The British Kennel Club has 37 breeds registered in the Gundog group and there are many other breeds that are used in shooting and hunting around the world that are not on that list.
Those 37 breeds are then slotted into one of the following categories: Hunter Pointer Retriever (HPR), Spaniel, Setter, Pointer or Retriever.
What we can take from the 37 breeds that are registered with the KC is that there is enormous choice to be had for someone looking for a new shooting companion.
KC registration statistics show that 83,918 Gundog puppies were registered in 2015. The most popular were the Labrador with 32,507, English Cocker Spaniel 22,577 and the English Springer Spaniel with 10,246. Of course many of those puppies will never see the shooting field. They instead will become wonderful family companions.
All of the Gundog breeds work slightly differently from each other while hunting or retrieving in the field.
Some breeds have singular or duel roles i.e. they may only retrieve like the Labrador or they may hunt and point but rarely retrieve like the Setter and Pointer breeds. The most versatile are the Continental HPR breeds which hunt, point and retrieve.
Because of their versatility and general soundness, HPR breeds like the German Shorthaired Pointer, the German Wirehaired Pointer, the Weimaraner, the Hungarian Vizsla and the Italian Spinone are gaining in popularity in the UK.
Spaniels will always hold their place with the shooting fraternity. Spaniels generally work in a similar fashion to the wider roaming HPR breeds but instead of casting up to hundreds of metres either side of the Gun like HPRs do in their air scenting quest for game, Spaniels “beat” the ground in a radius of around 25m from their handler which not by coincidence is optimum shotgun shooting range for most Guns.
In recent years there has been an increase in the number of crossbred “Sprocker” puppies (English Springer x English Cocker) being whelped by gamekeepers and shooting enthusiasts in the UK in the belief that the hybrid vigour gained by the crossbreeding will give a healthier, more robust style of dog.
Having seen many Sprockers work, there is little doubt that they are performing very well and therefore the crossbreeding practice may well continue into the development of a new breed of Spaniel.
At the end of the day, whatever Gundog breed you finally decide on to meet your field , living accommodation and family requirements; make sure you research the breeding lines carefully for working ability and genetic health issues, buy only from a responsible and reputable breeder, have warm, draft-free kennelling and a complete, wholesome diet available for them and you will have a loyal companion for the next 12-15 years.
For information on UK gundog training seminars and field shot over days please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to Lens & Hound, Helen Thomas for their photo contributions and to the other unknown photographers.