There is no doubt about the single most important animal to aid man in his pursuit of food: Canis familiaris (the domestic dog). Although some horse lovers out there may think our equine companions have assisted mankind for longer, the origin of the hunting dog dates back some 20,000 years, while the domestication of the horse did not occur until around 4,000 BCE. While modern man has lost sight of the concern for survival, and forgotten historic hunting skills and traditions, an ancient hunter’s life depended on his hunting success.
For millennia, men have relied upon dogs to hunt for food, shelter, and clothing. Around 9,000 years ago, during the domestication of livestock, the dog’s role shifted from that of strictly hunting, to herding and protecting, beginning man’s venture of selectively breeding his best friend to fit specific working needs. Since that time, the dog has always had a purpose. Over time, as fast-developing agriculture and industrialization diminished man’s focus on the harvesting of wild game for survival, reliance on the hunting dog also waned. Hunting became a pastime, often kept as merely a familial tradition, and substantially fewer dogs were used as working animals.
As important as man’s role as provider is to his family and his own well-being, a deeper understanding and connection to nature is crucial to his development and success as a hunter. Fostering relationships between man and beast can enlighten every hunter to his place in the circle of life and the significance of harvesting a living creature. Working dogs are not for everyone, and may not be for every hunter, but there are few things more gratifying to an outdoorsman as developing a channel of communication with an animal and experiencing it enjoy and strive to fulfill your needs.