A History of Sporting Dog Trends

A Short History of Sporting Dog Trends in the 20th Century. Most great campfire debates will never be settled, but for now, the case is closed on an old favorite: Which breed makes the best hunting dog? The (registered) numbers don’t lie, and earlier this year the American Kennel Club named the Labrador retriever the most popular purebred in the country—for the 26th year running. Now, those numbers don’t specify the best sporting dog, but they are a good indicator. Here’s a look at a few of the breeds OL favored back in the day, long before the Lab was crowned—for now—king. Top Dogs Although the American cocker spaniel reigned from 1936 to 1952 at the top of AKC’s charts, OL had its own ideas. He also named three up-and-comers: the English springer spaniel, German short-haired pointer, and Lab. As best as we can tell, the only OL staffer who openly admitted to owning poorly trained dogs was Pat McManus. In a 2006 column, “Man’s Worst Friend,” McManus reminisced about a string of subpar dogs, including the infamous mutt Strange. “I won’t go into detail about his bad habits,” he wrote, “but if he had been human, he would have been arrested in most states.” The Dangers of Denouncing a Breed “If I were foolhardy enough to intimate that any one of the 37 bowwows I’ve mentioned was anything but an ideal house and street dog, 67 owners and operators of that particular breed would form a posse, stand me up against the nearest stone wall, and shoot me at sunrise.
november 1951 cover outdoor life magazine
The November 1951 issue of Outdoor Life.

Most great campfire debates will never be settled, but for now, the case is closed on an old favorite: Which breed makes the best hunting dog? The (registered) numbers don’t lie, and earlier this year the American Kennel Club named the Labrador retriever the most popular purebred in the country—for the 26th year running. Now, those numbers don’t specify the best sporting dog, but they are a good indicator. Here’s a look at a few of the breeds OL favored back in the day, long before the Lab was crowned—for now—king.

outdoor life magazine cover 1936
Outdoor Life’s cover for the March 1936 issue.

Top Dogs

Although the American cocker spaniel reigned from 1936 to 1952 at the top of AKC’s charts, OL had its own ideas….

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