The origin of the hunting dog dates back 20,000 years ago when Mesolithic man used early dogs to hunt for food, shelter, and clothing. While hunting in only a sport now, and rarely used in the western world for sustenance, an ancient hunter’s life depended on his hunting success. 9,000 years ago the dog’s role changed though; this is when livestock was domesticated and the dog morphed from hunter, to protector and guard. By the Bronze Age, 4,500 B.C., there were five different types of dog in existence; the pointers, shepherds, mastiffs, greyhounds, and wolf breeds. Early cave paintings from this time show that dogs worked along side hunters, being bred for their specific job.
During this age man really began to cultivate the dog species to his needs. Dogs were bred for the specific environment and climate they lived in, and eventually to hunt certain species of prey. Today’s modern dog channels these ancient ancestors, and not only is it why the dog has the superior nose to track prey, but it’s where his instinct comes from to hunt. With man’s dependence so heavily resting on the canine, this is around the time that man and dog began to develop a deep bond of kinship. The development of the dog is intricately linked with the evolution of humanity.
Hunting dogs were bred for certain types of hunts; the bird dogs were meant to flush fowl and some to retrieve it from the water. Some were bred to tree raccoons, others to hunt rodents. Every breed of dog has his purpose. As society advanced and developed though, less reliance was placed upon the hunt and the hunting dog. Hunting became a pastime, not a necessity, and the various breeds were used for pets, not for work. Many hunters take great pride in this hunting dog ancestry though, studying a breed’s ancient ancestry, and striving to return these dogs to their former purpose and glory.
Today there are hundreds of breeds that all trace their genes back to these ancient hunters. Within each type there are more subcategories based upon a dog’s specific characteristics. The hounds are broken up into sight or scent hounds; gun dogs consist of retrievers, setters, spaniels, water dogs, and pointers. Curs and Lakeland terriers are subcategories of the terrier. What all of these dogs have in common though, is their devotion to mankind for thousands of years.