English Setters have a very distinctive look. Bred for tracking and hunting, they share a lot of similarities with many breeds of hound dogs. But are English Setters hound dogs or something else?
Are English Setters hounds?
According to the American Kennel Club standards, the English Setter is not considered a hound dog breed. Though they share many similarities with hounds, English Setters are technically Sporting dogs.
The American Kennel Club sets the standard for dog breeds, grouping them according to their class or breed strengths.
The English Setter is considered a sporting dog breed, whereas other dog breeds fall into other categories. This placement doesn’t mean they don’t have some of the qualities a hound dog would have according to breeding.
Like other dog breeds within any breed class, the English Setter can have many qualities of a hound dog. Following a scent during a hunting expedition and alertness are qualities that any dog can possess regardless of breeding.
What distinguishes the difference is the breed class. Purebred dogs are categorized according to their abilities and breed skills. All dogs possess similar qualities; for instance, the favorite little lap dog can scent out their dog food when the can is being opened, probably when they are in the yard.
That doesn’t make them a hound dog. The American Kennel Club groups dog together in categories based on exceptionally good skills. Historically dogs were bred for a particular task, being a companion, hunting, pointing, herding, and so forth.
When a dog breed was created for a particular task, they were bred to be extraordinarily good at it. Their abilities and strengths were created for a particular job, and their skills were very good at that task.
That being said, there can be overlapping over strong qualities across any dog breed and with dogs of various mixed breeding.
The American Kennel Club has 7 dog breed categories. These categories include Sporting Dogs, Herding Dogs, Hound Dogs, Toy Dogs, Terriers, Herding Dogs, and Non-Sporting Dogs.
Setters are in the Sporting Dog category based on their breeding and strengths, and hounds have their category. This dividing of dogs doesn’t mean a Setter doesn’t share similar qualities as the Hound Dog, or vice versa.
It means the Setter doesn’t possess the excellence of skill and strengths based on breeding, and the Setter wasn’t bred for the task of being a hound dog and vice versa.
Again, it should be noted that each dog, regardless of breeding, will possess their individual strengths and weaknesses. Categorizing them is necessary for identification purposes with so many dog breeds to consider.
In the real-world setting, a perfectly good mixed breed dog might do just as good as a hound dog at scent hunting. Every dog is an individual with its own strengths and weaknesses based on breeding but also other factors.
What exactly is a Sporting Dog?
A Sporting Dog is a dog that was bred to help humans in some form of sporting activity. This can include hunting and shooting various games. The dog will have strong abilities to find the hunted prey and chase and retrieve it.
Many dogs, including Setters, fall into this category. They have strong sporting abilities, endurance, and alertness. They are athletes first and dogs second, and their job requires they have strong physical abilities.
Sporting Dogs are usually exceptional swimmers, and they also have a lot of energy to burn and are highly trainable. These dogs usually bond closely with one human, their companion but might bond closely with the other humans and dogs in the hunting pack.
Their physical build is usually small to medium, and they are very obedient. They typically thrive best with a close bond to their human companion, which aids in hunting and sporting excellence. They are intelligent and adaptable to diverse terrain and situation when it comes to the sport of hunting.
Sporting Dogs need great stamina to handle the long hunt and work required. They are fast, focused, and loyal, making these dog breeds great for other tasks like human companionship and work.
What is a Hound Dog?
A Hound Dog is a hunting dog that uses its heightened and focused sense of smell and sight to track and capture the prey. Hounds are a lot of fun and have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for life.
Hounds are highly intelligent dogs but can be harder to train because they don’t like to follow instructions. These dog breeds may require more formal training with a professional or a very confident trainer.
The physical traits vary as some hounds are small and agile, while others are big and lumbering. The most important quality for a Hound Dog is a strong sense of smell and sight when it comes to tracking and hunting prey.
They also make great companion animals for humans outside their class due to their energy and loveable nature.
What is the primary difference between a Sporting Dog and a Hound Dog?
The primary difference between Sporting and Hound dogs is their strengths. It can be confusing since they are similar and used for the same tasks, hunting. The difference is that Sporting Dogs are well-rounded hunting dogs.
They possess more varied qualities than the Hound Dogs and have the strength of diversity and skill in all areas. Sporting Dogs can find, chase and retrieve, while Hound Dogs can scent or find, and they are not necessarily exceptionally good at chasing and retrieving the prey.
If anything, it might be better to say that a Hound Dog Breed could fit in the Sporting Dog category, but that doesn’t fit either. The Hound Dog Breeds can scent and track, while the Sporting Dog Breeds can track, chase and retrieve.
It can be confusing but understanding the distinction is easier if one understands that Sporting Dog Breeds are like the All-Star at a game, and the Hound Dog Breeds are the Specialty Dogs, whereas they are the All-Stars. Each holds a different spot on the hunting team.
Hound Dog Breeds are not only used for hunting prey, and they also make exceptionally good tracking dogs for other purposes, such as in the military and police.
Setters fall into the Sporting Dog Breed Class, making them a well-rounded dog breed with many strengths. These strengths make them exceptionally good dogs for hunting and other activities.
Setters are not Hounds, but they can both share similar qualities. These similarities are based on their breeding and who they are as a dog.
Each holds its own category in the American Kennel Club, none better than the other, just different!