Have you ever thought of hunting with a pit bull? They may not be the first canine you think of when you hear of hunting dogs, but pit bulls can make good field companions when trained right. Let’s take a closer look at these descendants of bulldogs and terriers, and how they can be used for hunting.
Are Pit Bulls Used for Hunting?
Pit bulls have been used for hunting throughout history and continue to be used to this day, although they are not as common as bloodhounds, beagles, or labrador retrievers.
Originally, pit bulls were bred in the early 1800s for rat baiting and dogfighting. These inhumane blood sports also included bull-baiting, in which pit bulls were forced to antagonize and fight bulls. That cruel spectator sport was banned in 1835 but continued illegally for many years, so the breed had to adapt and defend itself.
This early history of fighting has given pit bulls strong protective instincts. Their strong determination and physical endurance have been passed down through generations. Now, pit bulls are a beloved companion in many families and are also used for hunting sometimes with the right training and exercise.
What Were Pit Bulls Bred to Hunt?
While pit bulls weren’t bred to hunt, but rather to fight, they have developed a reputation as excellent large game hunters. The rise of pit bulls as hunting dogs came in the early 20th century when Americans used them to hunt feral pigs, something that still happens today in the South.
Hunters took notice of pit bulls’ fervor and strength, which makes them attractive catch dogs. Unlike other hunting dogs, pit bulls excel at chasing and pinning large game such as boars.
Pit bulls have strong jaws, wide skulls, and well-developed muscles in their face, neck, and legs. These strong canines often exhibit a bite, hold, and shake action while refusing to release. That’s why good training is so important before taking a pit bull out hunting.
Are Pit Bulls Good Tracking Dogs?
Pit bulls make good tracking dogs due to their drive and determination. Tracking dogs need a solid temperament, athletic build, high energy, and great obedience. While not all pit bulls would meet the criteria, many do and are trained for tracking, whether it’s for fun, work, or hunting.
However, above all else pit bulls are good catch dogs. They can be trained to provide the muscle to finish the wild boar hunt. Pit bulls have a natural fight instinct and never back down, even when hunting a big boar or bear. With their large, strong jaws, hunting pit bulls should be reserved for large game only.
Pit bulls often work alongside bay dogs, which follow large game for miles and eventually notify the hunter of the animal’s location. Pit Bulls are released after the bay dogs to pin big boars. Even the boar’s tusks are no match for the pit bull, which typically wears a protective chest plate. Once the prey is immobilized by the pit bull, the hunter completes the hunt.
Are Pit Bulls Good Bird Dogs?
For avid duck and pheasant hunters, it’s best to use a hunting dog other than pit bulls. Pit bulls don’t make good bird dogs, as gun dogs need to detect small prey, lead hunters to the birds, and retrieve them after the shot.
Even a well-trained pit bull would be too excited and focused on the bird to wait patiently for the hunter. It’s likely the dog’s instincts would kick in to kill the find, leading to a messy bounty. It’s always a good idea to let pit bulls do what they do best, which is catch large game.
What Are The Challenges of Hunting With a Pit Bull?
Pit bulls can make lovely hunting companions, but they require careful training and regular reminders of the rules while out in the field. The more practice a pit bull can have, the better.
While it’s not impossible to train a pit bull to hunt, it truly depends on the dog and how they were raised. Here are a few of the challenges some hunters face when training or hunting with a pit bull.
- Retrieving woes. Pit bulls don’t have the same innate retrieving sense as a retriever, pointer, or foxhound. It’s hard for them to understand how to retrieve game and bring it back. They also aren’t fond of releasing what’s in their mouth, which is why pit bulls should be catch dogs and not bird dogs.
- Rough approach. It’s good for hunting dogs to be fierce and determined, but sometimes pit bulls can go a little overboard. Their strong prey instincts and lack of retrieving ambition mean they are likely to mistake small game like rabbits or birds as chew toys. It’s not great to have game tossed, shaken, and damaged during the hunt.
- Water woes. A lot of pit bulls love water, but they don’t have the same natural swimming skills as retrievers. Their dense, muscular bodies aren’t great for floating, and without webbed toes, it’s hard for them to swim efficiently. Even the best pit bull swimmers get tired quickly with the extra work needed to stay afloat.
- Extreme temperatures. Some dogs have extra-warm coats to help them stay comfortable while exposed to the elements. Pit bulls have short coats and muzzles, so they don’t love cold temperatures. They can also overheat when it’s warm outside, which limits hunting opportunities.
Despite the potential challenges of hunting with a pit bull, some dedicated hunters can overcome these obstacles and train their pit bulls to be effective hunters. It varies based on each individual dog’s disposition and the hunter’s preferred game.
Final Thoughts on Pit Bulls as Hunting Dogs
Hunting with a pit bull isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly an option for well-tempered and obedient dogs. Just like with other dog breeds, not every canine is cut out for hunting.
While pit bulls may not be the right match for bird hunting, hog hunting is another story. With committed training and the right practice, pit bulls can excel at tracking and catching.