What breeds of dog have the strongest prey drive, and why?

What breeds of dog have the strongest prey drive, and why?

The prey drive is something that is inherent and fundamental in all dogs, although some breeds manifest it much more strongly than others! The term “prey drive” is used to refer to the dog’s instinctive and inherent propensity to seek out prey, pursue it and in some cases, close in for the kill, and is a natural part of the canine drive and survival process.

While dogs are omnivores rather than obligate carnivores (meaning that they can eat all manner of things, and do not technically need to eat meat to survive and thrive) dogs are nevertheless driven by the evolutionary onus to find sources of high-value proteins in order to fulfil their nutritional requirements, and this means meat! While today, domestic dogs get fed well and never have to worry about where their next meal and meat is coming from, the last few millennia of domestication have nevertheless done little to remove or supress the prey drive in dogs, and for some dogs, their high prey drive is an inherent part of their breed identity and personality.

What is the prey drive?

Prey drive is the instinctive and unconscious propensity of carnivorous hunting animals to seek out, chase and catch potential prey. Dogs are dual-purpose hunters and scavengers, but the desire and drive to hunt for fresh meat is deeply inbuilt into the genetic makeup of the dog.

Selective breeding and domestication have gone some way towards muting or reducing the prey drive in dogs, as does training and responsiveness management. However, some breeds and types of dogs are much more likely to actively seek out prey than others nonetheless, and these are the breeds that are referred to as having a strong prey drive.

In this article, we will look at some of the main dog breeds that are known to have a strong prey drive, and why this is. Read on to learn more!

Afghan hound

The Afghan hound is a sighthound that was traditionally used for lure coursing of hares, and as a high-speed, efficient hunting dog. Like all sighthounds, the Afghan hound retains a strong prey drive, even within a domestic environment.

Airedale terrier

The Airedale terrier is a true multi-purpose working dog, and like most of the terrier breeds, has a strong prey drive and a recent working history. Airedales have been used throughout history for hunting prey such as rabbits and fowl, and are used to both retrieving downed game and also hunting and killing their own prey.

Alaskan Malamute

The Malamute was historically used to hunt large prey such as bears, in order to protect and defend their territory from potential threats.

Bedlington terrier

The Bedlington is revered as one of the most efficient working terrier breeds, and is equally at home hunting hares, badgers, foxes, and other historical pests.


The cute, fluffy Bolognese dog might be most commonly kept as a lapdog today, but their working history included being kept as ship’s dogs top keep the rat and mouse population under control!

Border terrier

The Border terrier has a superior ability to hunt and kill rats and other rodents, and is also used in its working role to bolt foxes that have gone to ground.


The Borzoi is a sighthound breed, and like all other sighthounds, has a superior ability to fixate on moving prey, and chase it down for the kill.


The Chihuahua is our second diminutive little lapdog to make the list, and despite their tiny, cute appearance, they are supreme hunters of small vermin such as rats, and are prized in their home lands as superior ratters.

English foxhound

The English foxhound of course has a long history of working alongside of horses and riders as an organised pack hunting dog, and has been selectively bred for centuries to hone their strong hunting instincts.

Fox terrier

The Fox terrier also traditionally worked alongside of mounted hunters, to pursue foxes into their bolts when they went to ground.


The Greyhound is of course our best known sighthound, and Greyhounds are still bred and used today for dog racing, which involves pursuing a moving target.

Irish wolfhound

The large, lanky Irish wolfhound has a long and distinguished history as a hunter of larger prey, and today, retains a very strong prey drive.

Italian greyhound

The Italian greyhound is a tiny, delicate and lightweight little sighthound, which was historically used to hunt mice and rats.


While the Lurcher is not technically a breed in its own right, they are worth mentioning as popular pets who also have strong hunting instincts. The Lurcher consists of the crossing of any dog from a sighthound breed with any non-sighthound breed, and the Lurcher tends to retain all of the hunting instincts and prey drive of the sighthound side of their ancestry!


The elegant, leggy Saluki is another sighthound, which can be trained to both hunt and kill, or pursue and retrieve.

Scottish deerhound

The Scottish deerhound is yet another sighthound, which historically worked in the Scottish highlands alongside of hunters to pursue and bring down the area’s red deer.


Finally, the whippet is sometimes used as a racing dog, but was also historically valued for their ability to chase and catch rabbits and rats.



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