Humans domesticated dogs thousands of years ago. People breed and train dogs for show, sport, and hunting. Due to their speed, agility, and size, certain breeds are better than others for hunting rabbits.
Understanding breed-specific characteristics of rabbit hunting dogs and the traits and habits of rabbits will help you decide which dog you should own if you are looking for the best dog for hunting rabbits.
Small Game Dogs
You can train small game dogs to hunt smaller animals like birds and waterfowl, rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. The best rabbit hunting dogs are quick and can maneuver through the thick ground cover.
While you can find these characteristics in many breeds, the best dog for hunting rabbits will have excellent eyesight and sense of smell. Also, consider a vocal breed who can bark at appropriate times throughout the hunt.
Hunting is easier when you understand the game you are going after. Rabbits, also referred to as cottontails, typically feed on grass, wheat, clover, weeds, bark, and twigs. However, they prefer to feed in the early morning or at dusk when sunlight starts to fade. Feeding in the evening makes them less visible or camouflaged with their surroundings, so having a dog with a good sense of smell will help you spot them.
Rabbits can take off in the blink of an eye when startled. However, they tend to sprint in wide circles to avoid a predator, and they sometimes stop to see if the predator is still chasing them. This pause offers some time to take a shot.
Rabbit Hunting Dogs
Some breeds are best for hunting rabbits, but individual personalities and training can impact your dog’s success as a hunting partner.
Beagles are one of the most popular rabbit hunting dogs. Beagles and smaller pocket beagles make excellent hunting dogs for this small game.
Beagles are curious and active dogs. They have an independent nature but are still trainable. Beagles are popular family pets because they are friendly, good with kids, and affectionate. While pocket beagles are not an American Kennel Club (AKC) breed like larger Beagles, they have a similar temperament and make good rabbit hunters.
Beagles are a vocal breed who howl and bay to let you know where rabbits are circling. Their small size allows them to fit inside of a rabbit’s habitat.
Their large, mournful eyes and floppy ears make basset hounds one of the most recognizable AKC registered breeds, and their mild, friendly personality make them great family pets.
Basset hounds tend to be stubborn, so it is important to properly socialize and train them from an early age. These small dogs do well in apartments because they tend to be couch potatoes. To prevent your basset hound from becoming overweight, make sure to give them plenty of exercise and a proper diet.
Despite their short legs, basset hounds are a good breed of rabbit hunting dogs. Because they are so slow, rabbits usually do not hide from basset hounds, keeping them out in the open. Basset hounds also have an excellent sense of smell to sniff rabbits out and a distinct howl.
Labradors are the most popular dog in the country. These large, lovable dogs are ideal for families and active individuals.
Labradors are one of the largest breeds on this list. They can weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, but with proper diet and exercise can live a very active lifestyle. Labradors are eager to please, which makes them easy to train. These gentle giants are excellent dogs for novice owners.
Labradors, or labrador retrievers, are a large sporting group dog that has long assisted hunters. They are ideal for bird and waterfowl hunting trips because they are excellent swimmers. However, they are very agile and can hunt rabbits as well.
Jack Russell Terriers
Jack Russells or Russell terriers are small dogs with great temperaments.
Russell terriers are a very active breed with a high prey drive. They are intelligent and independent, which can make them challenging to train and manage. For the experienced dog owner, they can become a valuable hunting companion.
When they are not hunting, Russell terriers are affectionate and playful. It is vital to keep them active and monitor their diet because these small terriers have a high potential for weight gain.
Traditionally, people trained Jack Russell terriers to hunt foxes because they are very vocal and can spook small game out of holes and burrows. However, their keen sense of smell and agility make them excellent rabbit hunting dogs.
Best Dog for Hunting Rabbits
Rabbit hunting can be a difficult small game hunt because they are quick, have fast reaction times, and can hide in small holes. To make the most of your trip, be sure to get a fast, agile dog who can alert you when they spot a rabbit.
Like people, dogs have different personalities. Breed characteristics can give you an idea of what to expect, but all dogs will require socialization and training.