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Labrador Retriever carrying a bird in its mouth.
©Field Dog Imagery

Many AKC-recognized dog breeds were originally bred as hunting dogs. Many of these dogs are retrievers, pointers, or spaniels. These dogs have the skills, instinct, and energy to be our companions in the field, and they have been doing so for hundreds of years.

Now, when hunting opportunities are limited, many of these breeds compete in hunting events or field trials, so they can practice and exercise their innate abilities. Learn more about some of the best bird-hunting dog breeds around.

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever sitting outdoors with a bird in its mouth.
©Field Dog Imagery

The Labrador Retriever is, as the name suggests, a retriever. Labs were brought to England in the 19th century and refined into a sporting dog for waterfowl and upland game. These dogs became popular with sport hunters, and were recognized in Britain in 1903.

After World War II, the Labrador Retriever also became a popular hunting breed in the U.S. Now, these friendly, active, and outgoing hunting dogs are also known as great family companions. They are also known to excel in search and rescue and working as police and service dogs.

German Shorthaired Pointer

hunting dog brings pheasant game back to owner
©ksuksa -

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a versatile hunter and all-purpose gun dog. The breed was developed in the late 1800s to be suited for multiple tasks like pointing, retrieving, trailing game, and hunting small and large game. As a result, the German Shorthaired Pointer can perform almost any type of activity and is a very skilled hunter. GSPs are also known for being friendly, smart, and willing to please. These dogs are great companions but need exercise to satisfy their high activity level and sporting dog roots.


©Field Dog Imagery

The Brittany is named for the French province in which they originated. This versatile breed was developed in the early 20th century to create a superior pointing dog. The Brittany’s high intelligence, combined with their quickness, makes them an ideal hunter.

When the breed was introduced to the U.S. in the 1940s, they quickly became popular with hunters and has been popular as a companion and sporting dog ever since. In addition to their hunting abilities, the Brittany’s energy and athleticism make them a great obedience, agility, and field trial competitor.

Boykin Spaniel

Boykin Spaniel hunting in tall grasses.
(c) 2020 Cynthia Davison/Shutterstock

The Boykin Spaniel is a unique dog, originally bred by South Carolina hunters. They were developed to hunt wild turkeys in the Wateree River Swamp during the early 1900s. The Boykin’s physique is perfectly suited for their work. They move effortlessly, with a balanced gait typical of durable gundogs, and their brown coat acts as camouflage.

The breed can hunt in the swamps of South Carolina, and they also can adapt to the dove fields and duck marshes. In addition to their impressive hunting skills, the Boykin is a fiercely loyal companion.

Golden Retriever

©feeferlump -

Like the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever has a sporting and hunting history. Their ancestors were known as “yellow retrievers,” and due to their versatility and trainability, they became very popular with sportsmen in the late 19th century. The Golden’s affinity for water and their medium-to-large size provided hunters with a dog that could perform with upland game and waterfowl.

Since their first placing in a field trial in 1904, Goldens have been known for their hunting and field abilities. The breed’s intelligence, energy, and friendliness also make them a great dog for families, an excellent sporting event competitor, and an enthusiastic working dog.


Vizsla retrieving a pheasant in the fall.
©Nikol -

The Vizsla, also known as the Hungarian Pointer, is a sporting breed developed in medieval Hungary as a hawking dog. Later, they were used as a gundog, due to their excellent pointing and retrieving abilities. When the Vizsla was brought to the United States, their hunting skills were quickly recognized, and they were used for hunting upland game, rabbits, and waterfowl.

The Vizsla is an extremely driven and active dog. They’re easily trainable and is known for being gentle, affectionate, and enthusiastic.

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniels walking together outdoors.
©everydoghasastory -

In the late 19th century, spaniels from the same litter were divided into “cockers” and “springers.” Springers were larger dogs used for flushing and retrieving game. The English Springer Spaniel came from these springers and was developed as a companion gundog. English Springers participated in competitive field trials and continue to do so today.

Their energy, stamina, intelligence, and “rear drive” movement have made the English Springer Spaniel one of the most prized bird dogs. This breed is also known as friendly, playful, and obedient.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever leaping into the ocean.
©annaav -

As the name suggests, the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever is known for their ability to lure ducks during hunting. This dog originated in Nova Scotia in the early 19th century and was known as the Little River Duck Dog. Tollers were used as decoys to distract waterfowl. The dogs would use their playful nature and fluttering tails to draw in ducks to the shoreline, where they would then be in the range of hunters.

Today, many Tollers compete in hunting trials. They are known for their intelligent, outgoing, and affectionate nature.

 At AKC Marketplace, we can help you find your dream dog. You can find AKC-registerable puppies from responsible, passionate breeders, and we provide the tools you need for every step of the process. Visit to start connecting with dog breeders in your area!

Related article: Hunting With Dogs: Training and Safety Tips
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