Exploring the three most popular bird dog breeds of the Project Upland community
There’s no better way to incite a riot in the bird dog world than to talk about breed favorites. That’s why we do our best to cover all breeds and keep our personal preferences and opinions to ourselves. This article, however, is based on our community survey to see what the most popular bird dogs are amongst our upland world. There certainly remains a level of bias as Project Upland is a very new brand, our beginnings forged in the North Woods of grouse hunters — a factor most certainly contributing to the number one most popular breed in our community.
Number One – The English Setter
The North Woods has a fascination with Ripley paintings, George Bird Evans, and many glaring cultural norms when it comes to the grouse woods. That has contributed greatly to the popularity of the English setter around our community. The exact number, 20.58 percent, of the dog owning community inside Project Upland owns an English setter.
The English setter has a long history in bird dog development. Artwork dating back to the 15th century depicts what many people believe to be the earliest days of the breed. The original mixing of bloodlines according to the AKC includes the Spanish pointer, the large water spaniel, and the springer spaniel. The term setter, as you might expect, was adapted from the word “set” which reflects how the breed would lay or set when they located game birds.
The modern version of the breed is traced to the early 1800s when Edward Laverack of England developed what most believe is the modern show breed. More noticeable in the bird dog community is the name R. LL. Purcell Llewellin, also from England, who would use part of the bloodline developed by Laverack to produce the sporting version of the breed. Hence the “Llewellin setter” (sometimes called “Llewellyn”) which, though some will gladly debate, is still considered an English setter.
Another popular bloodline in the English setter lineage would pop up in the United States in connection with George Ryman, creator of the “Ryman setter.” Hoping to avoid being stoned to death, I will not try to spell out the key characteristics that make up the Ryman setter, but merely point you in the right direction for credible information on the subject: “The Real Ryman Setter: A History With Stories from the Appalachian Grouse Covers” by Walt Lesser. This version of the breed was specifically developed for ruffed grouse hunting. And as mentioned before, since Project Upland had its early beginnings in the grouse community, this is a key factor in this breed coming out on top.
Number Two – The German Shorthaired Pointer
If I’d had to make a guess before conducting this survey, I would have placed my money on the German shorthaired pointer as being the most popular bird dog breed in the community. And at 19.81 percent, they were pretty close to beating out the English setter. According to a recent post by the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), “ . . . there are currently more German shorthaired Pointers registered with NAVHDA than any other breed” — 5827 to be exact since 2014. Before I venture too deeply into the German shorthaired world, I would like to mention that the English setter is also recognized as a versatile breed in NAVHDA, a fact often missed.
The German shorthaired pointer is a much younger breed when compared to the English setter. Recognized by the AKC in 1930, many say the breed first developed in the 1800s, though the concept of German bird dogs dates back to the 1700s. These were the days when the idea of a versatile hunting dog became popular instead of keeping many specialty breeds. The German testing for these dogs is still very much in line with that theory, including portions of the test for rabbit and ducks on top of game birds.
Number Three – The Labrador Retriever
The Labrador retriever is the number one most popular dog in America. Not in the hunting dog world — in the world of all dogs. In our bird dog community, they came in at number three at 14.53 percent. The English setter did not make the top 10 list of most popular dogs in America; however, the German shorthaired came in at number nine. Because of the mainstream popularity of this breed, there tends to be a lot of controversy surrounding the purity and standards inside the hunting community. Just say “Silver Lab” inside a room full of Labrador owners and you may not make it out of the room alive.
Developed from the St. John’s water dog, its key characteristics are based around pulling fishing nets and ropes and retrieving fish. Their popularity stretches not just through the bird dog world but also across the world of waterfowl as incredible retrievers, by nature.
One must question that their popularity in the greater bird dog breed world would likely bring them to rank number one had Project Upland origins been built around pheasant hunting. And it is still an incredible breed even for the ruffed grouse as can be seen in the latest Ruffed Grouse Society film, “Flushing Grouse.” They own a special place in all the sporting dog world, no matter what the game.
Other Popular Bird Dog Breeds
As curiosity I’m sure is killing many of us, we must wonder where other popular bird dog breeds landed in our survey. The American Brittany came in at fourth place at 10.99 percent. The English springer spaniel placed fifth place at 4.38 percent. The last five slots (of the top ten) are held in the order of the wirehaired pointing griffon, drahthaar, vizsla, pointer and the golden retriever.
We will certainly revisit this concept in the future to witness the changing tides of bird dog breed popularity in an ever-evolving community.
Last modified: February 10, 2020