Hounds, gun dogs, feists, terriers and curs comprise the five main categories of hunting dogs. These can be further broken down into subcategories that describe whether the dog uses scent or sight to track prey or by whether they retrieve, point or flush. Breeders often created dogs to fill more than one role and many of these breeds make excellent pets and show dogs in addition to their working abilities.
Scent hounds use their talented noses to track prey and are sometimes used to kill game. A popular example of a scent hound, the basset hound was first introduced to the world in 1860's Paris. The basset hound's superior sense of smell and slow reflexes make it a great companion for hunters on foot in search of fox, rabbit or pheasant. A mild and loyal temperament paired with a charming appearance has created a historical disagreement about whether this breed should be a show dog or a hunting dog.
Small game hunters who use shotguns often find the perfect companion in retrievers, spaniels, setters and pointers. These dogs can locate game, especially birds, and follow specific commands to flush the birds into view on cue. Retrievers can then follow the path of a fallen bird and bring the game back to the hunter. Many of these dogs are adept swimmers with large, gentle muzzles, perfectly suited for retrieving ducks from the water.
Feists and Terriers
Feists and terriers hunt squirrels, rodents, birds and other small game befitting their small stature. These dogs can jump up to 4 feet high--an admirable feat considering many breeds average less than 18 inches tall. These dogs can exhibit all manner of coloring and patterns, as they are not often used as show dogs.
The title cur often refers to a mixed-breed dog similar to a feist or terrier who weighs more than 30 lbs. and is capable of hunting boar, raccoon or even mountain lions. These dogs have been bred for hunting ability, intelligence and an assertive temperament, and thus can have a varied appearance. Many curs, like the Catahoula cur, often show exceptional talents as herding dogs. Curs such as the blackmouth are popular as pet dogs for large families because of their loyalty and capacity for social bonding.