sporting dog, classification used by breeders and kennel clubs to designate dogs bred for pointing, flushing, and retrieving game. These dogs hunt by air scent—as opposed to most hounds, which are ground scenters—and their quarry is primarily game birds. Included are the pointers, setters, retrievers, and spaniels. Pointers stand with nose and body rigidly still in front of their quarry, thus directing the hunter to its location. The setters were originally trained to set, or crouch, in front of game, the hunter then making the capture with a net. As bird shooting became popular, setters were trained to point. Retrievers find and return killed game to the hunter. Land spaniels spring, or flush, game, i.e., they startle a bird from its cover into flight. Water spaniels and many retrievers are especially equipped, as with a water-repellent coat and webbed feet, for retrieving downed waterfowl. The following breeds are designated sporting dogs by the American Kennel Club: American water spaniel, Brittany spaniel, Chesapeake Bay retriever, clumber spaniel, cocker spaniel, curly-coated retriever, English cocker spaniel, English setter, English springer spaniel, field spaniel, flat-coated retriever, German shorthaired pointer, German wirehaired pointer, golden retriever, Gordon setter, Irish setter, Irish water spaniel, Labrador retriever, pointer, Sussex spaniel, Vizsla, Weimaraner, Welsh springer spaniel, and wirehaired pointing griffon. See dog.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.