Throughout the world, there are more than 400 purebred dogs. However, the American Kennel Club only recognizes and accepts breeds with a lineage, as well as those with an active breed group to perpetuate and develop the breed. For that reason, the AKC does not recognize many breeds. Once recognized by the AKC, the breed appears in the AKC Stud Book. Each breed is placed in a specific category, based on temperament, physical appearance and function.
When the American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 (then called the Philadelphia Kennel Club), it haphazardly listed its original 29 different breeds. Breeds as different as the dachshund and the mastiff were lumped together on the list.
As the list of purebreds slowly grew, club officials realized they needed to organize the many different purebreds into distinct groups. In 1923, the AKC organized the breeds into five categories: Sporting Dogs (including hounds), Working Dogs, Toy Breeds, Terriers and Non-sporting Dogs.
Today, there are 163 breeds divided into eight categories: Sporting, Hound, Herding, Toy, Working, Terrier, Non-sporting and Miscellaneous.
The Sporting Breed group of dogs is primarily composed of dogs used to hunt birds. Some work as gun dogs and others excel in water. Most breeds alert the hunter to the presence of game as well as retrieving the game once it is incapacitated. Regardless if these dogs are used to hunt or not, they require daily exercise.
The Sporting Breed group of dogs includes:
American cocker spaniel. The popular cocker with his curly hair and sad eyes is a good choice for a companion. Needing basic exercise, the American cocker usually spends his days lounging and waiting for his owner's return and isn't often found hunting.
American water spaniel. Developed in the Midwestern United States, the American water spaniel readily retrieves game from the water. Tracking by scent, the water spaniel springs game instead of pointing.
Brittany. Developed in France, the Brittany was originally called a spaniel but actually works like a setter. One of the best bird dogs, the Brittany is a good shooting dog and can be a great companion.
Chesapeake bay retriever. One of two sporting breeds to have been developed in the United States, the Chessie was developed as a great water dog. A strong dog, the Chessie is known for his devotion to his family and natural water retrieval instincts.
Clumber spaniel. The clumber is one of the largest of the spaniels. With a large head and lots of wrinkles, the clumber has been mistaken for a dwarf Saint Bernard.
Curly coated retriever. This retriever is a hardy dog that loves water. His thick coat gives him protection from the harshest weather and he is a faithful and devoted hunting companion.
English cocker spaniel. More popular as a hunting dog than the American cocker, the English cocker is a land spaniel, eager to please.
English springer spaniel. One of the most popular hunting dogs, the English springer is quick and obedient. Excelling in field trials, this dog is often used to hunt birds.
English setter. Thought by many hunters as the ultimate hunter's companion, the English setter is a beautiful and intelligent breed. Their natural hunting instinct makes them better suited for active country life than city life.
Field spaniel. Most often black, the field spaniel is a sturdy and hardy dog. Intelligent and persistent, this dog is willing to do anything.
Flat-coated retriever. Often confused with the Labrador retriever, the flat-coated retriever has longer hair. With a natural love of water, the flat-coat is a not as popular as other sporting breeds but performs well.
German shorthaired pointer. An all-purpose dog, the German shorthaired pointer is a versatile hunter. A loyal and obedient breed, he is a favorite among hunters.
German wirehaired pointer. Often confused with the German wirehaired pointing griffon, the German wirehaired pointer does well on land and in the water. The wiry haircoat is weather resistant and even somewhat water resistant.
Golden retriever. As one of the most popular breeds, the golden retriever is an excellent family pet and is also a good hunting companion. Excellent on land and in the water, the golden is a versatile, intelligent and useful breed.
Gordon setter. Originally from Scotland, the Gordon resembles a black and tan version of the Irish setter. Great as a gun dog, the Gordon is also a good family pet.
Irish setter. The Irish setter is a beautiful, friendly, energetic dog. Originally used to hunt fowl, the Irish setter is now more often found as a companion.
Irish water spaniel. Even though he may look like the clown of the spaniel family, the Irish water spaniel is the tallest spaniel and a great water dog.
Italian Spinone. A versatile hunting dog, the Italian spinone's eyes give the dog an eerily sweet human expression. With a thick wiry haircoat, the spinone is not your typical looking dog.
Labrador retriever. Similar to the golden retriever, the lab always tops the list of most popular dogs. This breeds loves to be outside and needs plenty of exercise. A dependable and loyal dog, the Lab is a great gun dog and retriever.
Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. Also known as tollers, these dogs were bred to lure ducks into a trap or into gunshot range. Intelligent and hard working, these dogs do well on land and in the water.
Irish red and white setter. The Irish red and white setter is a beautiful, friendly, energetic dog. Originally used to hunt.
Sussex spaniel. His lack of speed is countered by his excellent nose. Though not very popular in the United States, the Sussex spaniel is still used in England as a retriever.
Vizsla. Also known as the Hungarian pointer, the vizsla is a multi-purpose, swift and quiet hunter.
Weimaraner. Called the gray ghost, the Weimaraner is thought to be one of the best gun dogs.
Welsh springer spaniel. An excellent water dog, the Welsh springer spaniel is bigger than a cocker and smaller than the English springer.
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. This uncommon dog is known as the "old hunter's bird dog" since he will often run to the field and frequently return to check on his owner's progress.