Today, the modern domestic dog lives mainly as a companion animal, and spends most of their time eating, sleeping, going on supervised walks, and generally being a part of the family. However, historically, dogs were used for working purposes, often involving hunting roles such as scenting, sight hunting, retrieving game, chasing down prey, and killing predators. Many dog breeds today still retain strong hunting instincts, and certain breeds of dog are particularly well suited to certain niche roles, thanks to their build, skills and tenacity.
Even knowing as we do that many dog breeds are born hunters, learning the exact details of their historical working roles and how effective they were at them can be surprising- as can learning that some of the small, cute toy dogs that we generally regard as lapdogs actually have a long and interesting history as hunting dogs too!
Read on to learn more about four dog breeds that each have a surprising hunting skill!
Anyone who has ever got on the wrong side of a Chihuahua will know that these pocket-sized pooches are not to be underestimated, but even so, the Chihuahua is largely considered to be the ultimate lapdog, domestic pet and pampered favourite!
However, the Chihuahua is actually a fearless hunter of smaller prey, and in their native country of Mexico, they are prized as ratters, for hunting and killing vermin including squirrels and other small prey, especially rats and other rodents! Even within the domestic environment, the Chihuahua retains a strong hunter-killer instinct, and may display a significant amount of interest in domestic vermin!
The Dachshund, or “sausage dog” might be rather comical in appearance, but these short legged, long bodied little canines are actually perfect built for a particular hunting role!
The standard Dachshund was originally bred to scent badgers, and then chase them and flush them out. Badgers are large animals with large teeth, which do not take kindly to the presence of predators within their burrows, and can be vicious when cornered. The fearless Dachshund is more than a match for them, however, and will pursue their prey right into their burrows, where they fit neatly due to their build. They will also pursue other prey that lives in hides and burrows, such as foxes.
Even the diminutive miniature Dachshund has a working role as well; they were historically used to hunt even smaller burrowing prey, such as rabbits, as their small size and short legs allowed them to pursue rabbits into their burrows underground.
The Chinese Shar-pei is thought to be one of the world’s most ancient dog breeds, although they have only relatively recently gained international recognition. Their incredibly loose, wrinkled skin is the main identifiable trait of the breed, and these rather mysterious and reserved dogs are often thought of as being pets and companions only. However, the Chinese Shar-pei’s history tells a different story! The Shar-pei was used historically to hunt and fight wild boars, which are extremely aggressive predators that would often fight to the death.
It is actually the unique skin of the Shar-pei that allowed them to hold their own against wild boars with sharp teeth and large tusks; the fact that their skin is so loose means that they are hard to get hold of. If a boar or other predator grabs a dog with their teeth, generally, the dog will be unable to move away or release themselves from the hold, putting them at a disadvantage. However, with the Shar-pei dog, when a predator grabs them with their teeth, they will generally only get a mouthful of loose skin, rather than the muscle and body of the dog. This means that the Shar-pei retains their freedom of movement, and can twist in any direction to bite and attack back.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is also sometimes known as the African Lion Dog, a name that some people think is given due to the Ridgeback’s colouration and noble appearance. However, the truth of the matter is even more impressive: The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an incredibly bold and fearless hunter and guard dog, and has a long history in Africa working alongside of hunters- of lions!
Traditionally, the role of the Ridgeback was to single out a lion and pursue it to a point where it could be trapped, or herd it towards the hunters. There, the Ridgeback would keep the lion at bay and prevent its escape or attacking the hunters until the kill was made. The Ridgeback is also recorded as having fought wild lions as part of hunts or in defence of their handlers; and won!
Today, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a popular if still relatively unusual dog within the UK, and no longer hunts game in Africa; but this noble dog’s courage and bravery cannot be overlooked!