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  • Writer's pictureDennis Hammett

Bitch or Dog?

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

As breeder of field dogs I’m faced with the unwelcome trend in puppy selection: a skewing of demand toward bitch puppies. It’s at least a 2:1 ratio and nature cannot be adjusted to that ratio.

“The bitch, also, is held by many, especially the old timers, to be possessed of more of the instinctive cunning…better able to cope with the wariness of the grouse she hunts.” The bitch is normally smaller and by the same token neater afoot than the dog is supposed to be.”

“New England Grouse Shooting” by William Harden Foster, 1942

Although male/female combinations of dogs usually generate less conflict, social harmony in the canine world, as in the human one, can result as much from putting the right basic mixture of personalities together as opposed to just sexes.

It was is headwork which made him specially superior. I have seen a number of high-class bitches, but I never saw one exhibit those feats of intelligence as in dogs. I say without hesitation that I never saw a bitch which developed first-class head-work and few of them train on.

“The Sporting Dog” by Joseph A Graham, 1904

The preceding are two distinctly different opinions by experts of field dogs. And of course upland hunters generally have a preference for either a female or a male. So which has the advantage: bitch or dog?

In contrast to male dogs, bitches can appear to have many assets. They are generally more amenable to training, more focused on their owners, more tolerant of young children and less inclined to want to investigate or size up every dog they spot when they are out.

Bitches can also have some less desirable habits of their own. They can be far worse scavengers than male dogs and more prone to coprophagia (or feces eating). They can also suffer more extreme phobic behaviors, particularly after spaying. Females can be the mistress of the dramatic sigh, and the frequent sulkers; and are more prone toward “separation anxiety” and jealousy.

I am rarely asked which is the superior field performer.

When I am, my answer is:


Here’s why: Testosterone.

The males have 10 to 30 times the level of testosterone than females. The testes produce it at puberty and a lot more then the ovaries and the adrenal glands of females. And the higher levels of T during pubertal growth cause an increase physical attributes to contribute to greater athleticism, stamina and endurance.

Those physical attributes include power generation, aerobic power, body composition and fuel utilization. Compared to females, males have greater lean body mass (more skeletal muscle and less fat), larger hearts (both in absolute terms and scaled to lean body mass), higher cardiac outputs, larger hemoglobin mass, larger VO2 max (i.e. an animal’s ability to take in oxygen), greater glycogen utilization, and higher anaerobic capacity.


The result of this differential is the performance gap between males and females that justifies the existence of a women’s category in competitive sports. That gap typically extends to 10-12%. 

And animal sports such as horse racing also recognize this difference, generally separating fillies from colts: “fillies cannot run with colts’ is the mantra around the track.

I know there can be a difference in temperament and it can make a difference around the house and for a light pleasure hunter any noticeable difference would be small. But hardcore, diehard, upland hunters that spend a great deal time in the field, sometimes in difficult terrain will benefit from fielding the “boys”.

That’s not an opinion, but scientific fact.

Jornada Brother Ron

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