20 Different Dogs That Hunt Bears (With Pictures)

While we may not think of our furry companions as capable of taking on an adult bear, you’d be surprised to learn about the working histories of many common breeds. From dogs bred for herding fish into nets to dogs used as pack animals, our canine friends have been employed in diverse fields and assigned myriad tasks.

In the scheme of things, hunting bears may not seem that strange. That said, some of the breeds that made the list of dogs that hunt bears may surprise you.

An important distinction to make is between a dog’s past and present use. Just because a breed has historically been employed to hunt bears may not mean the breed is still suited for the task. As more dogs are bred for companionship, many have lost their hunting edge.

The 20 Different Dogs That Hunt Bears

Notably, there are a variety of ways that dogs have been used to hunt bears. From tracking bears to physically engaging with them, these dogs have served a range of roles, with no two being exactly the same. This accounts for the wide range of abilities and body types on this list.

1. Akita

akita | image by: uadrienn

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 50-90 pounds
Coat: medium, double-coat

Wolf-like in appearance, the Akita was originally developed in Japan as a cold-tolerant working dog. Notably, the breed once served as the companions of Samurai. Fierce and independent, the Akita first emerged in rural and mountainous areas of Japan, where it was used to hunt a variety of large game, including Ussuri bears.

Its thick coat, bold attitude, and sharp intelligence make the Akita a resilient and formidable hunter. While there are still working strains of the Akita, most serve the role of companion.

2. Irish Setter

irish setter | image by Keith Survell via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-13 years
Average Size: 50-70 pounds
Coat: medium-long

Although it may not have originated in Ireland, the Irish Setter saw extensive use by the Irish in the 19th and 20th centuries as a bird dog. Like most bird dogs, the Irish Setter served as a hunting companion and tracker, capable of following and identifying desirable game.

Most notably, this breed is known for its habit of pointing with its nose in the direction of wild fowl, standing back at a distance for the hunter to take aim and down their desired target. Of the dogs that hunt bears, this breed is more comfortable with smaller game than large.

3. American Foxhound

american foxhound | image by daveynin via Wikipedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 44-75 pounds
Coat: short

Resembling the Beagle but larger, the American Foxhound was originally developed in the United States as a hunting dog bred from several varieties of English foxhound. Like most hounds, the American Foxhound is known for its excellent sense of smell and keen intelligence, being able to locate and guide hunters toward their quarry.

Bred to hunt foxes in large packs, this breed was primarily used by landed gentry on sport hunts, with the hunters typically riding alongside the dogs on horseback.

4. Golden Retriever

golden retriever | image by insane blaine via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 60-80 pounds
Coat: medium

Although not a breed most people associate with hunting, the Golden Retriever was originally developed in Scotland to assist with retrieving downed waterfowl.  With webbed feet and a natural love of water, this eager to please breed is determined and capable of running after prey across wetland environments.

Like the Irish Setter, the Golden Retriever is a bird dog and hunting companion, and has been used to hunt a variety of game, including bears. That said, this breed is now mostly kept as a companion animal.

5. Pit Bull

pit bull | image by Ed Oswalt via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 30-60 pounds
Coat: short, fine

Infamous for its strong bite, the Pit Bull is an American breed of terrier originally developed from bull-baiting dogs brought over from England.

Traditionally used for dog fighting and as protection, this breed has a toned and muscular body with a large and powerful head. Known for its boldness and unflagging determination, the breed is a formidable guard dog.

While the Pit Bull has gotten a bad rap in the media, it is also known for being a loving and loyal companion, especially when trained and socialized properly from a young age. However, because of its impressive bite force, it is best to be cautious with this breed during play.

6. Caucasian Shepherd

caucasian shepherd | image by Öner TÜYLÜOĞLU via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 110-220 pounds
Coat: long, dense

As the name implies, the Caucasian Shepherd was originally developed along the Caucasus mountains to protect livestock, people, and property.

An incredibly large and impressive breed, the Caucasian Shepherd is muscular and determined, capable of warding off bears and other large animals. A fearless protector, individuals of this breed have been known to sacrifice themselves for the protection of their owners.

Out of the dogs that hunt bears we’ve gone over so far, this breed is perhaps one of the best-equipped for the job, having the physical means and attitude to do so.

7. Karelian Bear Dog

Karelian Bear Dog | image by Fraczek.marcin via Wikipedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 11-13 years
Average Size: 40-50 pounds
Coat: medium, dense

As you’ve already noticed, the Karelian Bear Dog has “bear dog” in its name, a solid indicator of its historic use. Developed and registered in the 1940s, this breed traces its roots to Finland where it is employed to hunt large game such as moose, elk, and bear.

Fearless and daring, Karelian Bear Dogs work together, harrying and flagging the attention of bears, providing hunters with enough time and space to down their target. Interestingly, the breed has found recent use as a bear-deterrent, helping reduce the number of human-bear encounters in areas that border wilderness.

8. Bloodhound

bloodhound | image by Alex Mestas via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 80-110 pounds
Coat: short, dense

Another scent hound on our list, Bloodhound was originally developed in France for its amazing sense of smell. In fact, the bloodhound has the best sense of smell of any dog breed, and is famous for being able to pick up and follow cold trails through tough terrain.

Bred for hunting, the Bloodhound has been used in a number of contexts, assisting search-and-rescue missions by tracking down missing persons. Although excellent at locating bears, the Bloodhound lacks the physical prowess to take one down on its own.

9. Dogo Argentino

dogo argentino | image by andigirl via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-15 years
Average Size: 90-110 pounds
Coat: short

A robust and formidable breed, the Dogo Argentino was originally developed in Argentina for hunting large game. Bred from a mix of mastiffs, setters, and bull-terriers, this breed pairs size with speed, a dangerous combination when backed by its dedicated approach.

The Dogo Argentino is used in large packs that follow and track down prey, harrying and bothering wild game until the hunter has the opportunity to take down the target. Due to its size and fearsome appearance, the breed has been banned in several countries.

10. Redbone Coonhound

redbone coonhound | image by Dan Harrelson via Flickr | CC BY 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 40-70 pounds
Coat: short

Much like the American Foxhound, the Redbone Coonhound is a scent-hound developed in the United States for tracking wild game on hunts. The Redbone and Foxhound also share a common lineage, both having been bred from hunting dogs imported from the UK.

Notably, the breed possess webbed feet, a feature that helps it clamber through marshes and swim across ponds in the pursuit of prey.

Although not physically capable of taking on a bear itself, the Redbone Coonhound is a bold and daring dog, and is known for standing its ground in the face of danger.

11. German Shorthaired Pointer

german shorthaired pointer | image by Ashley Jones via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 40-70 pounds
Coat: short

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a medium sized bird dog originally developed in Germany as a hunting companion.

Light on its feet, this breed is made for the chase and is capable of navigating rough and dense terrain, an ability that makes it an effective hunting dog as well as a competitor in dog sporting events.

Incredibly intelligent, the German Shorthaired Pointer is very trainable and does well in family settings when properly engaged and exercised.

12. Weimaraner

weimaraner | image by Marcia O’Connor via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 11-14 years
Average Size: 50-90 pounds
Coat: short

Often mistaken for a gray lab, the Weimaraner is another breed of bird dog originally developed in Germany for use on hunts. Although historically bred for hunting, this breed has seen more recent use as a companion animal, in part due to its amiable disposition.

With webbed feet, the Weimaraner is an adept and outgoing swimmer that makes a terrific household companion for active families that enjoy regular physical activity and sport.

13. German Wirehaired Pointer

german wirehaired pointer | image by: Gabe

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 60-70 pounds
Coat: medium, wiry

The first griffon-type breed on our list of dogs that hunt bears, the German Wirehaired Pointer is a bird dog originally developed in Germany. Known for the scruff of fur around its muzzle, this breed is tolerant of harsh weather and has a resilient disposition, being capable of spending hours in the field at a time.

Usually reserved for medium and smaller sized game, the German Wirehaired Pointer has been bred to be a flexible hunter and has been included in packs used to track and hunt bears.

14. Plott Hound

plott hound | image by Paul via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 40-60 pounds
Coat: short

Recognizable from its often brindle coat and floppy ears, the Plott Hound marks another dog on our list specifically bred to hunt bears. Officially registered in the 20th century, this recent breed was developed in North Carolina as a scent hound.

Being a medium-sized tracking dog, the Plott Hound’s coloration and low to the ground stance ensures that it blends into wooded environments, going undetected by its prey. Bred for its stamina and speed, this breed is a determined and eager hunter, capable of spending many hours in harsh conditions.

15. English Pointer

english pointer | image by Shawn Kinkade via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-17 years
Average Size: 35-75 pounds
Coat: short

As its name suggests, the English Pointer is a pointing breed originally developed in England to assist on hunts.

Like the Irish Setter before it, the English Pointer is famous for its pointing stance. Flattening its back, the English Pointer silently directs its muzzle towards nearby prey, guiding hunters to their quarry.

Known for being especially long-lived for a medium sized working dog, the English Pointer is more reserved than many pointer breeds and requires less attention when in the field.

16. Rhodesian Ridgeback

rhodesian ridgeback | image by Harold Meerveld via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 60-90 pounds
Coat: short

A toned and athletic dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally developed in South Africa as a hunting dog. It is thought to be the only breed to have originated from South Africa. The Ridgeback gets its name from the distinctive rise of fur along its spine that runs counter to the direction of its other hairs.

With its keen intelligence and incredible stamina, the Rhodesian Ridgeback makes an excellent hunting dog for a variety of game. It is undaunted by prey larger than itself and maintains an even temperament even in high stress situations.

17. Borzoi

borzoi | image by Muzik Hounds via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 7-10 years
Average Size: 55-100 pounds
Coat: long, feathery

Resembling a greyhound in body shape, the Borzoi, also known as the Russian Wolfhound, is a sighthound breed originally developed in Russia for hunting.

With its long coat, the Borzoi is well-equipped for cold climate hunts, bearing the stamina and resilience to outrun and take down wolves.

Unlike other dogs that hunt bears on our list, the Borzoi hunts by sight (hence the name “sighthound”) rather than by smell. Usually working pairs or teams, this breed requires teamwork to take down larger prey.

18. Bluetick Coonhound

bluetick coonhound | image by Petful via Petful | CC BY 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 40-80 pounds
Coat: short

Known for its distinctive “blue” coloring and flecked coat, the Bluetick Coonhound is a scent hound and was originally developed in Louisiana from a mix of European scent hound breeds, including the American Foxhound.

Like its cousin the American Foxhound, the Bluetick is known for its strong sense of smell and athletic build, making it an adept tracker with strong endurance.

However, unlike some of the other bear-hunting dogs on our list, the Bluetick Coonhound is widely recognized as an incredibly affectionate and family-friendly breed.

19. Beagle

beagle | image by Dee West via Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Average Lifespan: 12-14 years
Average Size: 20-30 pounds
Coat: short

One of America’s favorite pet dogs, the Beagle comes in as the smallest member of our list. Originally bred in England for hunting hare and other small game, it is known for its keen sense of smell.

Although physically incapable of taking on a bear, the Beagle has been used to track down and locate animals of all sizes and kinds. Known for its distinctive yowl, the Beagle uses these vocalizations to alert hunters of prey.

Deeply caring and affectionate, the Beagle makes for a superb household companion. Long-lived and capable of adapting to apartment life, it is perhaps the most manageable breed on our list.

20. Boerboel

boerboel | image by Han van Hoof via Flickr | CC BY-NC 4.0

Average Lifespan: 10-12 years
Average Size: 150-200 pounds
Coat: short, smooth

The Boerboel dog, also known as the South African Boerboel, South African Mastiff, Bole, or Burbull, is a descendant of the ancient Molossus breed. The fighting spirit and courage that enabled the Molossus to face off against hyenas, lions, leopards and baboons have endured through successive generations.

A well-trained Boerboel can be a fearsome challenge to a bear with their powerful jaws and robust physique, making them an excellent all-around hunting partner.