Skip to main content

The Three Most Popular Pointing Breeds for Upland Bird Hunting: Mastery of Instinct and Training

By Alan2 Davison
Thursday, June 1st 2023

Hunting upland birds requires a special kind of dog breed—one that possesses a unique set of skills, instincts, and behaviors. Pointing breeds are particularly valued for their ability to detect the scent of game birds, then hold a 'pointing' pose to indicate their location to the hunter. Let's take a deeper dive into the top three pointing breeds renowned for hunting upland birds, outlining their history, characteristics, and hunting prowess.

English Setter: A Refined Hunter of Upland Birds

Renowned as a quintessential hunting breed, the English Setter's legacy is steeped in tradition, instinct, and hunting prowess. This versatile breed has carved a niche in the world of upland bird hunting, impressing enthusiasts with its unique traits and uncanny ability to seek out game birds. Let's delve into the breed's characteristics and its impressive upland hunting ability.

English Setter: An Overview

Hailing from England, the English Setter was developed over 400 years ago. This breed is a blend of setting spaniel types that were initially used to find and 'set' game birds. Setters would adopt a crouching pose upon finding game, enabling hunters to throw nets over both the dog and the game bird. This elegant breed is admired not only for its hunting prowess but also for its striking good looks and gentle disposition.

Physical Characteristics

The English Setter is a medium to large-sized dog breed, typically weighing between 45 to 80 pounds and standing 23 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder. Their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall, with a level back and deep chest, enabling long periods of activity without fatigue.

One of the most striking features of an English Setter is its coat. It's long, flat, and slightly wavy with feathering on the ears, chest, belly, back of the legs, and tail. Coat colors vary and include white with intermingled or overlayed color, commonly black (blue belton), orange (orange belton), or liver (liver belton), and even tricolor (blue belton with tan on the muzzle, over the eyes, and on the legs).


English Setters are known for their friendly, gentle, and placid temperament. They're extremely affectionate, making them excellent family pets. Their high intelligence paired with a strong desire to please their handlers allows them to excel in training, whether for hunting or companionship.

Upland Bird Hunting Skills

The English Setter is a natural when it comes to upland bird hunting, thanks to its historical development and inherent traits. Here are the key facets of its hunting ability:

  • Sense of Smell: The English Setter's sense of smell is remarkable. They're capable of picking up and tracking the faintest scent trails, allowing them to locate game birds with precision. This makes them highly valuable in hunting scenarios where tracking game over vast tracts of land is required.
  • Setting Behavior: English Setters are unique for their 'setting' behavior. Upon detecting game, they freeze and crouch low to the ground, often with one paw slightly raised. This subtle indicator allows the hunter to approach carefully and prepare for the shot or release the bird.
  • Endurance and Speed: English Setters are built for endurance. They can cover extensive territories at a steady pace without tiring, making them ideal for long hunts. Their graceful, ground-covering trot allows them to scan wide areas effectively.
  • Trainability: English Setters are highly trainable, responding well to positive reinforcement methods. This makes it relatively easy to hone their natural hunting instincts into disciplined hunting behavior.
  • Soft Mouth: English Setters have a soft mouth, meaning they can carry game without damaging it. If trained to retrieve, they will bring back the game in perfect condition.

In conclusion, the English Setter is a standout breed in the realm of upland bird hunting. Its unique characteristics and refined hunting abilities make it a cherished companion for hunters around the globe. Whether in the field or at home, the English Setter's grace, charm, and competence are simply unmatched.

The German Shorthaired Pointer: An Upland Bird Hunting Virtuoso

As a paragon of hunting versatility, the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) stands as a favorite among upland bird hunting aficionados. Its inborn prowess combined with a noble disposition and attractive physical features make it an unbeatable choice for many hunters. Let's check out the GSP's breed characteristics and its remarkable upland hunting capabilities.

German Shorthaired Pointer: A Glimpse into its History

Originating in Germany in the 19th century, the GSP was meticulously developed to create an all-purpose hunting dog. The breed was designed to perform multiple hunting roles, including tracking, pointing, and retrieving game, both on land and in water. It quickly gained acclaim for its versatility and skill, evolving into a favored breed among hunting enthusiasts.

Physical Characteristics

The GSP is a medium to large-sized breed, with males typically standing between 23-25 inches tall at the shoulder, and females a bit smaller at 21-23 inches. Their weight generally ranges from 45 to 70 pounds.

The GSP's body is athletic and streamlined, built for speed, endurance, and agility. It possesses a broad, deep chest for good lung capacity and a moderately long back that allows for a free, smooth stride.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the GSP is its short, thick, water-repellent coat. The coat color varies, featuring solid liver (a rich, dark brown), or a combination of liver and white such as patched, ticked, or roan.


GSPs are known for their keen intelligence and trainable nature, making them a pleasure to work with in the field. They're highly energetic and require plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. GSPs are also known for their loyalty and affection towards their owners, making them suitable family dogs when provided with adequate exercise.

Upland Bird Hunting Skills

The GSP shines exceptionally in the realm of upland bird hunting. Its hunting prowess is composed of several remarkable facets:

  • Strong Nose: The GSP is renowned for its strong sense of smell, which is crucial in tracking and locating game. Its keen nose can detect the faintest scent trails, making it a formidable tracker in upland bird hunting.
  • Pointing Ability: The GSP's pointing instinct is inherent and strong. Once it locates the bird, the dog will freeze, pointing its nose towards the game. This classic 'pointing' stance is a sight to behold, signifying the moment the dog has found its quarry.
  • Speed and Endurance: Bred for the demanding nature of hunting, GSPs possess impressive stamina and speed. Their muscular build and athletic body allow them to navigate various terrains with agility and cover large hunting grounds efficiently.
  • Versatility: GSPs are versatile hunters. They're capable of both pointing out game and retrieving it, even in water. This versatility makes them invaluable in the field, as they can adapt to different hunting scenarios.
  • Trainability: GSPs are highly trainable, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. They respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, allowing for honing their natural instincts into disciplined hunting skills.

In summary, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a remarkable breed, earning its reputation as a versatile and efficient upland bird hunting dog. Its unique combination of physical attributes, temperament, and inherent hunting skills make it a desirable companion for many hunters. Whether you're seeking a dedicated hunting partner or an energetic family pet, the GSP might just be the breed you're looking for.

English Pointer: A Classic Companion for Upland Bird Hunting

The English Pointer, often simply referred to as the Pointer, is a distinguished breed recognized globally for its hunting capabilities, particularly in upland bird hunting. This breed's natural hunting instinct, combined with its physical prowess and appealing temperament, makes it a cherished choice for hunters and dog enthusiasts alike. Let's check out the breed's characteristics and explore its notable upland hunting abilities.

English Pointer: Historical Context

As its name implies, the English Pointer originated in England, with its history tracing back to the 17th century. This breed was specifically developed for hunting game birds, incorporating the best qualities from various breeds to create an ideal bird-hunting companion. Known for its agility, endurance, and distinctive 'pointing' behavior, the English Pointer has become a classic symbol in the realm of upland bird hunting.

Physical Characteristics

The Pointer is a medium to large-sized breed, standing between 23 to 28 inches at the shoulder and typically weighing between 45 to 75 pounds. The breed is characterized by its athletic build, showcasing a balance of strength and grace.

The Pointer's coat is short, smooth, and dense, providing good protection from weather and rough cover. Coat colors include lemon, black, orange, and liver, either solid, piebald, or speckled.

The breed's hallmark feature is its head—well-proportioned and distinguished with a broad, deep muzzle and wide nostrils, ideally suited for its keen sense of smell.


Pointers are known for their even-tempered and congenial nature. They are alert, intelligent, and adaptable, with an inherent desire to work closely with their handlers. Although Pointers are intensely active during hunts, they tend to be calm and gentle at home, making them suitable as family pets. They thrive on physical activity and mental stimulation, making regular exercise an essential part of their routine.

Upland Bird Hunting Skills

When it comes to upland bird hunting, the Pointer is a breed par excellence. Here's a look at its key hunting attributes:

  • Exceptional Nose: The Pointer has a powerful sense of smell, invaluable for finding and pointing out game. It can detect and follow scent trails with remarkable precision, making it a reliable partner in the field.
  • Pointing Instinct: The Pointer's name speaks for its most distinctive hunting behavior. Once it locates a bird, it freezes and points its body towards the game—a rigid stance that signals the hunter about the bird's location.
  • Speed and Endurance: Pointers are built for swift, enduring pursuits. Their sturdy build and powerful hindquarters allow them to maintain a fast, steady pace over long distances, covering extensive hunting grounds with ease.
  • Trainability: The breed's intelligence and eagerness to please make Pointers highly trainable. They respond well to gentle, consistent training methods, and can effectively refine their innate pointing instinct into a disciplined hunting skill.
  • Versatility: Although renowned for their pointing skills, Pointers can also be trained to retrieve. This versatility adds to their appeal as all-round hunting dogs.

Finally, the English Pointer's blend of physical attributes, innate hunting skills, and pleasant temperament make it an excellent choice for upland bird hunting. Whether you're a seasoned hunter looking for a reliable field partner or a novice exploring the world of hunting dogs, the English Pointer stands as a breed that's hard to overlook. Its legacy and performance in the field speak volumes about its hunting prowess, securing its place as a classic hunting breed.

In conclusion, these three breeds—the English Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Pointer—are known for their proficiency in pointing, making them highly esteemed in the world of upland bird hunting. Not only do these breeds have the instinct and skill set necessary for hunting, but they are also intelligent and trainable, adapting to a hunter's commands with ease. Moreover, their natural athleticism and endurance make them fit for challenging terrains and long hunting days. Whether it's their graceful setting, statuesque pointing, or a combination of traits, these dogs are truly in a class of their own when it comes to hunting upland birds.

Copyright 2019 - 2024 Dogs Unlimited LLC