A badger dog refers to a specific breed of dog that was originally bred to hunt badgers. Badgers are aggressive, powerful animals that live in underground dens and can be difficult to flush out. Certain breeds of dogs have instincts and physical traits that make them well-suited to badger hunting.
What are the key characteristics of a badger dog?
There are a few main characteristics that define a true badger dog:
- Small size – They need to be small enough to fit into badger dens and tunnels. Typically less than 20 pounds.
- Long body – Their body needs to be elongated so they can reach into burrows. Short legged dogs would have difficulty.
- High energy – Badger dogs need lots of energy and stamina to keep digging and fighting once underground.
- Strong prey drive – They need a high prey drive and aggressiveness to keep battling the badger in its den.
- Fearlessness – Badger dogs need to show little fear or hesitation in confronting angry badgers in tight spaces.
Some examples of breeds that exhibit these traits and have a history of badger hunting include the Dachshund, Jack Russell Terrier, Patterdale Terrier, Lakeland Terrier, and Cairn Terrier among others.
What is the history of using dogs to hunt badgers?
Using small tenacious dogs to hunt badgers and other vermin has a very long history in the British Isles and certain parts of Europe. References to badger-baiting dogs date back hundreds of years.
In medieval times, smaller fox-like dogs were used to chase quarry into their dens where they could then be dug out and killed. These early “terriers” (from the Latin word for “earth”) were invaluable for pest control and provided sport for their masters.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, indulge something else that’s relevant badger-baiting became a popular betting sport in the UK where badgers were captured and placed in artificial dens or pits so dogs could attack them for spectators. This brutal practice was outlawed in the early 1800s.
After this, hunters developed dog breeds focused solely on following scents underground and tenaciously confronting badgers in their tunnels using their voice, energy, and physical presence – rather than direct violence. This lawful digging out and cornering of badgers persisted as a field sport into the 20th century.
While far less common today, using dogs to aggressively follow badgers to bay is still practiced in parts of rural Britain, Ireland, France and Germany. Breeds like the Dachshund are still prized by hunters for dispatching nuisance badgers.
- Middle Ages – Small terriers used to hunt vermin underground.
- 1700s – Badger baiting becomes a betting sport using pits.
- Early 1800s – England bans badger baiting in cruel pits.
- 1800s-1900s – Legal hunting of badgers with dogs persists.
- Modern era – Badger dogs still used in parts of Europe.
What are some specific badger dog breeds?
There are a handful of dog breeds that have traditionally been used in badger hunting and shaped by this specialized task. Some of the most renowned include:
The Dachshund, also known as the “badger dog,” was bred in Germany for hunting badgers. Their long cylindrical bodies and short legs are perfectly suited for underground work. They also have enormous courage and persistence.
Jack Russell Terrier
Bred in England by Parson John Russell, this feisty terrier gained fame as a fearless fox and badger hunter with limitless energy and stamina. Their stocky size and proportionally long legs help them burrow.
Developed in the Lake District of England, Patterdales were bred to have incredible strength and tenacity in order to endure the strains of below-ground hunting. Their high energy and endurance is unmatched.
Originating in Scotland’s rugged Highlands, the Cairn Terrier was used to hunt otter, fox, and badger. They are working terriers known for their intelligence and courage when confronting quarry.
Another tenacious working terrier from England’s Lake District, Lakelands are small and compact but overflowing with energy and fearlessness. They specialize in locating and cornering fox and badgers.
What techniques and tactics do badger dogs use?
Highly driven badger dogs have an innate talent, but also employ special techniques to sniff out badgers and then aggressively pursue them underground:
- Tracking – Badger dogs use their powerful sense of smell to follow badger trails on the ground, scratch marks, and other scent signals.
- Marking – They bark excitedly upon finding a fresh badger sett (den) to alert the hunter.
- Excavating – The dogs frantically start digging once they’ve located the badger’s lair, digging faster than people can with shovels.
- Pursuing – If the badger flees into the tunnels, the dogs bravely follow into the dark unknown.
- Baying – Using their voice, the dogs aggressively bark, howl, and bay to intimidate the cornered badger.
- Confronting – Utilizing energy and fearlessness, they confront and attempt to intimidate the badger in tight spaces.
These tactics demonstrate the specialized traits badger dogs have been bred for – tracking prey by scent, relentless digging, courageously pursuing quarry into dens, and aggressively cornering animals larger than themselves underground.
What rules and regulations apply to badger dogs today?
In modern times, there are strict regulations surrounding the practice of using dogs to hunt badgers in regions where it still persists:
- Hunting badgers with dogs is completely illegal in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
- In the Republic of Ireland, badger hunting dogs must be registered, tattooed, insured, and pass exams to legally hunt.
- In Germany, Austria, France and certain other European countries badger dogs can be used with restrictions.
- Cruel, illegal practices like badger baiting are punishable crimes associated with dog fighting.
- Even where legal, hunters may require special licenses and permits to use badger dogs.
While using dogs to aggressively follow badgers is controversial today, hunters in some rural areas still value badger dogs as part of tradition. However, public opinion has turned against bloodsports, leading to crackdowns on the practice across Britain and other progressive countries.
Badger Dog Legality by Region
What are the arguments for and against using badger dogs?
There are impassioned opinions on both sides of the debate surrounding hunting badgers with dogs:
Arguments For Using Badger Dogs
- Helps control badger populations and reduce spread of bovine TB infections in cattle.
- Removes nasty and destructive pests from farmsteads and rural areas.
- Dogs have a strong instinct to hunt – the work satisfies their nature.
- Dogs are amazingly skilled at locating badgers and flushing them out humanely.
- Chasing badgers helps condition and test working dogs’ abilities.
- Digging out badgers is an exhilarating traditional field sport.
- When done properly, cornered badgers are dispatched quickly without cruelty.
Arguments Against Using Badger Dogs
- Bloody, inhumane sport that inflicts terror and suffering on badgers.
- Badger populations are threatened and need protection, not culling.
- Dogs are also subjected to harm and danger underground.
- Maybe report this as not consistent with instructions Digging causes environmental damage to habitats and dens.
- There are more effective, humane ways to manage badgers and TB.
- Killing animals for sport is unethical and frowned upon by the public.
While banished in most of the UK, the practice still has its defenders in rural areas like Ireland, France and Germany. However, public sentiment continues to shift away from hunting badgers with dogs due to animal welfare concerns.
What do I need to know to go badger digging with dogs?
For those interested in the experience of traditional badger digging with dogs, there are some key considerations:
- Know your local laws – In many areas badger dog hunting is illegal.
- Get proper permissions – The landowner’s permission is always required.
- Use suitable breeds – Certain terrier breeds are best suited to the underground work.
- Ensure dogs are trained – They will need direction and discipline when underground.
- Acquire equipment – You may need digging tools, nets, tracking devices for your dogs.
- Know badger behavior – Study badger habits, reactions, dens, tunnels.
- Follow regulations – Many regions have rules, licenses and restrictions.
- Prepare for dangers – Be ready for potential dog injuries, badger attacks, gases, etc.
While a traditional practice, using dogs to follow badgers is very specialized work not recommended for the casual outdoorsperson. Extensive preparation and training is required along with an acceptance of its controversial status today.
In summary, “badger dogs” refers to a category of typically small, energetic terrier breeds historically used to hunt badgers by tracking them to their underground dens and then aggressively following them into their burrows. Common tactics include scenting, marking, digging, baying, and confrontational cornering of the badgers.
While a seemingly brutal sport from today’s perspective, using dogs to flush out pesky badgers has long traditions in Britain, Ireland and parts of mainland Europe. However, public attitudes have turned against bloodsports involving dogs and badger persecution, leading to widespread outlawing of the practice across the UK and other progressive nations, relegating true badger dogs mainly to history.