What is America’s Favorite Hunting Dog?


MidWest Outdoors is excited to announce that we are working together with Pheasants Forever to help you celebrate your favorite sporting dog breed and raise money for habitat in the process. Bird hunters love their dogs, and you can vote for your choice during April, in the Bird Dogs for Habitat campaign.

Now, a bit about the most popular sporting breeds. Where does your favorite rank?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has released its annual list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. Here are 10 trends related to bird dog breeds that stand out. (Note: Many pointing dogs are registered with the Field Dog Stud Book, rather than the AKC.)

Labs’ legacy
For the 25th consecutive year—and no doubt thanks to many pheasant hunters—the Labrador retriever holds firm at the top spot. Black, yellow or chocolate, the lovable Lab has helped the breed to the longest reign as the nation’s most popular breed in AKC history.

Golden hours
“Goldies” are named as much for the “Golden Hour” roosters they love to chase as they are for their fashionable coats. While much of the golden retriever’s popularity—see #3 on the list—is due to its family dog status, many pheasant hunters know the thrill of hunting with this biddable breed.

Popular pointers
A little more than a decade ago, the German shorthaired pointer stood as the 21st most popular breed in America. Today, the “GSP”—undoubtedly the top pointing breed among pheasant hunters—is one spot (11) away from the top grouping. With a breed win at this year’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the top 10 in coming years seems likely.

Pocket pointers
A decade ago, the Brittany penciled in at 30, as it did again in 2014. Already popular, this pocket pointer moved up to 27 last year, and this year, leapfrogged one more spot to 26. Just don’t refer to it as a spaniel to any self-respecting Brittany owner—the American Kennel Club dropped the word “spaniel” from this pointing breed’s name in 1982.

‘Four-wheel drive’
The Wirehaired pointing griffon (aka “the 4-wheel drive of hunting dogs”) has made huge strides over the past decade, jumping 46 spots from 112 in 2004, to 66 in 2015.

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Lovably ugly
Beards are still in (see Wirehaired pointing griffon), and in a half decade the German wirehaired pointer has crept up about a spot per year, from 74 to 68.

Flushing forward
As far as spaniels go, English springers saw a slight uptick to 27 (from 28), English cockers continued their momentum up to 60 (as recently as 2001, English cockers were at 76), and those little brown dogs, Boykin spaniels, locked in at 121 just two years ago, have risen to 107.

Rising retrievers
While Labs and goldens are mainstays in the top five, flat-coated retrievers (from 92 to 86) and curly-coated retrievers (from 163 to 151) prove there’s growing interest in other retriever breeds.

Setters slip
As recently as 2011, the AKC declared the “Year of the Setters,” when four setter breeds made jumps. English setters (89 down to spot 96) and Gordon setters (100 down to spot 105) have reversed the trend this year.

Rare breed
The rarest bird dog breed is still the Sussex spaniel, which moved up ever so slightly, from 175 to 173.

Bird Dogs for Habitat 2016
What’s your favorite bird dog breed? Pheasants Forever’s annual Bird Dogs for Habitat campaign challenges upland hunters to cast a vote and make a donation on behalf of their favorite dog. No matter what breed you own or what dollar amount you can give, the Bird Dogs for Habitat campaign is a fun way to support our four-legged friends and the habitat they love to roam with us in search of pheasants and quail. Visit birddogsforhabitat.org for more info.

Anthony Hauck is Pheasants Forever’s director of PR. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.