Lap Dogs for Longtails? Small Dogs Will Work for Big, Bad Roosters

“It’s not the size of dog in the fight…” the old saying begins, but the concept doesn’t carry much weight with a certain segment of wingshots, to whom bigger dogs are automatically more capable pheasant hunters. “Are you sure that dog will be big enough to carry a rooster?” If I had a dog biscuit for each time someone’s asked me that about my first bird dog, a not-even 25-pound English cocker spaniel, “Sprig” would be set with treats for life.
Surely some other “small” (a relative term if there ever was one) dog owners feel my pain, like the owner of “Gretchen,” the 21-pound female French Brittany who stopped by the Pheasants Forever booth at the recent Game Fair event. “That dog will carry a pheasant?” a fellow attendee asked the master of the two-year-old pointing dog. I bet they get that a lot…
For all its gaudiness, a big ringneck rooster checks in at all of three pounds, with more than 20 inches of its length contained in its tail. In other words, small working breeds will have no problem showing who the field boss is. The following breeds all check in at 35 pounds or less, perfectly sized and suited for the field, home, truck, lap…and in my case, bed.
American Water Spaniel – The “Townhouse Chessie” is something of a one-man dog, which could work out great if you’re a one-dog man.
Beagle – Not normally thought of as a bird dog, but search “beagle pheasant hunting” online and you’ll find enough evidence to the contrary.
Boykin Spaniel – Notoriously good for working in hot weather, which means no problem when the heat of your gun barrel has it raining southern quail or big ol’ roosters.
Cocker Spaniel – The bluegill of bird dogs, the smallest of the American Kennel Club’s sporting breeds is regarded by some as pound for pound the toughest gun dog.
English Cocker Spaniel – Have deservingly acquired the nickname “Pocket Rocket”: “Pocket” for their size, “Rocket” for their drive.
French Brittany – If you ever want to insult a French Brittany owner, just call their dog a “Brittany.” If you ever want a close-working pointing dog, consider the Epagneul Breton.
Jack Russell Terrier – Longtime Pheasants Forever magazine contributor, photographer Mitch Kezar, hunts a Jack Russell on pheasants, with much success. It’s always a good idea to trust the guy behind the lens.
Read more in the “My First Bird Dog” series here.
Anthony’s Antics Afield is written by Anthony Hauck, Pheasants Forever’s Online Editor. Email Anthony at and follow him on Twitter @AnthonyHauckPF.