carolina. Originally bred to chase ducks and turkeys, the Boykin spaniel is a petite retriever that now excels in upland hunting and water retrieves. It is known as the dog that won’t rock the boat in duck blinds, but its high heat tolerance and eagerness to please make it great in many hunting situations. Plus, the teddy-bear appearance is pretty hard to resist.
A beautiful creature and a dedicated hunter wrapped into one, the large Munsterlander is originally from the Münster region of Germany and was brought to North America in the seventies as an upland bird-dog. Although it is considered a versatile hunting dog, this canine is a pointer first as that has been engrained in its 100+ years of German breeding. The large Munsterlander is known to be quite smart with limitless drive, but it can be slow to mature and therefore requires some extra patience when it comes to training.
The bird-dog with a mustache, the Pudelpointer has as much character in personality as it does in appearance. It was originally bred in Germany, combining the best traits of the German hunting poodle and the English pointer. Perfecting the breed took a painstaking 30 years, but the result is a highly intelligent, high-energy hunting pal. A Pudelpointer is ideal for a very active family that spends plenty of time outdoors as this dog needs to burn off its endless energy.
Calling all redhead enthusiasts! The beautiful toller, as it’s called, was bred in the beginning of the 19th century to look like a red fox. In the wild, fox play along the shore, making curious ducks easy prey. Originally known as the Little River Duck Dog, the toller is a quick learner and always ready for action. Those traits along with a love of water and a strong desire to retrieve make this medium-sized canine a great hunting and family companion.