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What is the best hunting-dog group and why?


The Sporting Group
Gamekeeper Andrew Drummond crosses a stream with his springer spaniel on Drumochter Moore on the Milton Estate in Scotland.
Gamekeeper Andrew Drummond crosses a stream with his springer spaniel on Drumochter Moore on the Milton Estate in Scotland.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

If the Am­erican Kennel Club (AKC) sporting group classification referred to a particular sport, there's no doubt that sport would be hunting. Sometimes known as modern hunting dogs since they usually work alongside people with guns, these dogs assist the hunter by finding, flushing or retrieving game.

While they were initially trained to go after birds like quail or pheasant, most dogs in this group won't shy away from terrestrial targets such as rabbits, squirrels or something even larger, such as deer. Dogs in the sporting group -- which include retrievers, pointers, setters and spaniels -- are traditionally quick learners and eager to please. So, if you trained them to track down the mailman and retrieve your mail every day, they'd do that too (although the post office might have a few complaints).

­These dogs are also energy powerhouses with strong limbs that endlessly bound after prey until your truck is full and your gun is out of bullets.

For the beagle lover or Rhodesian ridgeback owner who might be wondering why this article isn't about the "original hunting dogs," the hound group, know that the contest was a close one [source: Animal Planet]. Hounds are indeed excellent hunters, with top-notch noses and powerful stamina. But in terms of versatility and overall well-roundedness, the sporting group comes out ahead. Perhaps the next page will convince you as to why.


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