two bird dogs cocker and golden retriever

BIRD dogs Definition as Gun dogs / Sporting Dogs/ Hunting dogs

two bird dogs cocker and golden retriever

This website is devoted to hunting dogs, and a main part of that will be categorizing the place of each of the breeds within the hunting dog types.

Some people equate bird dogs with gun dogs hunting dogs and sporting dogs, and there-in lies the confusion, so let’s get this straight for you.

On the home page of this site you will see that I break the hunting dogs into the following categories:

1            HOUNDS = Sight Hounds. Scent hounds, lurchers

2            GUN DOGS = Retrievers, Setters, flushing spaniels, Pointers, ‘water dogs’

3            TERRIERS (single category, many breeds)

4            DACHSHUND (single breed, various sizes, coats)

5            FEISTS (single category)

6            CURS (single category)

As you can see under GUN DOGS (OR Sporting dogs) these hunting dogs are further classified into the following 4 GROUPS.

  • Flushing Spaniels (Find and flush game, can be trained to retrieve)
  • Pointers (Find and silently point game )
  • Retrievers (bring back downed game from land or water – hence not all are water dogs)
  • Setters (find, point, and can be trained to flush)

A separate unlisted category is: ‘Water dogs’ (not a recognised group by all authorities)

 Water dogs are not a recognized category, nor are flushing spaniels (just spaniels) in some Kennel breeder clubs.

Likewise you will NOTICE that there are NO Bird dogs in these list, but just like the water dogs, the bird dogs encompass many of the dogs from these different GUN OR SPORTING DOG groups. But bird dogs do exist !

So what is a bird dog and what is not a bird dog?

This almost sounds like a trick question, or something that is obvious, but not so fast. While you won’t find and AKC certification for bird dogs, BUT hunters who take their hunting seriously, know what makes a great bird dog for them and their quarry and the environment they are going to hunt in. Ask a hunter who uses bird dogs what the best ones are, and he will usually have a fairly strong opinion.

Similarly a water dog is one of the gun dog breeds (which is a sub-category of sporting dog and gun dogs) breeds of dogs, that hunts usually fallen birds that are shot by a hunter OVER and IN WATER. They can be flushing spaniels or retrievers usually, but they differ from the rest of the dogs in the gun dog group, by being water specialists. that means usually in the type of coat they have, webbing on their feet, and general heightened swimming ability and love of birds as their specific prey.

These water dog breeds are bred and trained and refined in breed over many centuries to be the perfect water dog hunting dog.

LIKEWISE a bird dog is one that almost exclusively hunts (either points, flushes or retrieves) birds shot by hunter owners. Obviously MOST water dogs are bird dogs, but bird dogs are not necessarily water dogs. Many bird dogs, like pointers prefer land based pointing and sometimes retrieval.

You might consider that almost any hunting dog can be trained for hunting birds, but not to the extent, skill level and patience required by the best bird dogs. Bird dogs are trained NOT to scare the prey before the hunter locates and shoots them, the dogs have to wait patiently for sometimes hours besides their human hunter in cold water conditions. Just like there are dog that specialise in hunting racoon (coon dogs) or rabbits (many terriers) or bears (some fiest dogs etc) bird dogs have an almost frenzied excitement (controlled until asked to retrieve) and diligence when helping a hunter to hunt/ retrieve birds. Even in the retrieval stage these excited dogs are asked to remain calm and not be distracted by other dogs, hunters, or birds (other than that in its mouth).

If a bird dog is to be a retriever bird dog, they have to have a very soft mouth to ensure the game is not ruined by teeth marks.


It is true that almost every dog in the water dog category (see previous article) can probably be classed as part of the bird dog group, however some of those breeds also regularly hunt other animals besides birds, so they are not SPECIFICALLY a bird dog.

It is also true that the breeds below listed as bird dogs can also moon light and hunt for other animals, but birds are by far and away their favorite game.

Note this is a very NON Exhaustive list of bird dogs. For instance flat coat retrievers, curly coat retrievers and many other forms of retriever can be classed in the bird dog group. Almost all pointers are bird dogs.

The table below shows some of the MAIN or common known bird dogs, and also what other OFFICAL classifications they fall into. Not surprisingly most Bird dogs fall into the retriever category because they are so excited by the birds, that they were originally allowed (or expected) to retrieve them and then became so good at it, that they often became fully fledged bird dog retrievers.

BIRD DOG BREED Spaniel Retriever Pointer Setter
Brittany Spaniel X X
Chesapeaske Bay Retriever X
English Springer Spaniel X X
English Cocker Spaniel X
English Pointer X
English Setter X X
German Shorthaired Pointer X
German Wirehaired Pointer X
Golden Retriever X
Gordon Setter X
Labrador Retriever: X
Nova Scotia Duck Toller X
Poodle X
Vizsla X
water dog poodle

Water dogs Definition as Gun dogs and Hunting dogs

water dog poodle

This website is devoted to hunting dogs, and a main part of that will be categorizing the place of each of the breeds within the hunting dog types.

GUN DOGS (sporting dogs) are classified into the following 5 GROUPS.

  • Water dogs
  • Flushing Spaniels
  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Setters

The previous article discusses many of the wonderful characteristics of the all of the previous gun dog categories.

This blog piece is mostly about defining the breeds that make up the WATER DOG hunting group.

Since this is a HUNTING DOG SITE, and we are looking at the GUN DOG category, of which the WATER DOG is considered a sub category, you might think it would be easy to name the breeds that fit into this category, however like many things in the dog world, there is no easy answer to this.

As mentioned there are five possible subgroups of the gun DOG CATEGORY: Water dogs, Flushing Spaniels, Pointers, Retrievers, Setters. And previously we saw that Spaniels are often classed as retrievers and many pointers and setters fulfill the same function. So in a way, from a hunting perspective, the fact that a dog is in the gun group is more important than what specific section they are put in, within it.

I mention this mainly in this water dog category because the AKC and many prominent breed classifying dog organizations do not recognized the Water dog as an actual subgroup.

The thing that unites and separates the water dogs from the other hunting dogs in the Sporting dog/ gun dog category is their expertise in water while retrieving water fowl.

While water dogs can be retrievers or spaniels they are typically defined as being a water dog above all else because of their strong swimming skills, love of the water and the bird prey in particular, and their water proof, curly or corded coats suitable to long exposures in water environments.

Some of these breeds also have double coats and webbed feet (for better paddling in water)

The words WATER DOG in the dog name usually means that these dogs are central to the water dog group and this preference over rides any possibility of being included in other groups such as the retriever, regardless that of course they retrieve.

Water dogs (and the other sub-categories they belong to)

Water DOG Breed Spaniel Retriever
American Water Spaniel X
Barbet (French Water Dog) X
Boykin Spaniel X
Cantabrian Water Dog (Herding Group)
Chesapeake Bay Retriever X
Curly Coated Retriever X
Epagneul Pont-Audemer (Pointer group)
Flat-Coated Retriever X
Golden Retriever X
Irish Water Spaniel X
Labrador Retriever X
Italian Water Dog (Lagotto Romagnolo)
Leonberger (Working dog group)
Münsterländer (small breed = Pointer, Large NOT AKC recog.)
Newfoundland (Working dog group)
Nova Scotia Duck Toller X
Portuguese Water Dog
Spanish Water Dog
Wetterhoun (no “d” ) Frisian Water Dog


cabalier spaniel

Gun dogs FLUSHING SPANIELS Breed types Hunting dogs

cabalier spaniel

This website is devoted to hunting dogs, and a main part of that will be categorizing the place of each of the breeds within the hunting dog types.

GUN DOGS (sporting dogs) are classified into the following FIVE GROUPS.

  • Flushing Spaniels
  • Water dogs
  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Setters

The previous blackdogoutfitters article discusses many of the wonderful characteristics of the spaniel. This article is mostly about defining the breeds that make up this unique hunting group.

You will notice that the majority of the group were created in England and France   ELEVEN out of the total of TWENTY TWO spaniel dogs.

There are many theories about the evolution of the spaniel suffice to say that at least the development of them was strongly practiced for hunting in England and France and that America only has three AKC recognized spaniels that are much newer than their European counter parts.



Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Clumber Spaniel
English Cocker Spaniel
English Springer Spaniel
Field Spaniel
Sussex Spaniel
Blue Picardy Spaniel
French Spaniel
Picardy Spaniel
Pont-Audemer Spaniel
Netherlands Spaniel Dog
Drentse Patrijshond
AMERICAN Spaniel Dogs
American Cocker Spaniel
American Water Spaniel
Boykin Spaniel
German Spaniel (Germany)
Irish Water Spaniel (Ireland)
Phalène (Belgium)
Russian Spaniel (Russia)
Welsh Springer Spaniel (Wales)


flushing spaniel Cocker Spaniel Gun Dog

Gun dogs FLUSHING SPANIELS definition Hunting dogs

flushing spaniel Cocker Spaniel Gun Dog

This website is devoted to hunting dogs, and a main part of that will be categorising the place of each of the breeds within the hunting dog types.

GUN DOGS (sporting dogs) are classified into the following FIVE GROUPS.

  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Setters
  • Flushing Spaniels
  • Water dogs


Hunters will know that Flushing spaniels and Setters often exhibit similar hunting behaviors (if trained to do so) but look very different and can act quite different in home situations.

The First thing to note about this GUN DOG is that while there are numerous Spaniels, not all are Flushing Spaniels or Hunting dogs (for instance the Cavalier lap dog).

The Spaniel is a dog with a long history and with registration in various clubs around the world, they have managed to keep their gene pool surprisingly clean.

While Spaniels originated in several European countries the Spanish origin seems to be a red herring. From the 9th century Spaniels have been report in Spain, England, France, Ireland and various bordering countries.

You should note that while many breeds have only been around for the last few hundred years, the spaniel breeds reaching that far back in history is an amazing feat. Suffice to say that while there are several American spaniel versions, these were breed from the original English and European stock over the last few hundred years.


Just as the Spaniel breed class has lap dogs in it, another group that is separate from the Flushing spaniels but also great hunters are the Continental Spaniel Group. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) puts hte Continental Spaniel into the POINTER group.

This means that the Continental Spaniels look like the typical spaniels (as defined below) BUT  they hunt more like the Setters and Pointer in that they FREEZE and POINT to the prey rather than FLUSHING the prey out then retrieving it (on command). Of course the Continental Spaniels are often trained to retrieve too, but that is not their main function, or original skill required.


  • Broad muzzle and exceptional nose for ground tracking
  • Very long and full ears – to protect the ear drum during runs through thick brush,
  • Long strong and sometimes wiry coat to protect from brush
  • Thick hair on ears, tail, and hind quarters (thighs and legs) also for protection
  • Metabolism bred to maintain weight and fat stocks to prevent health issues from very cold water on marshes

 FLUSHING SPANIEL DOGS and hunting skills

Every hunting dog originally had one or two traits bred into them that they specialized at. This was easy hundreds of years ago when hunting was a big thing and dogs were not that expensive to keep.

With hunting becoming a lost art many dog breeds are called upon to do many different hunting tasks from which they were originally bred. The following describes the ideal original hunting training.

Flushing spaniels were originally bred and trained to FLUSH prey (usually birds) from bush and swamp hiding areas for hunters to shoot.

Because of the cold conditions and often the long time between shots, spaniels were required to be of a quiet patient nature, but also asked to be very excited about the prospect of retrieving a fallen bird. This is a major point of differentiation of pup selection for the hunting task.

After a bird was downed, a spaniel is required to MARK where the bird has fallen (keep a mental note) and only retrieve birds from several areas, once the hunter has decided that all the birds are flushed.

Like the Retriever class of gun dog, the Flushing spaniel is also required to retrieve a bird to the hunters hand. Hence all true flushing spaniels are gifted with an exceptionally SOFT MOUTH, that will not bruise the meat.

This is something remarkable that people who own English and American cocker spaniels as companion animals do not fully appreciate. They have a dog that can be trained to an exceptionally high standard to retrieve, have one of the best noses in the dog world, AND have such will power as to retrieve a bird (usually not kill it, even when it is moving in their mouth) and set the bird down at the hunters feet, essentially unmarked by teeth.

What the FLUSHING spaniel hunts

  • Upland game birds
  • rabbit
  • waterfowl .

FLUSHING SPANIEL Hunting environments

  •  open fields
  • woodlands
  • farm lands
  • briars (with thickets)
  • marshlands

It should be noted that while many hunting dogs can hunt well in open fields and woodlands. It is where the small and robust, with thick coat characteristics of the original flushing spaniels excel. Many briars and marshlands are difficult to negotiate. Larger hunting dogs with more muscle and less finesse often get ripped skin and infections in these environments.

FLUSHING SPANIELS Around the home (companion dog pet)

Flushing Spaniels are known for their intelligence, and exceptional affection This plus their small size makes them an ideal family pet around children and other dogs.

But here in lies a big problem for people thinking they have a cute plaything. Spaniels are a hunting dog that require a lot of off lead exercise if they are to keep mentally and physically fit. They have an exceptional nose (second only to the beagle and often used in law enforcement) and a desire to chase prey such as rabbits.

Without draining their energy, flushing spaniel dogs can become ‘lazy’ ‘insipid and people mistake this for low intelligence. What has really happened is that they have dulled a brilliant dog by inaction and their own laziness. A bored cocker spaniel for instance is often known to put on excessive weight and suffer separation anxiety. Walk these dogs, and they will be all that they can be, and you will get a much happier dog, making you happy.

The next article we will look at the various breeds of spaniel.

gorden setter gun dog

SETTERS definition | Gun dogs Hunting dogs

gorden setter gun dog

This website is devoted to hunting dogs, and a main part of that will be categorizing the place of each of the breeds within the hunting dog types.

GUN DOGS (sporting dogs) are classified into the following FIVE GROUPS.




Flushing Spaniels

Water dogs

The 4 TYPES OF SETTER Hunting dogs


We have already looked at Pointers and Retriever groups, and now it is the setters turn. Many of the gun dog groups have many breeds in them. The AKC and other large dog classification groups only recognise FOUR setter breeds within the setter category.


  • English Setter
  • Gordon Setter
  • Irish Setter (red setter)
  • Irish Red and White Setter

The setter dogs are often considered to be similar to pointers, but there are subtle differences. The main prey the setter gun dogs hunt are birds such as Pheasant, quail or grouse.

This is quite an old breed of dog with links back to the 15th century and Spaniel breed dogs in Spain (another type of gun dog).

SETTER DOGS and hunting skills

While there are general hunting dogs or dogs that have a specific prey, the setters are used almost exclusively to point our birds. Essentially the same function as the pointer dog. However in some hunting areas Pointes are trained to hunt, point, flush and even retrieve game.

Setter dog breeds however mainly track prey by scent in a very accurate way then Freeze and indicate (point to the prey). It is interesting that the breeds Pointer and Setter essentially are discussing the same function, but that the breeds can multi task or not, depending on the hunter trainer. The main difference in the pointing, is that Pointer usually stand tall and lift one front leg and bend the paw under in the direction of the prey, while the setters freeze and semi crouch down in a “set” position.

Setters can sometimes be trained to also perform the flushing function on the hunt or work along-side specialist flushers and retrievers (two other types of gun/ sporting dog).

Unlike many tracking dogs like bloodhounds and beagles, the setters track AIRBORNE scents, which means the game must be very recent and moderately close.

We will look at the individual characteristics of each one of the setters in following articles however one of the main hunting aspects is a high excitement over birds. They are also considered an elegant dog in both coat and gait.

In a family environment these dogs are one of the most lovely natured hunting or general dogs you will find. Low aggression and a desire to please humans have had these dogs be readily accepted as companion dogs.

cur dog

THE CUR DOG breed “type” a Hunting dog that is not officially recognized.

cur dogCur dog TYPE Definition

Some dog sites and books will tell you that there are whole host of cur types of dog and in fact breed. But typically unless the AKC in America recognizes a dog as a distinct breed, it is not.

The types of cur dog breed:

  • Black Mouth Cur
  • Blue Lacy
  • Camus Cur
  • Canadian Cur
  • Catahoula Cur (Louisiana)
  • Kemmer Stock Mountain Cur
  • Leopard Cur
  • Mountain View Cur
  • Original Mountain Cur
  • Parnell’s Carolina Cur
  • Southern Blackmouth Cur
  • Stephens Cur
  • Tennessee Treeing Brindle
  • Treeing Cur

 The AKC cur dog stance

The AKC site is profoundly bad for searching at the best of times.

Put in CUR, and it comes up with RESULTS such as there is a dog called ” American Leopard, American Leopard Cur and Leopard Cur” click on the link and you get nothing.

I have been told that two cur dogs are registered with them ..


Most Popular Cur dogs in America

This does not mean they are the most numerous or best at hunting, just that they have the most if scant) information available about them on the internet.

  • blackmouth cur
  • mountain cur
  • CatahoulaCur Dog

So what is it with these cur dogs standards?

Cur dogs are at the cutting edge of hunting. Unfettered by breeding standards they continue to evolve as different hunters and breeders choose what is right for their area.

This obviously can help with inbreeding issues (particularly with the cur as without a national breed club backing them) meaning that there are no standards to keep. But volumes of the dog are unlikely to increase dramatically since they are a pure hunting dog and without a standard are very unlikely to be a companion animal inside or outside of America (except with hunter families). .

How long does it take for a breed to get recognised? Well it mostly depends on who is pushing for it, and who is on the committee to decide what the cur should look like. But that is unlikely to happen for many curs for a very long time.

Consider the case of the American Cockapoo.

Wikipedia says the American cockapoo are a cross between an American cocker spaniel and a poodle. These two are formidable hunting dogs and in theory this should be one of the best bird dogs around. (OK the American cocker spaniel is much less of a hunting dog than the English). But regardless or the difference in that half of the breed, over the last ten years the cockapoo has been on the top 20 dog breeds searched on google – regularly.

The American Cockapoo has been “known in the United States since the 1950s Purebred breed associations such as The Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, or the Canadian Kennel Club, DO NOT recognize the Cockapoo.”

So clearly breed recognition has more to do with politics than reality.

With the cockapoo we have two dog breeds, hundreds of years old, with very stable breed parameters. And a breed only created from these TWO breeds – YET the major Kennel groups will not call the Cockapoo a breed. What do you think the chances are for a CUR dog that is made of maybe ten or so other dog breeds) and is not a major companion dog, even in the USA?


cur dog standing

THE CUR DOG breed “type” a great American Hunting dog

cur dog standingCur dog Definition


Cur dogs like Feists dogs have an interesting history. Officially not a breed, but a type of dog, Curs are usually considered more ‘mongrel’ or not breed specific than even Feist dogs.

NOTE while country wide and international kennels mostly don’t recognized any cur as a specific breed (two out of twenty have made it through), many of the smaller southern American clubs began officially recognizing the specific area cut from the 1950s onwards.

While the next article will list many known Cur dog types/ breeds, the most popular ones are: blackmouth cur, mountain cur and Catahoula Cur Dog

Originally the term cur was derogatory to mean ” mangy mongrel or almost any crossbred dog.” Though over the last century dedicated breeders, mostly in the southern parts of the USA have aimed at refining a whole range of specific cur breeds, within the cur family. The next article will go through the many names and places that Cur dogs are found.

Just as many parts of the world have utilized a generic dog of the region for many tasks around the farm or home, so too the Cur dog was used by Early American settlers for hunting, family guard duties and as a stock dog.

Cur Dog physical characteristics

Because of the many regional varieties of the cur dog you might think that it would be hard to physically describe them, however their overall body shape is surprisingly similar.

The cur dogs tend to be a medium to medium-large sized dog of powerful build. But that power is shared between outright strength and endurance, so they often are described as lean, but solid muscle.

They are typically short coated and it is the color of the striking pattern which often is the most defining point between the different cur dog varieties (as well as their hunting characteristics of course).

Because they are not recognized by any international clubs, defining their exact look (head shape, size etc) would be of little use to people out of the regions, though you will see that many dedicated cur dog sites attempt to define this in anticipation of the cur dog becoming a recognized breed, globally.

Cur dog Hunting abilities

This site is all about Hunting dogs, so it would be remiss not to mention as much information as possible about the Cur dog hunting skills. However we are mindful to add, that there are almost as many cur dogs specializing in certain environments, and sometimes certain game as there are terriers, so again we will leave specific cur type definitions to later articles.

The main thing to consider is that with all of that lean muscle they are very fast and agile hunters able to run at speed through very rough dry terrain and swamp land.

Preferred targets range from small game hunting (squirrel and raccoon) to big game (cougar, bear, feral pig). As you can see they are very multi-purpose. high speed and agility makes them perfect for hunting small game, while their size and strength means that they can function exceedingly well solo or in cur packs of 2 or 3 against game much bigger than themselves.

Unlike many hunting dogs, but very much like the Feist dogs, the Cur dog has a strong TREEING instinct. Though for large game that don’t climb trees, or go to ground, the cur can equally hold its ground and ‘corner’ large game or rogue cattle.

The cur is neither a sight or scent specialist – its skill lie in its speed and endurance. Though once spotted they will pursue prey relentlessly. They are not considered a particularly strong tracking dog by scent unless the track is very new.

This means they may have to circle an area for quite a while longer to pick up a scent than any dog considered as a scent dog would. On recent scents though, they can track at high running speed.

feist dog

Feist dog type and Jack Russell difference, Family pet nature

feist dogPart one of this article describes many of the common features of the Feist dog. A great little hunter similar in look to a jack russell, but a TYPE of dog, not a single BREED. They are very high energy and TREE their target game, rather than running them to ground.

Because of the similarity of the Feist to the Jack Russell it is very instructive to see point by point what the actual differences are. The major complication her is that many jack russells you see are actually Fox Terrier Crosses. There are big differences in hunting style and shape of head etc, but one of the easier tells is often that the jack russell is a much smaller dog and its head is not as square at the front (long but rounder nose).

FEIST DOG V Jack Russell Characteristics table

Because the Feist is has often been mistaken for the smooth coat jack russell and most people know what a jack russell or at least jack russel X Fox terrier looks and acts like, it is often instructional to know the differences between these two breeds.

FEIST Hunting Dog Jack Russell Dog
COLOR BOTH Feist and Jack Russell are mainly white with spots or markings (to help hunters to not shoot them. Feist dogs color range is: red and white, blue and white, black and tan, red brindle, red, black, white, and tricolor with spots.


Predominantly white with black or brown spots.
Coat Softer and smoother than that of a rough-coated Jack Russell Smooth coated JR looks very similar to a feist coat.
Leg Legs are longer (particularly the mountain feist) Fox terrier crosses look can look closer to the feist dog.
Tail Tail shorter (or bob tail) Tail longer (unless docked)
Hunt behavior Silent on track until they corner prey Frantic barking in pursuit
Capture STYLE Prefer to Tree its prey, and are great tree climbers (particularly after squirrels) Prefer to go to ground, though also good tree climbers.
HUNT Aggression Many feists are motivated on the hunt, but wait for hunter when prey is cornered. Prefer to capture and Kill prey, with or without hunter
Life expectancy 10-13 years 14-18 years (smaller size give longevity)
HUNT TARGET Squirrel, opossum, raccoon, rats and rabbits, and to flush out game birds Rats, squirrel, rabbits. Also love hunting birds but not a primary function.
Larger Game Feist have been adapted for pack hunting of: bear, mountain lion large local southern US game. Jack Russells have a massive hunt heart, but small size can get them in dangerous situations if allowed to hunt large animals or snakes.


FEISTS as companion animals & behavior around the family.

Both Feists and jack russells are known to make great family pets, even those used for hunting. They can separate out their behavior around the children and other family dogs, but sometimes have issues with cats and non canine animals.

They are very alert, intelligent, tenacious, powerful dogs, proving a great watch dog with excellent guarding capabilities but all of this energy has to go somewhere if they are not used regularly for hunting.

The feist can be very protective of the children in its family, so beware around other children playing with your children when your feist is off lead.

And this is the shame when Feists are kept as pets and not socialised or trained to behave off lead. Not given regular walks to redirect energy, the feist suffers similar issues to jack russells and fox terriers kept as pets. They can develop anxieties and aggression towards other dogs.

Their amazing energy and hunt instinct means they don’t get bored, they just escape the house and yard. They can mark territory in the house and bark until they get what they want. They have centuries of breeding in them to find and get small prey, so it is natural that this instinct must have a healthy outlet, not suppression.

The high intelligence of the feist means they are easily trainable, but again high intelligence without stimulation can see energy directed where you may not want it to go.

mountain feist dog

Feist dog breed definition as Hunting dogs Pt 1

mountain feist dogFeist dog type and “breed”

Feist dogs are included on this hunting sites as they make up one of the minor and separate hunting dog groups. Note the Feist dog is a mixed breed TYPE of dog, and only two out of many variations are under consideration for breed recognition.

Feist dogs are also included here because they are now almost exclusively American. Known mostly in the Southern States of America. Not such much in Texas (shout out the my fellow Texan dog hunters) but more the Ozark Mountain and Southern Appalachian regions (where they were Further developed after their importation from the UK).

Feists dogs were originally created in Great Britain by farmers, miners, and field workers but that was a long time ago and the type of feist that exists today is mainly found in America, and has been breed considerably away from the original species of Feist.

The first thing you should be aware of is that the FEIST (like the CUR) is a type of dog, not a breed, they have been around for centuries, but are not a known breed because they continue to be breed locally with many different strains, and there has not been enough agreement with a specific type of feist for long enough to be attempted to be declared a breed by the major kennel clubs such as the AKC.

In fact, there exists an amazing array of variants of TYPE of feist (all similar in shape, attitude and size) but with nuances.


Almost exclusively used small terrier breeds including: Smooth Fox Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, White English Terrier ( extinct).

In America, the “Native American village dogs” were also added to add hardness for harsher environments and the hot south, while in other places, Whippets were added for speed and agility, and the Beagle for trailing abilities.

Many feists are also believed to be crosses from ” Treeing Walker hounds” which is a vital difference between terriers in that Feists ALL tree their prey.

The Treeing Feist has been recognized as an identifiable breed by the United Kennel Club in 1998. Though it is rumored that an American Feist now is claimed by the AKC.

“Various named varieties within the feist type umbrella have been developed, including the Mountain Feist which include the Baldwin Feist, Buckley Feist, Denmark Feist, Galla Creek Feist, Kemmer Feist, Lost Creek Feist, Sport bred Feist, and the Thornburg Feist. The Treeing Feist which include the Atomic Feist, Barger Feist, Boggs Creek, Cajun Squirrel Dogs, Charlie Feists, Fleming Creek Squirrel Dogs, Hickory Grounds Feist, Horse Creek Feists, Hurley Comb’s bred Feist, Mullins Feist, Riverun Feist, and the Rat Terrier. Both the National Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club recognize the Feist “breed”. ” (wikipedia)

Feists are typically developed from the terrier class and were originally ratters on UK farms but their targets have been widely increased in America. While they often resemble ratters, the main difference is that they work exclusively above ground to chase small prey such as squirrels as opposed to most terriers and dachshunds who are “earth dogs” and go to ground down holes to secure their prey (such as rats, rabbits, foxes, badgers).

The “standard” Feist is often confused in looks and behavior with jack russells and fox terriers, but there are many mass and subtle differences between these hunting breeds.

Feist dog Physical description

  • Feists typically are small (shorter than 18 inches/45 cm) and (weigh up to 30 lbs/14 kg),
  • They are ALL short-coated dogs with long legs and a pointed noses.
  • Ears set high on the head erect, or short hang ears. The tail is a natural bobtail or if legal in the local area, are often docked.
  • Predominantly white so as to be visible to hunters.
  • To the novice many of the feist variations appear to look like jack russell breed dogs.

 Feist Dog Hunting skills

Feists typically have an extreme desire to chase rabbits, squirrels, and rodents. And here in lies the rub. As feists are treeing dogs, and they don’t always pursue to the point of physically biting the animal, chasing animals that got to ground or warrens like rabbits and rats will often require other complimentary techniques such as ferrets to go into the burrows and retrieve the game.

Squirrels and any animal that lives or will find refuge above ground are the more preferred target for the feist.

Feists will use all of their senses to hunt their target (as opposed to specialty hunting dogs such as sight or scent hounds) and when they corner their target they tree them. Silent on the chase they change to loud barking and circling the tree to alert the hunter to their success. In this way the feist draws similar hunting technique to the many varieties of coonhound and their hunt for raccoons.

Feists are as motivated and single minded in getting their squirrel as beagles are at following a scent or coonhounds in pursuing raccoons. There is very little that will stop the pursuit unless a hunter has exceptional control over their dog.

curly coat retriever

RETRIEVERS – Gun dogs definition as Hunting dogs

curly coat retriever

RETRIEVERS = Gun dogs. sporting dog class

Retrievers are one of the main Gun dog breeds:

  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Setters

Many dog breed sites prefer the group name sporting dog GROUP rather than gun dog.

The most curious thing about this group is that there are only SIX (6) dogs in total that are classified as retrievers. These are obviously hunting dogs that have the main skill as retrieving AND have the word retriever in their name. In alphabetical order they are:

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Curly-Coated Retriever
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

 It should be noted that only four of these dogs have a long time lineage and are well known to most people on earth. The Chesapeake Bay retriever was created near Chesapeake Bay ( an city located in Virginia, America. And Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever is also a very localized dog.

So just like hunting dogs comprise several main groups of dogs, which some people may argue specific breeds should or shouldn’t be included, you will find that the retriever (as part of the gun or sporting group of dogs) has dogs that could or should be included in the group.

The reason that only SIX breeds officially come under the retriever group of dogs, is that while almost any dog can be trained to retrieve, a true retriever has a much more specific skills set. And in fact it is just as much of what the real retriever does as what it doesn’t do that makes it an ideal retriever in the view of hunters.

 RETRIEVER dog MAIN purpose

Retrievers are usually used for hunting of waterfowl.

This means the dog will either sit patiently in boats (often in cold winter conditions) or on the bank of bogs, remaining quietly hidden along with the hunter.

While retrievers can retrieve many other types of game, it is often larger more aggressive, and faster dogs that actually chase, capture and hold prey.

The retriever dog often has a thick coat, that repels water and a very soft mouth for bringing back game in the condition it was downed in.

There are many more mysterious hunting terms used to define how the dog interacts with the hunter owner, the signals that it must learn, how it interacts with other dogs, but essentially these dogs need high intelligence to work cooperatively with the hunter, without disturbing the environment too much or getting in the way of other dogs retrieving.

The best retriever dogs are used as a precision instrument, as if they are attached to the hunter by a string. They observe voice and hand commands, must remember where downed birds are for a long time before retrieving or retrieve on a blind command (where they did not see where a bird is but the hunter guides them).

One of the main motivations of a retriever dog is that they have an amazing fixation with birds. Without this desire to find a bird, without a high level of CONTROLLABLE excitement, they will not overcome the obstacles they need to in the hunting environment to retrieve the birds. A great retriever does not give up, unless recalled by the hunter.

Memory and the ability to mark where a bird has fallen is also a very important skill for the true retriever dog. That is what these dogs were bred for hundreds of years to do, that is why they are so good at this skill. Whereas humans can take centuries of ‘selective breeding’ to obtain a specific physical or mental skill, dog breeds can become very specific in a very short period, only a few generations. When these breeds were formed over centuries of hunting, it makes them very formidable.


Poodles were once known to be one of the best retrievers (of birds) that a hunter could find. They are also classed as water dogs and can do flushing. It is perhaps their high intelligence that had them fall out of flavour with some hunters, as their problem solving skills are exceptional and they will sometimes choose novel unexpected solutions. They were also multi-skilled so they are no longer in the specific retriever group.

English Cocker spaniels are also known to be great retrievers. In fact their name comes from their UK training to hunt the Eurasian Woodcock bird. They were bred to find the bird using exceptional smell, flush the bird for the hunter, then to retriever the bird. It is strange that having three exceptional skills precludes this dog from the retriever category.

Then you have dogs like the working dog collies that can retrieve a ball or thrown object for hours on end if required. The point about this form of retrieving is that it is a substitutes for herding. Border collies are known to be very intelligent, but they weren’t bred to have exceptional noses, and they weren’t bred to retrieve fallen birds. They were bred to occasionally nip a heel of an errant sheep, and they don’t have a soft mouth, so there are many reasons that this breed and others are not classified in the retriever specific class.

The following is a NON exhaustive list of other dogs that are known to be good retrievers. Note I have removed pointers from the list as they definitely have their own Gun Dog category.

You will notice that there are quite a few spaniels on this list. All these dogs love water, have feet webbing, solid coats:

American Cocker Spaniel, American Water Spaniel, Barbet, Boykin Spaniel, Clumber Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, English Springer Spaniel, Frisian Pointer, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Water Spaniel, Gordon Setter, Italian Spinone, Irish Setter, Irish Water Spaniel, Newfoundland, Poodle, Portuguese Water Dog, Spanish Water Dog, Sussex Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Wire-haired Pointing Griffon