Hunting has been around as long as man has. It is believed that hunting dogs were in use about 20,000 years ago [source Agarwal]. But as man and hunting evolved, so did dogs. Nearly 9,000 years ago, man began harvesting livestock and domesticating it. At this time, hunting became less necessary and dogs took on the role of overseeing the animals instead of hunting them. Their strong sense of smell helped them recover stray flock members and discover predators.
As hunting became a sport rather than a life duty, the role of dogs continued to evolve. Hunting dogs were developed to track, point and set game for their masters [source: The Hunting Dog]. By 6,000 years ago, pointers, shepherds, mastiffs, greyhounds and wolf breeds were the prevalent hunting dogs, as they are documented in cave painting as workers hunting with their masters. From these five breeds, man began to look for special traits in dogs and use them for different needs. This is when breeding began and the number of dog species began to grow.
Today, dog hunting is almost entirely for sport, with the exception of subsistence hunts -- isolated Alaskan families, for example, use dogs to help them hunt for food. In the end, the history and evolution of hunting dogs goes hand in hand with the evolution of man.
Today, the number of dog breeds has expanded, but there are still a few select breeds that are regularly chosen for hunting. Check out the next page to see which breeds of dogs make the best hunters.