The practicing of hunting with dogs goes back for thousands of years, to the time of the ancient Roman empire. The modern use of boar hunting dogs dates back to the 1800s in America, and explains why so many of the breeds popular today were originally bred in the United States.
If you’re looking for your first hunting dog, or you want to add to your pack, we’ve made a list of the top hunting dog breeds, and the best way to train them.
Types of Boar Hunting Dogs
Boar hunting dogs are split into two categories: bay dogs and catch dogs. Different breeds are preferred for each category because each type of dog needs to have a certain set of qualities and skills.
Bay dogs are used for tracking and identifying boar during the hunt. The most important characteristic of a bay dog is its tracking skills. They must have a keen sense of smell, and be trained to sniff out and find prey. Once they’ve found the boar, the bay dogs role is to harass the boar, barking loudly, and chasing it until it is cornered. The loud bark serves a dual function: to scare the pig and to tell the hunter where it is located.
Once the bay dogs have cornered the beast, that’s when the catch dogs come into the picture. A catch dog’s job is to force the wild boar to submit. They do this by engaging the board, and fighting it if they must. Catch dogs are bred to be big, muscular, and fierce. They must also have wide, strong jaws that they use to clamp around the boar’s neck and force it to submit.
Both types of dogs, bay and catch, must be trained and protected before heading out on the hunt. If you are a not an experienced dog trainer, the best thing to do is hire an expert to train your hunting dogs. Once they are trained and obedient, you’ll want to make sure you purchase the protective gear required to protect your dogs. Chasing and hunting boar is dangerous work, and you don’t want your dogs to get hurt or killed in the process.
Training Your Boar Hunting Dogs
Hunting dogs need to be very specifically trained and have a high level of obedience. If you have never trained dogs before, definitely hire an experienced trainer to help you get the most out of your hunting dogs. However, if you are experienced, here are some useful tips for getting the most out of training your bay dogs and catch dogs.
Training Bay Hunting Dogs
- The main goal when training bay dogs is working on their tracking skills and scent detection. This should be the primary focus of your training.
- You can begin training bay dogs as early as 3 months old, but be sure to use an area in which the puppies feel secure, such as the back yard.
- Gather the puppies in their pen, and let them see and smell a small hog. You want to get them excited but don’t allow them to chase or attack the pig, not yet. The only goal of this exercise is to get them used to the smell. You’ll want to do this for several weeks, getting the dogs excited by the smell, but not letting them chase.
- The next step is to teach the dogs to associate car rides with pig hunting. Get the dogs into your truck and drive them out to your usual hunting area. When you get there, let them see and smell the pig again. But still, don’t let them hunt.
- Next step is to build up the tracking skills. Create a trail for the dogs by bringing your small pig out to the woods and taking it for a long, meandering walk. Then release the pups and see which ones follow the trail. Reward the dogs who find the pig by giving them treats. You want to repeat this until you are certain the dogs understand their task.
- The last step is to begin taking the pups out on practice hunts. The easiest way to train them up is to take them out with older, more experienced bay dogs that will teach the pups all the skills needed for a hunt.
Training Catch Dogs
- Catch dogs need to be the biggest and most aggressive dogs in a pack. Training catch dogs is vitally important, and also difficult. You do not want to have a disobedient catch dog!
- Experienced dog trainers recommend waiting until dogs are 1 year old to be trained as catch dogs. They must have some level of maturity in order to understand what is being asked of them.
- Similar to the bay dog training, expose the catch dogs to a hog that is similar in size to them. Let them get excited, but don’t let them attack the hog. Keep this up for a few weeks until the pups get really worked up into a frenzy.
- The fourth step is vitally important, yet often overlooked: you have to train the catch dogs to respond to a release command. In the field, once a catch dog has subdued a boar, you want the dog to release the boar, so that you can go in for the kill. If a catch dog is not trained to release, a hunter won’t be able to get the dog away from the boar. Train a catch dog to release by having it bite something, such as a toy or stick, and release only when you say your release word: “release” “let go” whatever you choose. Really drill this home until you have complete obedience.
- The last step is to take the new catch dogs out on a practice hunt. Have experienced bay dogs track down a pig, then send out the new catch dogs. Hopefully, these newly trained catch dogs will understand what is expected of them and will go after the pig. As with the bay dogs, the most effective way to train catch dogs in the field is to have young ones follow older, more experienced hounds.
Again, if this all seems to be too challenging for you, make sure you get assistance from a professional. There is nothing more useless than a poorly trained hunting dog. But once you’re ready to go, its time to choose the breed that is right for you and your hunting area.
Best Breeds for Bay Dogs
This breed is one of the most popular and famous for bay dogs. They were originally bred in South Africa to be used as lion hunters. Because of this origin, this breed has fantastic tracking skills and a killer sense of smell.
They are also very intelligent and but must be trained very thoroughly. In appearance, this dog is very distinctive. They are characterized by a strip of fur that grows down their back, like a ridge. Hence the name, ridgeback.
The breed redbone is the same type of dog found in the story “Where the Red Fern Grows”. Known for their intelligence, strength, and powerful sense of smell, they make excellent bay dogs.
The walker hound was traditionally used in fox hunting. Favored for its strong sense of smell, this breed makes excellent trackers. Most notable is their focus when tracking a scent. On top of their prowess in tracking, this breed also makes excellent pets, as they are both loyal and gentle around humans.
Lacy Dog/Blue Lacy
The blue lacy was original bred in Texas for the specific purpose of hunting large game and protecting agricultural land and livestock. They are fantastic bay dogs that are strong, with agile minds that can learn very quickly. For this reason, they are easy to train. This dog breed is extremely energetic and loyal, but they can be aggressive and are not suggested as pets.
The Catahoula Cur is widely acknowledged as one of the best breeds of bay dogs. They are celebrated for their strong sense of smell and tracking abilities. This unique looking dog has patchy fur and iridescent eyes. If you’re looking for a hunting companion or a family dog, the Catahoula Cur is a solid choice.
Black Mouth Cur
The Black Mouth Cur is a loyal and protective breed of bay dog. This breed is an excellent choice both as a pet and as a hunting companion. The advantages of the Black Mouth Cur, are its unique combination of intelligence and strength.
This little-known dog breed originated in North Carolina. Today, the Plott Hound is used as a bay dog throughout the southern United States, but its popularity outside the region has been limited. This loyal and strong breed is a powerhouse at hunting big game. They were bred specially to hunt wild boar, bears, and raccoons. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more loyal hunting breed.
The Mountain Cur was first bred in Virginia as a hunting dog. Today, they are a favorite among American boar hunters due to their good sense of smell and dedicated tracking capabilities. With their brindled coat, they also have the advantage of a natural camouflage.
Best Breed for Catch Dogs
The Dogo Argentino is one of the few boar hunting breeds not derived from the American bulldog. This distinctive breed was bred first in Argentina to hunt boar and cougar. The bred is huge, immensely strong, with a wide jaw. The breed is capable of taking down a fully grown boar. As a guard dog, this breed is incredibly protective.
Because of their natural ferocity and aggressive nature, Pit Bulls are an obvious choice for catch dogs. On top of their strength, this breed also has a very strong jaw that can lock up around the boar. Combine all of this with their compact, stable build and you have a recipe for a winning catch dog. Just be aware, they can be aggressive even around humans and are not recommended as pets for children.
The American Bulldog is seen as the classic catch dog breed and is used widely across the United States for this purpose. This large, well-built breed has all the necessary features that make a great catch dog. On top of this, the breed is protective of humans and great around children, so they can be used for hunting, or as a pet.
Florida Cracker Cur
The Florida Cracker Cur was, as the name suggests, bred in Florida for the purpose of working as a catch dog in hunting wild boar. Rather than being bred for appearance, this breed was bred for the features of a large, strong jaw, and overall physical strength.
A Hunting Companion For Life
As when you choose a pet, the important thing to remember when choosing a hunting dog is their lifespan. Dogs can live for ten years or more, so you choose more than just a tool to make your hunting more efficient, you are also choosing a companion.
Your hunting dog may come to be more like your brother, as you learn to rely on each other out in the field. Having a dog that you trust and who trusts you will take your hunting abilities to the next level, and have you craving to be out in the bush when you’re stuck in your office.