Anyone who has played, or plans to play, a Hunter in Classic WoW has inevitably searched for this question. I know I did – a lot.
Nobody wants to put time into something, in this case a Hunter pet, and find out they made a poor choice. It’s understandable.
I’m going to chat about what I’ve discovered regarding the best Hunter pets and share my experiences to help you make the best decision.
Hunter Pet Basics
You first need to understand there are 3 types of pets in Classic WoW: defensive, offensive, and general.
Each type of pet fills a particular role. Your defensive pet will have higher armor and health than your offensive pet. The offensive pet will have higher damage compared to the defensive one. The general pet will fall in between both of those.
There is a great site called Petopia that covers pretty much anything you need to know regarding pets (that’s the Classic WoW version). That site will show you all tamable pets, give you break downs, and let you make some really informed decisions. I highly suggest going through it if you haven’t.
Petopia also has a TBC version of their site which includes the new pets and pet abilities.
Oh. I have a pet naming tool if you’re looking for something like that.
Anyway, my goal in this article isn’t to explain pets to you because odds are you know the basics. You’re here for a very specific question and that’s what I plan to answer.
What is the Best Hunter Pet for Classic WoW?
The answer is whatever pet you want. Every single pet in the game has a use in all situations. Some pets will perform a job better than others, but those same pets will perform worse in other situations. It’s a balance. Find a pet you like the looks of and let it be your best friend.
That’s an unpopular opinion with those who want to maximize everything but I stand by it.
Your pet is such an integral part of the Hunter class and you should not let anyone tell you what pet you should have. Never. Try out all the pets you’re interested in, like I did, and make an informed decision for yourself. You might find yourself enjoying a pet you had disregarded before.
Below I will try and break this out from Classic WoW and Classic TBC as there are some changes (including new pets) that will alter their value in each game.
My Favorite Pets Ranked
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t rank the ones I’ve tried, just in case you’re curious. This is based entirely off of my experience and preference. Here it is in alphabetical order.
I also have a rating based on whether you’re deep Beast Mastery (BM) or Marksmanship/Survival (MM/S) as your talents will have an impact on a pet’s viability.
Also, I’m going to include ratings for the things so many people overlook but are very important: animations (Anim.) and sounds. If you hate the sounds your pet makes, then you’re going to go nuts. If the combat animations for your pet are boring, then that can impact your fun and motivation to use that pet.
In short if the pet isn’t visually appealing, and the sounds bother you, then it doesn’t matter how great a pet it is if you don’t enjoy using it. This is of course my opinion on animations and sound, which is subjective to my own preferences.
Diet is something I’m going to rate as well. How easy or expensive it is to feed your pet is something to consider.
I should also note that these ratings are in regards to leveling and farming. When it comes to dungeons you can use anything you want really, though high DPS pets are preferred. Raids are another matter too, but generally you’re looking at cats, wolves, and wind serpents there.
Now, of those in that list here’s my recommendations. Any of those ranked 10 (BM or MM/S) would be my suggested pets for each respective talent build.
Anything that’s a 9 (BM or MM/S) would be a good choice too but will require a bit more work, be it slower grinding (no Dash/Dive), or they aren’t as good at holding threat so you need to be more careful. Still solid pets.
Anything that’s an 8 (BM or MM/S) would be good in certain situations, like a gorilla for farming dungeons, or maybe a scorpion for soloing elites.
Below an 8 (BM or MM/S) are pets that are still perfectly viable but just don’t offer anything special. That’s of course fine. If you like those pets because of how they look then go for it.
Then you have the rankings for the quality of life elements I added with an overall average with the talent side. While not crucial information to every Hunter out there, I know some (like myself) do care about that stuff so it’s there should you want it.
If you’d like more information on each pet that I’ve tried (those listed above), then below you’ll find my explanations.
My Experience as a Hunter
I have played a hunter to 60 on a private server, raided with said Hunter, as well as done a ton of battlegrounds with him. I’m no professional but I’ve got a lot of experience.
I’m also not a harcore min/maxer, so my opinion and choices here are not going to suit those of you who are. I’ll be honest and give you the chance to back out now.
I am here for those Hunter players who want the best pet they can have. There’s a subtle distinction there, but suffice to say I cater to a more casual audience because that’s the type of player I am. My game enjoyment does not derive from pushing DPS meters, so I have no interest in pursuing the most optimal setups in anything with WoW.
Below is my experience with the pets I’ve tamed and used, be it on my Orc Hunter on the private server, or my Dwarf Hunter in Classic WoW. It does not cover every pet, as I’ve not tried them all (though I do update this as I do).
That’s another difference you’ll find with this guide over others – I have actually tested these pets. Most guides come from people who look at it on paper and they have never actually used the pets. Playing with a pet for a few days will give you some insights you can’t get otherwise.
I’ve included the base stats for each pet. These are the modifiers to health, armor, and damage. For example, a cat has a damage modifier of 1.10 where a wolf is 1.00. This means the cat does 10% more damage than a wolf.
The list is in alphabetical order.
Note: We’re coming into The Burning Crusade and I’m sure folks are after pets for that. Anything I’ve said below remains true, however, TBC includes some new pets. I have never played TBC so I can’t speak on those pets just yet but I will once we’re in there.
Bats and owls are identical except that bats get Bite where owls get Claw. Since I already wrote a bunch on owls, just follow that link to bounce down to them for more info.
Mechanics aside, I will say that I really like the bat animations for flying. The bat animations for movement has gliding where the carrion bird and owl are always flapping around. It makes the bat a less obnoxious flying pet to have in that regard.
However, bats are huge. These things will take up a lot of your screen so be warned.
Many of you reading this I’m sure saw the opening cinematic with the Dwarf Hunter and his bear pet. It is an image forever stuck in my mind.
You never hear about Hunters taking about bears though. You hear about cats, wind serpents, owls, and boars. That’s about it.
The reason for this, as I know, is that bears lack a special pet family ability. Cats get Prowl and Dash, wind serpents get Lightning Breath, owls get Screech, gorillas get Thunderstomp, and boars get Charge.
The bear doesn’t offer anything unique. Plus, it’s a defensive pet, which many will tell you is bad to level with.
Also, as a defensive pet you don’t have optimal DPS in dungeons and raids. Your pet isn’t tanking when you’re running a 5-man dungeon or raiding. That means those defensive abilities are wasted – it’s not being hit. Now you have a pet with subpar DPS.
I tried a bear out with my 60 Orc Hunter questing and doing some dungeons. I had just tamed one of the ones in Winterspring.
I had no complaints about its performance. A Cat would have offered more DPS, but it’s not as though the bear’s DPS is so bad it’s seriously detrimental.
When I rolled my Dwarf Hunter for Classic WoW, I decided to start with a bear. I got myself a bear and named him Cuddles.
I eventually got rid of Cuddles as I leveled up. Then at 60 I picked up a bear again for funsies and enjoyed it. I have no real complaints about bears as pets and think they’ll suit any Hunter out there.
At one point on my 60 Orc Hunter I decided I wanted to try boars out for PVP. The famed Charge ability seemed too good to pass up. I had begun to realize in PVP that pets are either CC’d by those that can or ignored by those that have the armor and health to. By getting a boar with Charge I would at least have a pet that could do something before becoming nearly useless.
That’s pretty much how it played out too. That little angry boar would root down people with its Charge and prove useful. You also can’t go wrong with a pet that literally eats anything in the game.
Now, in Classic WoW at level 31 I tamed the Rotting Agam’ar from Razorfen Downs. I had been leveling up with my bear Cuddles from 10 until then but realized I needed a change, which I’ll discuss more below.
There is a reason that boars are a highly recommended leveling pet. Their Charge ability lets them get into combat faster, plus it adds a nice root for 1 second. Between that, the initial Bite, and Growl, a boar is great at holding aggro.
Boars are also an excellent tanking pet.
I wanted to see what other pets were good at holding threat. I was not disappointed with the carrion bird.
Using a carrion bird with Screech works very well to hold threat. The threat holding ability is on par with an owl or bat, so tied for the best pet for holding aggro.
You could get the carrion bird the Bite skill as well but I find it’s not needed. Bite will up the DPS a bit but also reduce how often it can Screech, and it’s with Screech that it holds threat very, very well.
It’s also a generalist pet, so it takes hits well and puts out respectable damage. Some feel it’s the best option of the Screech pets because it maximizes the lowered attack power of the enemy in the sense that the carrion bird has the higher armor to be really tanky.
To that end, a carrion bird does make a very good tank yet. It doesn’t have the health pool of a bear, or the armor of a scorpid, but it’s fast (Dive), has average damage (unlike a traditional tank yet) to keep threat, and has Screech to lower attack power, allowing it to take hits.
So, if you want a great generalist pet that leans into the tanky side of things without giving up much damage, then do consider getting one of these.
Personally, I think carrion birds are ugly and it’s the only reason I don’t currently have one stabled.
Cats are arguably (and there’s lots of them – arguments) the highest DPS pet you can tame. They have a higher base damage than any other pets barring raptors, and you can get them with very fast attack speeds, which is great for PVP and caster pushback.
Of course, cats don’t take a hit as well as say a bear or boar, but the best defense is a good offense, right?
It can be a bit of struggle with a cat if you get 2-3 mobs at once but it’s doable.
I have always enjoyed using cats as a Hunter. They have my favorite aesthetic of all the pets in the game. I’m just a sucker for a cougar, lion, panther, etc.
This is a very important point too – how your pet looks. If you’re spending potentially 50 levels with something, and all that time after, do you really want a pet you can’t stand the look off because it’s marginally better than another pet? The answer is always a resounding no from me.
Just as I won’t create a character that I think looks hideous (sorry Troll but your model is terrible), I won’t run around with a pet that I do not enjoy looking at.
So, yes, I’ve always enjoyed using cats with my Hunter because they look awesome and they have great damage. However, I have never tamed Broken Tooth. Yep. You heard me. The best pet for PVP for Hunters (arguably) is not one I have ever bothered taming.
First, I do not care for the Broken Tooth model. Second, I feel that fast pets in PVP are vastly overrated but I’ll cover that more below.
Gorillas fall into the general pet family (though technically listed as defensive). Their health and damage are a bit above average and their armor low.
They have a unique pet family ability with Thunderstomp which is an AE attack. While the AE attack is nice, it’s on a 60 second timer. So, it’s not something you’ll use in every fight.
However, Thunderstomp is a hard hitting attack when you can use it and it’s great at holding threat on multiple mobs at once. Also, if you pull threat from a gorilla, then use Thunderstomp and your pet is almost guaranteed to pull back threat. It’s a nice safety measure – kinda like an on demand taunt.
I really enjoy the Gorilla. The damage is better than you’d expect and it holds up well in fights, much better than a cat. It’s one of those pets that’s just deceiving as it performs better than you’d think on paper.
Also, I just find they’re good looking pets. I’m picky. I want my pets to look cool, sound cool, and have nice fight animations, and the gorilla checks all those boxes for me.
All-in-all it’s a great pet. The diet of fruit and fungus is annoying though.
I definitely recommend a Gorilla.
My research on pets for Hunters lead me to deciding to tame an owl. The Screech ability, as I mentioned with the carrion bird, was touted as amazing since it’s an AE debuff that reduces attack power. This means the pet will take less damage, give a group debuff, and have the ability to generate threat on multiple targets. A win-win, right?
Let’s just say I was impressed. The Screech ability generates a fair amount of threat. If the Owl gets a few mobs on it, then you can fire off Multi-Shot (after a few Screeches) and not pull the mobs off it.
I know some Hunters will say that if your pet has more than one mob on it that something went wrong. They might be right but it happens, and having a pet that can fight multiple mobs and hold threat on multiple mobs is a boon for sure.
I know there’s a lot of hype around Owls and it’s for good reason. They really do make a great pet.
I was honestly pretty impressed with the scorpid as a pet. The damage is low, but not as low as a boar, and the armor is high with medium health. The Claw ability, coupled with Scorpid Poison, gave for some reasonable damage output on a defensive pet. This thing could take a hit, fight 2-3 mobs easily, and do reasonable damage.
I eventually got rid of my scorpid while leveling and later tried one out again in PVP to see what I thought.
I continued to like the scorpid, but there is a potential issue that arises with the Scorpid Poison. You’re unable to Feign Death and Freezing Trap because the poison breaks the trap, or even Scatter Shot – same issue. Even if you don’t PVP, those are two staple abilities in a Hunter’s toolkit.
I don’t feel this is crippling or a deal-breaker for the scorpid but it is something you have to consider.
On the positive side, the low sleek profile of the scorpid meant that it went undetected compared to a typical cat or wind serpent in PVP. Pets are often ignored in PVP anyway, but the scorpid gets ignored more than any other pet I’ve taken into a BG.
The Scorpid remains one of my favorite pets.
In my personal pursuit for the best Hunter pet I tamed a wind serpent. I loved that it has Lightning Breath and was an offensive pet, which suited my Beast Mastery spec very well.
Really, it checked all the boxes I had for a pet except for one thing – the look. I just don’t care for the look of Wind Serpents. It’s a snake with wings. Just not for me.
That being said, it was a great offensive pet. Lightning Breath was far more devastating than I thought it would be.
One thing that does bug me about the wind serpents is how they engage mobs. When you send a wind serpent to attack it will stop 20 yards from the mob and Lightning Breath. It will then continue moving and then taunt.
Now, any other pet will engage the mob in melee, and Growl. Here’s why that’s important, to me at least. The way I play is I send in my pet. When it’s about halfway to the mob I will start Auto Shot. Typically that’s one hit on the mob before my pet gets there. The pet arrives, Growls, gets aggro, and I can start my rotation.
With the wind serpent it would stop to cast Lightning Breath, the mob would start getting beyond my pet, Growl would go off, and pull the mob back a bit. However, at this point the mob is in my dead zone and I need to back up to fire.
See, if the mob is say 41 yards out (Hawk Eye talent) and I send in a wind serpent. I start my Auto Shot a few seconds later. The mob is say around the 30 yard mark as this point. The wind serpent stops at 10 yards out (20 yards from the mob) to Lightning Breath. The mob is still moving and goes past the pet. Growl, mob pulls back some, but it’s in that 8 yard range for the dead zone.
Just something you should know. With all other pets they will continue to the mob and catch them, Growl, and gain aggro immediately. Not a wind serpent.
You would micro manage Lightning Breath and take it off auto-cast to avoid this but that’s not something I feel like doing in every single fight.
Now, in PVP this isn’t an issue, or for raiding, but for PVE and leveling it’s very much a concern.
You gotta try wolves, right?
The big reason people think wolves are amazing raiding pets and dungeon pets is because of Furious Howl. While it’s a nice ability, don’t get me wrong, it shouldn’t be the reason you get a wolf.
Overall, wolves are great pets. They fall into the generalist category and they are middle of the road for everything. I find they’re a great fit for any Hunter because of this. Enough damage to keep threat and take down targets quick enough, and enough health and armor to deal with multiple mobs.
Wolves do have an only meat diet, which is annoying, but meat isn’t the hardest thing to get either.
If you want a pet that works in any situation (solo, dungeons, and raids), then pick yourself up a wolf. PVP is the only area where I’d say you’re better off with another pet, but that’s why we have 3 stable slots after all 🙂
The Pet Reality
I’ve mentioned some of this above, but I’ll cover it more here.
There’s a few areas that Hunters concern themselves with as far as a pet goes: PVE (questing + dungeons), PVP, and raiding.
For PVE you can pick any pet you like. It’s really that simple.
Pet attack speed doesn’t matter for PVE, and whether it’s offensive, defensive, or general is largely a moot point. Each type of pet has its advantages and disadvantages.
However, your spec as a Hunter will play a role in the type of pet that synergizes well with you.
A good leveling pet is going to come down to your talents.
Beast Mastery will give you a pet that has more defense and offense regardless of the type of pet. You could choose to take a cat and maximize DPS while gaining better defense. You could take that bear and up its DPS and really push the maximum health and armor it already has good values for.
Beast Mastery simply makes any pet better. With Beast Mastery you can take any pet you like and never run into issues. It was a very rare day that as a BM Hunter I pulled aggro off my pet.
A common practice is to get a pet with a fast attack speed. In Beast Mastery you’re going to pick up Frenzy, which gives your pet an attack speed increase whenever it crits. With a pet that has a fast attack speed you are getting more chances to crit and in turn trigger Frenzy. A fast attack speed pet can keep Frenzy up pretty consistently during a fight.
For pet’s with fast attack speeds I would suggest checking this list out on Petopia. There’s the pets you always hear about, but this list includes everything so you might find an alternative that suits you.
Now, while you could use a defensive pet for leveling, because you should use whatever you want, kill speed is going to suffer. I tried out defensive pets as a BM Hunter and despite all the improved pet damage abilities, the kill speed was horrendously slow.
As BM you need your pet to do damage. You, as a Hunter, do not have strong damage output. With your weaker attacks you need your pet to compensate for your lack of damage.
If your Survival and/or Marksmanship then, as mentioned above, you’re relying less on your pet for damage. Your pet’s job is to hold aggro while you do the damage. This was the issue I started running into with my bear pet on my Marksmanship/Survival spec Dwarf Hunter.
By level 30 I had Aimed Shot, 5 points into Lethal Shot (+5% crit) and Mortal Shots (+30% crit damage). I found myself constantly pulling threat off my bear pet. Hell, at 30 my white damage would crit for 250+ and kept pulling aggro.
My bear just wasn’t cutting it. At 31 I got myself a boar, Rotting Agam’ar. That had alleviated most of my issues with aggro.
As mentioned previously, the boar will Charge, Growl, and Bite, which all causes a significant amount of threat. Also, because the boar doesn’t have Claw, it always has focus for Growl, so no issues missing any Growls.
Now, the problem with the Boar is long-term. The aggro is front-loaded, so you start getting crits and you’ll pull threat.
I eventually traded my boar in and did some testing. Long story short, I have found that pets with Screech (owls, carrion birds, and bats) are the best at holding threat – period. You only need Growl and Screech and those pets will hold threat through nearly anything, including Multi-shot when they’re fighting multiple mobs.
Pets that only have Bite or Claw are subject to losing threat when those crits of yours roll in. You can certainly use those pets, I did for the longest time, but you have to dial back your DPS to not pull threat from them.
My tip for MM/Survival Hunters and pets is to avoid draining focus to 0. With the high damage that you’re putting out you can’t afford to have your pet miss a Growl. A single missed Growl usually means threat is lost by your pet and the mob is coming to you.
You will hear Hunters talking about focus dump abilities. These are things that use up the pet’s focus so it’s not sitting on unspent focus. The idea being focus not used is damage not done and thus not maximizing your pet’s DPS.
That’s great for a BM Hunter but less practical if you’re not. I typically use Bite and Growl on auto cast – that’s it. My pet won’t run out of focus and miss a Growl. Sure, my pet is doing less damage, but I’m doing more damage and spending less mana by not having to reduce my threat on a mob because my pet lost it.
The exception to this is pets with Screech. The Screech ability generates threat on top of doing damage and debuffing. If you use Growl + Screech, then you’ll likely never pull threat off your pet.
For PVP, you guessed it, use whatever you want. I know all the rage is that 1.0 attack speed, but I can assure you it’s not required for PVP. Faster attack speeds create pushback on caster, making it harder (nearly impossible at times) to cast spells. This is very beneficial of course.
Here’s the reality. A Mage is going to Sheep or Frost Nova your pet, Warlocks will Fear, Priests will Psychic Scream or Shield, Druids will Hibernate, and fellow Hunters will Scare Beast. Let’s see, a Warrior may Hamstring your pet but likely just ignore it, a Shaman Earthbind, and a Paladin will generally ignore the pet (tons of armor).
All the spell pushback in the world is worthless if your pet isn’t hitting the enemy because it got CC’d.
In PVP your pet is a nuisance to most people and not a real threat. While going Beast Mastery will jack up your pet, and Bestial Wrath will prevent it being CC’d, it’s not a game-changer. I played a lot of BGs as Beast Mastery and found myself really disappointed with just how weak my pet was in that setting. That’s when I switched to a Marksmanship/Survival spec and found that way more enjoyable for PVP.
My point isn’t the spec though, just the realization that your pet in PVP has minimal use.
My opinion for PVP is to find a pet that serves a goal, whatever that goal is for you. Like I said, I liked the boar for the Charge ability in PVP. Rooting down players, even if just for a second, did something useful.
Having a pet with Dash or Dive to chase down WSG flag carriers is a good goal. Using a gorilla’s Thunderstomp in a cluster of enemies players can be fun.
Maybe you just want a pet that can take a hit and be a thorn in the enemy’s side like a scorpid with its poison. A wind serpent is a good choice too since Lightning Breath ignores armor and there’s no shortage of Warriors around, plus it’s a ranged attack.
Realize that most of PVP is going to be on you and not your pet. A pet will not carry you in a BG. Take a pet that performs a task for you and you’re good to go.
When it comes to raiding in Classic WoW the thought is to have a pet that buffs the group, like a wolf with Furious Howl. However, private servers have been pushing higher DPS pets and showing that more damage is a better benefit to the raid than Furious Howl.
Ultimately though, it’s not a big deal.
A higher DPS will help clear things quicker, no argument, but it’s not going to be substantial either. Nobody is really going to remark at how amazing you are now you have Broken Tooth in a raid compared to a gorilla. Sure, those who parse every possible bit of damage will notice, but it’s not likely going to be the difference between getting into a raid and not.
There’s also the reality that your pet won’t take part in some fights too because they become a liability and/or just die in a few seconds.
Some people like using wind serpents in raids because of the ranged Lightning Breath attack. With proper micro management of your pet, you can keep your wind serpent back from the boss and have it just Lightning Breath, which in turn keeps it alive.
Some Friendly Advice
As you can see, I’ve tried a lot of pets out – legitimately tried them out and put time into them. Now, while I recommend every Hunter try out pets and make up their own mind, you can lose a lot of time doing this.
When I was playing on the private server, that’s where I did a lot of the pet testing, I lost so much time doing it. See, I would constantly change my mind and want to try out something different. However, the pet I’d want would be a lower level pet.
I’d have to level up the pet; and let me tell you that is not fun. I’m talking 30+ levels on a pet. It’s horrible and I highly advice against it.
The problem with leveling a pet is that you can’t really do any serious questing. You’re stuck fighting mobs that are green to you so you can level your pet. The only thing you’re doing is leveling that pet by grinding mobs.
My advice is to have a plan. Figure out what pets you’re interested in trying out and try them out at an appropriate level. A few level difference with your pet isn’t a big deal, but anything that’s more than 5 levels will suck up some serious time.
Know what pets you want to try out, what level they are, and tame them when you’re that pet’s level. If you don’t, and you keep bouncing around with pets, then you can lose countless hours without progressing yourself, and that’s just frustrating.
You may have noticed that I almost exclusively only tried pets that have unique pet abilities, like Thunderstomp, Screech, Scorpid Poison, etc. The reason for that is pretty simple and that’s because I feel they are the most effective pets. Those pets offers something distinct and bring something to the fight that other pets cannot.
Pets like Crabs, Crocs, Tallstriders, Spiders, etc., are all fine pets to use but I see them as generic. I wish it weren’t the case, and it would be great if Classic gave each pet family something distinguishing, but I’m afraid that’s not the case.
Now, if you totally want Mazzranache because a pink Tallstrider is your thing, then I’m behind your choice and so go get it! I figured I’d toss out my thoughts for those leaning more towards a min/maxing perspective is all.
At the end of the day you’re playing a game for enjoyment, so do whatever makes you happy. Want to use a Crockolisk? Do it! Feel like getting a Crab pet and naming it Rangoon? Have at it!
Play the game how you want to play it. Get the pet that suits you and you enjoy spending time with. It’s your time, your investment, so make yourself happy.
The difference between an owl’s 1.07 damage modifier to a cat’s 1.10 is not significant. Same with a gorilla’s 1.04 health modifier to a bear’s 1.08. So, pick the pet you like the looks of at the end of the day.
If you’d like some Hunter tips, including pets, check out my article on that.
Just have fun and enjoy the journey.